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How to Clean Your Kitchen Naturally with Essential Oils

The move away from chemical cleaners was a slow one for me. It took years to make the change. Research, a little trial and error, and then more research – meant that the transition to find what worked for me and my family took a little longer than just mixing up some new cleaners. But it really can be that simple. And I wish I had started with this simple swap so much sooner than I did. In this article I will show you How To Clean Your Kitchen Naturally with Essential Oils – and share with you all the things that work for me.

The Empowered Cook shares how to clean your kitchen naturally with essential oils like lemon, lemongrass and litsea. Simple, easy recipes that you can make in your kitchen to keep it clean naturally.

Whenever I grocery shopped and went down the cleaning product aisle, I would invaraibly sneeze and my skin would itch. I am a sensitive person and I do have skin that reacts to most things. But it really did take me a long time to consider the possibility that the products I was using to clean my home could actually be having an impact on my sensitive skin.

For me, I only really made the change as I started to remember how we used to clean things. I remember bicarb and vinegar and just plain soap in my Mum’s laundry cupboard. It was rare that we would have many different bottles in lots of colours and scents. Plus, it always kind of irritated me that these cleaning products were advertised to women. Doesn’t it annoy you? Playing to a stereotype is lazy and insulting. So I started to research.

And I found Essential Oils.

I remember my Mum always having a bottle of eucalyptus and lavender. The smell is still very vivid and it demonstrates to me that this is something that has been around for a long time. Cleaning with Essential Oils is where I started – I have since moved on to using these bountiful oils to support and protect my family. They are an everyday occurrence now. Every step of my daily routine incorporates some level of interaction with the Essential Oils: from my morning meditation, to my shower, to dressing my little one for childcare and then again as we prepare for bed. Essential Oils are just a part of our life now – and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

I will share with you today the main ways I use Essential Oils in my kitchen.

Please note that all of these products rely on the basics of distilled water (or cooled, boiled water), vinegar, castile soap, and dishwashing liquid.

All Purpose Spray

I make a simple recipe for an all-purpose spray in the kitchen. I use this for cleaning the counters, the stove top, and even spritzing my sink. My fridge and freezer regularly get a wipe-down, as do all my cupboard doors. With a toddler around, sticky fingers get everywhere. This spray removes them easily.

To make your spray you will need a glass spray bottle. Glass is important because the Essential Oils (the citrus oils), can interfere with the chemistry of plastics – so avoid putting oils into plastic containers. I buy the blue ones from Share Oils, but there are many different places you can choose to buy from.

Into your spray bottle (note mine is about 230ml), fill it about a qtr full with vinegar. Then add a squirt of your regular dishsoap. Next – add your Essential Oils of choices – in total, about 20 drops. Top up the remainder with boiled AND COOLED water. It really is that simple.

The Empowered Cook All Purpose Spray - How to Clean Your Kitchen Naturally with Essential Oils

Spot Clean – De-Greaser

I have found Wild Orange Essential Oil to work wonders on my greasy cupboards around the stovetop. I simply pop a few drops on a cloth and wipe down the cupboard. I’d do a test somewhere first – just to be sure that the undiluted oil won’t harm your surface – but I have used this without issue on my cupboards.

Insect Repellent

We all have a story (or two) about finding ants, spiders or (argh!) cockroaches in our kitchen. And using pesticides in our food preparation area just doesn’t seem smart to me. So I use Essential Oils to deter any pests.

I keep a little spray bottle with water and a couple of drops of Peppermint Essential Oil in my kitchen, and I simply spray around the window ledge occasionally. This will deter ants and spiders.

In the back corners of cupboards, I place a small dish with a few cotton wool balls. A few drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil onto the cotton balls will deter cockroaches from hanging out in your cupboard among those pots and pans.

“Sticky” Remover

I re-use jars in my kitchen. I like to keep things simply in my pantry and will store things in jars rather than buy fancy containers. BUT I cannot stand it when those pesky labels refused to be peeled off easily. However, I have a trick now! Lemon Essential Oil! A few drops on a cloth will remove that stickiness straight away. Easy.

Clean Kitchen at Night

Dinner is done, the dishwasher is stacked and on, the counters are all wiped down – and the sink is clean and dry. That is our routine in our house. We pop out some new tea-towels and the kitchen is all ready to be made into a mess again at breakfast. But finishing the day with a clean kitchen really does make waking up so much more motivating.

