Let's Eat With Jess

I thought today I might share a few of my favourite things and essentials that I find make my life in the kitchen a whole lot easier. Also my favourite herbs, spices and seasonings that I find I can always make a delicious tasty meal if I have them on standby. There is so much stuff out there it can sometimes be hard to know where to start.

One of my kitchen essentials is a cast iron casserole dish. While I dream of a kitchen full of Le Creuset, I haven’t quite got there yet. I picked up my dish for under $50 and it does the job perfectly. This is so handy in winter as it does the job of a slow cooker in about 90min in the oven, turning tough cuts of meat into melt in the mouth tender delights. Another pan I use a lot is my grill pan. It is crazy how much a simple grill pan can enhance the flavor of meat. Simple chicken breasts seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper are elevated so much in flavor because of the caramelized grill marks, while remaining tender and juicy.

I recently had a big clean out of my kitchen utensil drawer, being a gadget queen it was getting a bit out of control. These are a few of my everyday favorites.

1. Heavy handled chefs knife – this is definitely an investment purchase but it will totally change your kitchen life. A sharp, nicely weighted knife makes the world of difference chopping and prepping food. You will cry less with onions if your knife is sharp!
2. Mini tongs and mini whisk – plain and simple, they are really handy
3. Wooden spoon – essential when making sauces and deglazing a pan. This was my Oma’s and so much wisdom has been passed down with this spoon
4. A full set of measuring spoons and cups – I love to cook with out measuring and doing it by taste but accurate measurements definitely have there place and can make or break a dish
5. A microplane grater – perfect for grating parmesan, lemon and lime zest, ginger and garlic
6. Lemon juicer – I use a lot of lemon juice and drink it in my water daily and this wee gadget is brilliant at getting every last drop out of even the saddest looking lemon
7. Silicon Spatula – I’ve gone through so many different spatulas with handles breaking off or melting with the heat of a mixture. This on is perfect, its strong while being flexible and a must at scraping a bowl clean

Now for some of my staple dried spices; these are the herbs and spices I use most often and can be found in lots of my recipes, a few simple combinations and you will have a delicious meal!
Paprika    Oregano    Cinnamon    Black pepper    Ground Cumin    Bay leaves    Chili powder    Ground Coriander    Dried mustard

Some of my favorite fresh seasonings and aromatics are
1. Fresh lemon and lime juice – so much better fresh than bottled concentrates
2. Fresh Mint – mint is so easy to grow and is a great fragrant addition to so many things, even just added to a jug of water it is really refreshing
3. Ginger – again fresh is best. Ginger can be stored in the freezer and grated straight from frozen and is easily peeled using the back of a teaspoon
4. Garlic – Throw away that garlic in the jar and pop a few bulbs in your trolley. Pre minced garlic is only full of additives and really doesn’t taste much like fresh garlic. When buying garlic look for brown roots on the bulb, when the roots are white or gone this often means the garlic has been bleached and is not locally grown. To peel garlic lightly squash the clove with the palm of your hand or knife and the paper will come off easily.
4. Fresh Thyme – Thyme is a hard stemmed herb that also grows easily and has such a savory taste, I often throw a sprig into casseroles and soups or in with roast meat.

Of course, I couldn't do a guest post without sharing a recipe with you guys. With any recipe one of biggest things is to read the whole recipe start to finish before you do any cooking. That five minutes at the start can save a lot of trouble half way through or when you realized you’ve emptied all your ingredients into the pot at once. Last but not least, taste your food before serving it. Don’t be afraid to season your dishes, salt and pepper are your best friends and can take something from bland and boring to restaurant quality.

I hope you enjoy it!

Serves 4
What you need...
400g chicken breast (approximately 2 small breasts)
2 rashers streaky bacon
1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp butter
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup cream
1 small fennel bulb, sliced
1 cup sliced leek
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
½ tsp lemon juice
small handful fresh chopped parsley, finely chopped
cracked black pepper

How you do it….