I have incorporated Essential Oils here too. A few drops into the sink just releases a wonderful scent throughout the kitchen and really tops off your nice clean kitchen at night. I use lemongrass. I love the fresh scent, and it just makes me feel happy. Try it.

Choosing Your Essential Oils For the Kitchen

I particularly love the following:

Lemon – I use this in my All Purpose Spray, to splash into the sink, and to remove the sticky labels off a jar.

Lemongrass – this is a delightfully, cheery smell and is perfect splashed into the sink at the end of the day.

Litsea – not a traditional citrus oil, but this smells so good. This is my current favourite in our All Purpose Spray.

Wild Orange – a great swap for any of the above. And an incredibly calming scent.

Tea Tree – wonderfully clean and a great option for the All Purpose Spray. Try combining it with lavender to improve the scent a little.

Where can I buy Essential Oils?

I personally choose to use doTERRA Essential Oils. I have used other brands, but I have found these oils to better serve me and my family. They are ethically sourced and are pure – there are no nasties in these wonderful bottles.

You can choose to buy these oils from me, I have included the link to do so above and here it is again.

If you choose to sign up with doTERRA you will receive access to wholesale prices – saving you money each time you buy the oils. A single bottle will last you – as you only need a few drops at a time – but if you are like me, once you start to experience these oils, you will want to continue to explore. A wholesale account is the best way to do this.

Please contact me if you would like to know more. I offer one on one consultations with the oils (via phone, skype or in person), as well as group classes. Samples are readily available too, so please reach out to experience these for yourself.

 

Simple Greens Recipe

I can honestly say that the best thing I have ever done for my health, and the health of my family, is to eat more greens. This Simple Greens recipe is a staple in our home. It is just as its name suggests – simple.

We have this as a side dish, often next to a meat and veg dinner. For example, sausages and mash or meatballs and pasta. It is a versatile dish to include on your weekly mean plan by trying to include more vegetables in your family’s routine.

This Simple Greens recipe is also delicious as part of breakfast. Serve them alongside some sauteed mushrooms and with a poached egg on top. A really great way to get vegetables in at the start of the day!

Looking for a way simple way to eat your leafy greens? This simple greens recipe is for just what you've been searching for - delicious, fast and versatile.

Note

Any leafy greens will work in this Simple Greens recipe. My favourite is to use tuscan kale, but we also often have silverbeet.

Recipe: Simple Greens
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch leafy greens kale, spinach, silverbeet
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
Instructions
  1. Start by prepping your greens. Wash and dry them - ideally in a salad spinner, but if not - dry on a teatowel. Then we need to trim out the some of the hard stems. We want the leafy greens - and only a few of the stems. 

  2. If you are including some of the stems (you definitely can!), chop these rather fine. Keep the leaves chopped large and consistent. Set aside.

  3. Finely mince the garlic and set aside.

  4. Heat a large fry pan on over medium heat. (Note: only start cooking right before you want to serve. They don't take long to cook). 

  5. Add olive oil to the pan, and the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds. 

  6. Quickly add the leafy greens to the pan. Stir and mix through the oil and garlic.

  7. Keep stirring the greens - you'll need to do this until they start of wilt and cook. This should only take a few minutes. 

  8. Once the greens are almost ready, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. This is completely up to personal taste, of course. 

  9. Serve immediately. 

 

 

Simple Playdough Recipe

My Mum taught me how to make a simple playdough recipe. I have her recipe – and the memories of rainy play days. Playdough would often be made on rainy days. Keeping a bunch of kids inside for an extended period of time? Playdough is a great entertainer!

All you need are some very simple ingredients – likely already in your cupboard! – a few minutes, and you are done!

A simple playdough recipe, using ingredients you will likely already have in your cupboard and taking just minutes to make!

My little one has grown more and more interested in playdough, and this simple playdough recipe has been tried and tested in our house.

As I only have one bub, this simple playdough recipe is also perfect for just one amount. Feel free to double or triple or quadruple the mixture.

Note

A note too on the colouring. I try and use natural colours as much as possible. Your pantry and fridge hold loads of options: think cinnamon for brown, tumeric for yellow, beetroot juice for red, carrot juice for orange. I also used a dash of liquid chlorophyll once – and the playdough was a gorgeous vivid green.

You can also buy natural food colourings. Like these ones here. I prefer these over the normal colours you can buy in the supermarket – just a healthier option in my opinion.

Pinterest also has a bunch of ideas to try – check it out here.

Get your thinking caps on, and inspire your kids – in the very least, keep them entertained for a few minutes while you get on with making dinner.

Simple Playdough Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour can be plain or self-raising
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Natural Colouring
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.

  2. In a separate bowl, add the hot water and oil, and your natural colouring. Mix these to combine.

  3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix until a rough dough forms.

  4. At this point, you might need to add a splash more water or a touch more flour - you want the playdough smooth but not sticky or dry. 

  5. Once the liquid has been mixed in, use your hands to knead the mix into a ball. I find the more I do this, the smoother the playdough gets. 

  6. Once done - hand over to your kids - along with some cookie cutters, a rolling pin and anything else you can find. Enjoy the few minutes of peace this brings - or alternatively, join right in!

Recipe: Potato Cakes

This Potato Cakes Recipes uses the simplest of ingredients – and is solely based around leftover mashed potato. Now, leftover mash doesn’t occur very often in my house. It is a family favourite. But I have recently been increasing the amount that I’m making, so that I can specifically have leftovers. We will generally use these as part of the next night’s dinner – but then I discovered these Potato Cakes. And yum – they were a hit.

We made these over the weekend as lunch. I then reheated some on Sunday for breakfast, served alongside mushrooms and spinach and a poached egg. Triple yum. My little one even enjoyed his just cold and straight from the fridge. Getting a little to egg vegies at breakfast isn’t exactly easy – so I was happy with this!

This recipe for Potato Cakes uses leftover mashed potato to make an easy brunch or light dinner focus. A helpful way to avoid wasting leftover mash!

Notes

To make these, you will need cold mashed potato. Ideally leftovers. However, if you wanted to, you could make a batch of mash specifically for these. I’d just suggest doing that in advance, so that you have time to refrigerate and chill your mash.

I also think this recipe would work with other types of mash: sweet potato or pumpkin. You would likely need to increase the flour for the pumpkin ones though. Experiment!

Recipe: Potato Cakes
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cold mashed potato
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp rice bran oil
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the cold mashed potato, parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, egg and flour. You might need to add more flour - it depends on how wet your mashed potato is. 

  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, over a medium high heat. You need enough oil to cover the base of the pan (for a shallow fry). 

  3. Scooping dessertspoons of potato mix, form patties. 

  4. Place patties carefully into oil in the frying pan. Cook for 3-5mins until golden brown. Turn over and repeat on other side.

  5. Drain on paper towel and serve with a fresh salad. Also great for breakfast with bacon and eggs. 

 

Get Dinner on the Table: 5 Things To Do Before You Start Dinner

How to get dinner on the table can be one of the most stressful times of your day. This is especially true when you have a toddler pulling at your legs, or teenagers arguing as they try to avoid their homework, or a partner coming home late from work, or – well, any of the other myriad of things that can go wrong during the dreaded dinner hour. Today – I’m sharing 5 Things to Do Before You Start Dinner. These will put you in the best possible position to get started and help you get dinner on the table. Once done, you can start preparing dinner with a clear mind, clear space and without distraction. Come on – let me show you.

The Empowered Cook shares 5 things to do BEFORE you start dinner that will help you get dinner on the table for your family.

#1 – Make Space

I don’t know about you, by in my home, my kitchen is the centre of our home. We congregate there – we dump our lunchboxes on the bench, the mail goes on the counter, we have glasses and plates on the sink – you get the drift.

Before I even start to contemplate dinner – I need to clear this away. I need space to prepare a meal. And I can’t do that amongst lunchboxes and dirty dishes.

Ideally, you’ll have adopted a clear sink in the morning (we do this – and it makes the world of difference). This means that whomever is last to leave (normally me) – makes sure that everything is loaded into the dishwasher. We run our dishwasher after dinner – so that in the morning it is clean. We simply unload it while making breakfast, and then reload it after breakfast. This keeps the bench and sink clear.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, then try and do the breakfast dishes before you leave the house. Even if they are left on the sink to dry naturally – this will help at the end of the day.

Generally – the more you do in the morning, the easier your night routine will be.

Spend a few minutes putting away anything that is lying on your bench. This could be the mail you’ve just collected from the letterbox or your hat and scarf. Or toy cars. Whatever it is in your house. Put it away.

When we get home – the priority is to unpack lunchbags and wash lunchboxes. I pack lunches after dinner – so we need the lunchboxes clean and ready to go. So whomever is home first (normally my partner), will wash and dry our little one’s lunchbox. If you have older kids, this could be part of their after school routine. It was when we were little – we would come home, unpack our bags, clean our lunchboxes, have a snack and then get changed. Once homework was done, we were then free to do whatever we wanted until dinner time. This also gave Mum the room to actually make dinner. Bringing me to the next item on the list…

#2 Distract the Kids

Not having kids at your feet will not only make preparing dinner easier – it is also safer. I can still hear Mum’s voice in mine when I say: “Out of the kitchen, the oven is on”. Having kids run around in the kitchen is just not a good idea – especially when you’re trying to multi-task amongst the oven and stove and cooking a family meal.

So we need those kids outta there. If they are older, this can be the easier – simply get them doing homework – or if they are finished, give them free time. We used to have to do homework at the dining table – a social activity, but also so that Mum can answer questions or just supervise I guess.

If they are younger – try to have special activities that they only get to do during dinner hour. This could be some sort of Art and Craft activity that keeps them focused and therefore engaged and quiet for a period of time. Let’s be honest, 10 minutes of engagement is a lot for a toddler – so set them up with something, and then use this time. I’ve never known how much I can get done in 10 minutes until I had a toddler. I can whip up dinner, do some laundry, pack a lunch, and clean the kitchen – all in the 10 minutes of free time I get at the end of the day. Work fast, work hard.

#3 – Have a Plan

The value of those 10 minutes should not be eaten away with you wondering what you are going to cook, or what you’re going to do. You need a plan. You need to know what you are going to cook – BEFORE you even start dinner hour.

In our house, this is a weekly meal plan. But sometimes it is even just a conversation that morning as to what we’ll eat for dinner. And on some occasions, this is even a text message conversation between my partner and I, on my way home from work. Yes, even The Empowered Cook has those days.

But we rarely commence the dinner hour without already having decided on what we’ll be eating. That is just a disaster waiting to happen.

My Mum’s motto – and therefore now mine – was ‘If there’s going to be panic, let it be organised”. This is certainly true for the dinner hour. You need a plan, and you’ll be able to tackle whatever comes your way.

The added benefit of a plan is that you and your partner can also tag team. If we both know the plan – we can sub in and sub out as needed. My toddler will sometimes just want me – which means I need to stop and get out of the kitchen. At this point, my partner will sub in – and take over dinner duty. This works best if he knows what we’re having, and where I’m at with cooking it. If I’m making something that he has no idea about – you can bet your bottom dollar that that will be the night that my toddler will simply demand Mama time, and therefore dinner will be failure.

#4 Set the Table

Having a set table is important to me. I find that we eat better, and have a more enjoyable dinner if we sit at the table as a family. And it is a lesson that I want my little one to learn – that we eat dinner as a family at a table with placemats and napkins. It is something that we did as kids – and I am thankful for that. All the best conversations were over dinner – including when we were teenagers, and didn’t really want to talk to anyone – let alone our family. But dinner let us do that.

You can choose to set the table for dinner way earlier in the day too. Just set it whenever you have a spare 5 or 10 minutes. That way, it’s done – and you can concentrate on cooking dinner.

Or even better – allocate this to one of the kids. Being able to set the table is a critical development activity: knowing where to put knives and forks is a big step for a little one. The sooner they start doing this chore, the faster they’ll learn.

#5 – Put a Pinny On

Wearing an apron is synonymous with being in the kitchen. It is certainly critical for me when making dinner. It is the thing that triggers that cooking is about to begin, that dinner is going to be made. Even my toddler knows that when I wear my apron, something “yummy” is coming. He will even wear his apron if he wants to help me in the kitchen.

An apron is also just a really helpful kitchen tool. It protects your clothes, you can use it to wipe your hands, clean spills, etc. My sister even made me an apron with a tea-towel attached to the front – so useful! I have been grateful many a time when making a good bolognese sauce, and having it splatter my apron instead of my white shirt. Trust me – you need an apron.

 

And that’s it. These 5 things to do before you start dinner will help you actually get dinner on the table for your family. Give them a go.

Recipe: Homemade Chips

This recipe for Homemade Chips is inspired by Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. This manifesto is all about how to eat real food – and he presents this in a series of ‘rules’ to govern the way you eat. One of his rules is that you can eat all the junk food you want, you just have to cook it yourself.

I like this rule. It reminds me of being a kid. We would rarely buy dinner – unless it was the weekly fish+chips. But we would eat burgers, chips, hot dogs, milkshakes – but Mum (or Dad) would make them. And because they are fiddly, and not easy to make – we wouldn’t have them very often. Self-regulating treats.

My homemade chips are my version of a take-away dinner. My toddler loves chips – and he eats these practically by the handful.

The Empowered Cook shares a simple, easy recipe for homemade chips - potato baked in the oven with garlic and herbs. A toddler friendly and healthy recipe.

Serving Suggestion

I’ll serve them with meatballs, steak, schnitzel, or even a fried egg. Sometimes just a big salad is a good accompaniment.

Recipe Notes

You can also use this same recipe for any root vegetable. Sweet potato, carrot or pumpkin are all delicious. But so is parsnip, turnip, swede or even beetroot. Get adventurous – throw in a chopped turnip and give it a go. Your family probably won’t even notice.

Don’t have herbs? Skip them. Don’t have garlic? Skip it too. This recipe is flexible like that. The garlic and herbs add a wonderful flavour – but they aren’t at all necessary.

I will often use this recipe to prep food for the week. These are actually delicious cold (in our lunchboxes).

Homemade Chips
Ingredients
  • 4 large potatoes washed
  • 1 head garlic
  • 6-8 sprigs thyme
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. 

  2. Cut your potatoes in half, and then into "chip" size shapes. I do this by cutting the potato in half, laying it flat, and then slice the potato in long strips. Any that are too think, get chopped again. 

  3. Place these "chips" onto the tray - making a single layer, and no overcrowding too much. 

  4. Break your head of garlic into individual cloves - no need to peel. Place these cloves among your "chips" on the baking tray.

  5. Scatter the thyme over the tray too. 

  6. Drizzle olive oil over the "chips". Season with salt and pepper.

  7. Mix together so that everything is well coated.

  8. Pop in the oven for about 45mins to an hour. Check the "chips" after about 30 mins, and cook until soft, and crispy to your personal taste. 

Recipe: Homemade Lasagne

I love homemade lasagne almost as much as I love spaghetti bolognese. The only separating factor is the extra steps that it takes to make lasagne. To combat this – I now make these in bulk, and freeze them. That way, the actual preparation is done on a lazy Sunday afternoon – rather than right before dinner. This Recipe for Homemade Lasagne is designed to freeze and cook later. So let’s fill your freezer and give your family some wholesome dinners to heat and serve.

The Empowered Cook shares a freezer friendly homemade lasagne recipe. It is designed to be made in bulk and frozen - saving you time in the kitchen!

A note on freezing

When making meals for the freezer, you will need to choose your storage method. I will sometimes simply use the casserole dish that I will cook it in – and then freeze it whole. Or I will line the casserole dish with a few layers of aluminium foil and then once the dish is frozen, I can lift out the dish and simply freeze it by itself. This lets me re-use my casserole dish – pretty handy when you only have one.

But for lasagne – I find the best method is to use the disposable aluminium foil trays. I just find that this works the best – they are stable so you don’t need to worry about ‘smooshing’ the lasagne as you swap trays, and they heat evenly in the oven.

You decide though – whatever works best for you.

A time-saving note

For this recipe, I use a batch of spaghetti bolognese sauce posted here. You don’t however, need to make that fresh on the day – you can pull it from the freezer and defrost it for this recipe. I will always heat the sauce if I do this. I have found (by my own research and by trial and error) that this works best. If you’re not sure about defrosting, cooking and refreezing food – perhaps do some of your own research.

Ok – let’s get down to business – the Recipe for Homemade Lasagne.

 

Homemade Lasagne
Ingredients
  • 1 batch bolognese sauce
  • 1 packet lasagne sheets dried
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheese grated
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder optional
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder optional
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. We will start by making our bechamel (or white cheese) sauce. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, start to melt the butter. Add the flour, and with a whisk - give this a good stir. This will make your roux. You need to cook this roux for a few minutes until it smells like a yummy shortbread biscuit. This is to cook the flour.

  2. Once it smells good, you can add a few tbsp of millk while whisking. Once that has combined with your roux, add some more milk and keep whisking. Repeat this process until there is a smooth sauce created. Note: I usually get impatient and increase the amount of milk I add as I go along. I have found that as long as you start slow, you can finish fast. 

  3. Once all the milk is added, add your seasonings. I like to add garlic and onion powder - but you could simply just add salt and pepper if you like. 

  4. Now, switch your whisk to a wooden spoon. We now need the sauce to heat up and thicken. This will take a few minutes. Just keep stirring fairly regularly with your wooden spoon. 

  5. While waiting for the sauce to thicken, let’s heat up the bolognese sauce. Pop this on the stove on a low heat, stirring occasionally.

  6. When the bechamel sauce is to your desired thickness - remember this is going into the lasagne, so it doesn’t need to be perfect! - you can add half the grated cheese and stir this through the sauce. 

  7. Next - we get to assemble the lasagne. In your chosen dishes - casserole or aluminium foil tray - place a couple of spoons of sauce in the bottom and spread this around to cover the base. This doesn’t need to be too much - it’s just enough to help moisten and cook the bottom lasagne sheets.

  8. Now place your first layer of lasagne sheets. I sometimes break mine up a bit if they don’t fit perfectly - but they don’t need to completely cover the dish. Just do your best. 

  9. Next - another layer of sauce (a bit more than the first layer) - followed by a good drizzle of the bechamel.

  10. Repeat this a few times - lasagne sheets, bolognese, bechamel - until you get a few centimetres from the top of the dish. You want to finish your layering with lasagne sheets. 

  11. Onto the last lasagne sheets, cover these a good layer of bechamel. Sprinkle this with the rest of the grated cheese.

  12. You’re done! Flash freeze these dishes (i.e. freeze for about an hour or two - until they are solid) - and then wrap them really well. Remember to label them too - including how to defrost and heat - and then place in the freezer. 

  13. To cook: defrost your lasagne, and then heat at 180 degrees celsius for 45-55mins - until hot all the way through, the cheese has melted and the top is golden. Serve with a green side salad. 

Recipe: Basic Bolognese Sauce

Every cook needs a Basic Bolognese Sauce in their repertoire. It such a staple. Spaghetti Bolognese is possibly my favourite family meal. We eat it pretty much weekly in our house.

Plus – a basic bolognese sauce is not just about Spaghetti Bolognese. A basic bolognese sauce also makes a lasagne, a pasta bake, even a yummy variation for shepherds pie.

This is also a freezer meal staple. It is rare that I do not have a couple of bags of this basic bolognese sauce stashed in my freezer. All I then need to do is cook some pasta, defrost and heat the sauce – and dinner is on the table in around 15 minutes. A healthy, homemade dinner in 15 minutes – an awesome trick to have in your freezer.

A basic bolognese recipe - perfect for spaghetti bolognese or lasagne. Freezer friendly too!

Sure, you could buy a jar of pasta sauce from the supermarket. It will cost you a few dollars and it is quick and easy. BUT – take a look at the ingredients. Take a look at the sugar. Can you pronounce the other ingredients on the label? Do you know what they are?

This recipe is all about making a sauce from scratch. The flavour comes from vegetables – the amazing golden trio of carrot, celery and onion. The result is a rich, flavourful tomato sauce – deliciously tasty and full of wholesome, homemade goodness. Who can resist?

A basic bolognese recipe - perfect for spaghetti bolognese or lasagne. Freezer friendly too!

The below recipe for basic bolognese sauce will make a lot of sauce. But it is meant to be something that you make once, and then freeze. I will usually make this batch – and eat a serve for dinner – and freeze the rest.

I portion it into 2-3 cup servings and I freeze in snaplock bags. Don’t forget to label and date them – not that the sauce will hang around in your freezer for long! Trust me!

So the below recipe will make you around 4 meals – that is, 4 snaplock bags of 2-3 cups serves.

Go ahead – give this a go. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you love spaghetti bolognese as much as I do?

Basic Bolognese Sauce

A basic bolognese sauce recipe for spaghetti bolognese, lasagne or more. Freezer friendly too!

Ingredients
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 sticks of celery diced
  • 4 carrots diced
  • 2 medium or 1 large onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 3 tsp oregano
  • 1 kg beef mince the best you can afford
  • 4 x canned tomato preferably whole but diced is fine
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pot on the stove top - medium high heat. Use as much olive oil as you think will be needed to coat your vegetables.
  2. Add the diced carrot, celery and onion. Season generously with salt. Give this a good stir so that everything is well coated with the olive oil and salt.
  3. Allow this to cook for 10 minutes or so - stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick. You want the vegies to be nice and soft but not brown.
  4. Add the garlic and oregano, and stir for a few minutes.
  5. Next, add the beef mince and break up any big chunks. There’s no need to brown the beef mince completely here - just make sure it’s broken up.
  6. Now add the canned tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes slightly and give everything a good stir.
  7. Now comes the important part. You’ll need to simmer this for about an hour. Keep the lid slightly askew. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  8. After about half an hour, if the sauce is still quite liquid - remove the lid and simmer for the next half an hour uncovered. This will allow the sauce to thicken.
  9. Once you’re happy with the consistency, taste and season as you like.
  10. Allow to cool slightly and then package up for the freezer (or serve for dinner!)
Recipe Notes

Serve with cooked pasta, or for something different, serve over cooked vegies (I love this sauce served over sauteed kale).

This recipe is completely freezer friendly. Portion and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

To use from frozen, you can simply pop the frozen sauce in a pot with a splash of water and a drizzle of olive oil. Pop a lid on the pot and reheat over a low heat - stirring frequently. 

Get Organised: Setting up a Pantry

Welcome to a New Year. I always feel like a big overhaul at the beginning of a new year – or a new season – or sometimes a new week. Let’s use that momentum and get organised. Setting up a Pantry is the very first step in creating an Empowered kitchen – so there is no better place to start.

A pantry is very simply a place to store your food goods. It stores both opened goods (like flour, rice, etc) and unopened goods (like canned tomatoes or beans). Your pantry can be in the kitchen, or not. It can be huge, or not. Your pantry can simply be whatever you choose.

I’ve lived in many houses, and each time, I’ve made a choice as to where I’d like my pantry. I’ve considered the location and access, the size and the general ‘feeling’ of the space. A pantry needs to work for when you are both cooking and storing goods. It needs to be easily accessible, yet easy to keep tidy and closed.

Take a look around your kitchen. Do you have a pantry now? Do you use it efficiently? Does it need a tidy-out or a relocation?

The Empowered Cook shows you how to get organised by setting up a pantry.

I have always found that a pantry works best if kept a little separate from your kitchen. In our current home, I have a cupboard in the kitchen that houses a bunch of opened goods – whatever we are currently using in our cooking. But I have my pantry in a cupboard in the hallway. This is where I store anything that is unopened. The shopping all gets unpacked into the pantry, and it is only when we open a packet of something that it is transferred to the kitchen.

In my pantry I always have half a dozen tins of tomatoes, a variety of beans and lentils, and bags of dried beans, additional spices, chocolate (always chocolate) and a stockpile of things that are pricey, but that I’ve scored on special. My stockpile also has cleaning products (vinegar, soap, baking soda) and toiletries (tissues, toothpaste, etc).

Why have a pantry?

In the most basic sense – you obviously cook using the ingredients in the pantry.

But I find the pantry more than that. I open my pantry and I am inspired. I am motivated to cook and create something for my family to eat. The possibilities of what I can make are endless when I open the pantry and see canned goods and packets and jars.

You too – can feel like this.

Or if not – and you simply have a screaming toddler and a hungry partner or a teenager or both – it is possible to cook a WHOLE meal from the pantry. A healthy, wholesome dinner – straight from the pantry. No need to buy any fresh ingredients – everything you need could be in the pantry just waiting for you to bring it together.

Some examples:

  • Tomato Pasta – a packet of pasta, a can of tomatoes, garlic/onion, oregano – you can easily whip up a quick meal with just these ingredients. This was a staple for my university days – cheap and easy. There are many variations too: add chili flakes for a little heat, add broccoli for some greens, add peas for a burst of sweetness. Add any leftover vegies from the fridge. Such a fast weeknight meal.
  • Tuna Casserole – if you can whip up a white sauce (flour, butter, milk) and you have cheese, a tin of tuna and some pasta – you are set.
  • Lentils and Poached Egg – a can of lentils, and an egg. Heat up those lentils, season them and add a very simply poached egg. This is very simple, but really delicious.

So – how do I go about setting up a pantry?

I have a special bonus for you. I’ve created a free 21-page workbook: The Ultimate Guide to Setting up a Pantry.

This covers everything! From defining a pantry, to organising it, to filling it and keeping it stocked – as well as actually how to use your pantry.

Go ahead – click below and download your copy now.

Download your copy of the Free 21-page workbook: The Ultimate Guide to Setting up a Pantry.

Don’t forget to share this with all your friends – maybe we can start a New Year resolution!

Enjoy!

 

Ingredient Prep: Roasted Vegetables

Easily one of my biggest time savers for getting dinner on the table every night of the week – is Ingredient Prep.

Sure I do prep whole meals in advance (stay tuned for that one!) but prepping individual ingredients has just worked a whole lot better for my life right now.

By Ingredient Prep, I simply mean that you prepare some key ingredients ahead of time – and then store these in the fridge or freezer.

I like to do this on a Saturday or Sunday, over the course of a few hours. But you could also just do this when you have a spare 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I’ll just do this as part of our normal making dinner routine. 

I will store things in the fridge first, but I often have a duplicate stash in the freezer – my best friend in the kitchen.

Then, during the week when time is a little limited, I will pull these out and use them to build a meal. It saves me so much time and effort, and there is something really lovely about opening the fridge and seeing all these containers full of yummy goodies just waiting to be eaten.

So – where to start? 

The Empowered Cook shares how to roast vegetables - a key to good ingredient prep. This will help get dinner on the table, every night of the week.

What’s a Prepped Ingredient?

This can vary depending on what you like to cook. I also find it varies depending on the season. In Summer, I tend to prep salad ingredients – like chopped vegetables, leafy greens, dressings, and grains. In Winter, my Ingredient Prep is more likely to be hot food items like cooked meats, baked potatoes, grains, curry bases.

The only guide to good Ingredient Prep is that it needs to be something that you can then use later to build a meal.

How do I use it?

Have you ever been to a salad bar? Or noticed the mise en plus that a restaurant operates with? All those little dishes of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrot and zucchini, nuts and seeds, leafy greens and sprouts. They always look so delicious. AND inspiring!

This is what I aspire to in my fridge! I keep prepped ingredients in glass containers (so that I can see what is inside) in the fridge every week.

Then for dinner – I might just cook some sausages, or some steak – and then serve this with a salad that I’ve pulled together from the prepped ingredients from the fridge.

I also build very hearty ‘Buddha bowls’ – or basically a collection of delicious items in a bowl. This could be a burrito bowl – with beans, rice, salsa, corn, etc. Or a bean bowl – with lentils, roast vegetables and a poached egg on top.

By doing a little Ingredient Prep and having these already prepped in the fridge or freezer means that you can be creative with your meals. Keeping it simple also means it will be healthier than a heavy, stodgy take-away meal.

Where do I start?

Ingredient Prep is fast and simple.

I have found the easiest thing to start with – is Roast Vegetables.

And when I say vegetables, I mean vegetables – plural. It can be ANY vegetable. I have roasted everything from the normal old potato and pumpkin through to asparagus, broccoli and brussel sprouts (please try these!).

It is also very little active time – you can prep vegetables at the same time as you are preparing dinner one night, or prep them ahead of time on the weekend or through the day. 

How To Roast Vegetables

  1. Select your vegetables – I like to use a variety, but you can also just roast single vegetables at a time. Whatever you have in your fridge, or whatever you have bought from the grocery store this week.
  2. Chop them (peeling optional) – It is really up to you if you choose to peel your vegetables. I think this is a little bit of personal preference. So I will leave that for you to decide. The only guideline is to try and chop things evenly and according to their cooking time. So if you are roasting a bunch of root vegetables – chop these all about the same size. But if you are adding some softer vegetables into the same tray (like zucchini) then chop this larger, because it will take much less time to cook.
  3. Drizzle with oil – I like olive oil or coconut oil. But there are loads of options here. Be a little daring!
  4. Season – this can be as simple as salt and pepper. But you could also try chilli flakes (on cauliflower – this is just heaven), cumin seeds (so good on pumpkin), garlic – give lots of different ones a go, and see what you like.
  5. Cook – I roast at 190-200 degrees celsius. A big tray usually takes around 40 minutes. But you should experiment a little and always keep an eye on them – no one likes completely blackened veggies. Although a little bit of crispy edges is nice.

To store these, I keep them in the fridge for up to a week. I also sometimes freeze these (except potato – which I don’t love the texture of when frozen) for up to 3 months.

You can then reheat and serve as a side with dinner, or eat cold with a salad or just as a snack.

Bonus Tip

You can freeze the chopped root vegetables raw. This has saved me even more time. I will often peel and chop a whole heap of sweet potatoes, or pumpkins and then store these in snaplock bags in the freezer. When I have some time to roast these – or I want a quick side dish with dinner – I will simply pull a bag from the freezer and dump it out on an oven tray. Drizzle, season and cook! Voila – fresh roast vegetables.

Need some more inspiration?

Check out my Pinterest board of Side Dishes or my Vegetarian board. Both have some great recipe ideas for roasted vegetables.

Will you give Ingredient Prep a go? Let me know! Share your thoughts below. And please share this post with your friends if you think they’ll like this idea too.