1.   Cut chicken breasts in half into roughly 100g portions
2.   In a pan brown chicken pieces in olive olive. Cook chicken 2 mins per side to brown.
3.   Remove from pan and set chicken aside
4.   Add butter to pan with leeks, fennel and garlic. Sauté for 5 mins until soft and golden.
5.   Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add your chicken back to the pan.
6.   Reduce to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes turning your chicken once.
7.   In a seperate pan cook the bacon until crisp. Cut into small slices and put it aside.
8.   Add cream to the chicken mix and stir. Simmer for a final 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
      The sauce should thicken slightly.
9.   Season with black pepper and lemon juice. Sprinkle crispy bacon and fresh parsley.
10. Serve on a bed of cauliflower mash and wide a side of steamed greens if you wish.

Friday Five on Tuesday...with Hells

Hey Sweet Darlings, while Tillie is away I thought I'd bust in on her beautiful blog and write about the first steps for starting our weight loss journeys. I hope this helps!

Five. Not being clear about your goals or most importantly WHY you want to lose weight will send you floating off into the land of uncertainty, where you don't really have any framework for decision making. If you have a goal you can ask yourself "Will this snickers bar get me closer to, or further away from my goal of losing 5kgs and completing Iron Maori?"

Four. Find a former fatty best friend forever. Former fatties who have run the weight loss gauntlet and come out the other side are great sounding boards, because they know the struggle, but they have also been successful in completing their journey.

I'm part of enough online weight loss communities to know that people who are currently in the process of losing weight or haven't started yet but think they know everything give the worst. advice. ever. They are always the first people to pip and say 'Go on girl, you deserve it" or "One day won't hurt." Fact is, it will hurt. Especially if you're on a strict ketogenic plan. Find a straight shooting task master who will give you a big cup of suck it up.

Three. Think about all the times you have tried and failed to lose weight, or if you haven't then think about the times that have lead to particularly depraved episodes or binge eating or bad choices. I can pin point a major trigger for me, going to the movies. I always used to blow it when I went to the movies. "One ice cream won't hurt!" I'd say to myself, before ending up at home later that night ravenously eating Milky Bars and pastries.

Know what you can and can't handle. My solution was taking ketogenic snacks to the movies and buying a drink there (water or diet soda if you partake) and that was IT! Know your weaknesses, have a realistic strategy to deal with them.

Two. Not being able to go out is a MEGA BUMMER. Don't do that to yourself. Find places that have safe wieght loss options for the plan you are following. People who follow rapid, keto or paleo style eating will have a lot of options, you can order things like chicken wings (ask them to put the dressing on the side incase its not safe) Vienna coffee (Coffee with whipped cream) or even salted nuts. Tell your friends what you are doing and let them know if you can't go somewhere. You're not going to find anything safe in a French Bakery, I know that from experience.

One. Be super honest with yourself in all aspects of your journey. Sucking in on the before photo is only going to make it less impressive. Tell you FFBFF if you've slipped up. Don't lie to yourself that "it's just one..." or "it won't hurt." You're only robbing yourself of the chance to be successful in this journey. Own your mistakes, be honest and accountable with yourself and truly try your absolute very best to achieve your goals. Thats all we can do.And you can do this. I just know it.

Love Hells. x

The Brunch Diaries Six

One of my favourite things about living in Melbourne is exploring all the new cafes. Seriously, I thought Wellington was full of good food, but this place, this place is something else I tell you. We had wandered past Two Little Pigs a few times in our travels along Sydney Road, but had never made it in. That changed last weekend when we dropped by for Brunch. 

It was super packed but the team found us a seat after a 5 minute wait and quickly ordered our drinks. Coffee for him, Green tea for her. I decided to treat myself to their famous doughcakes, although the thing I love about this place is that when I am in the midst of keto eating goodness, I am going to be able to go back here and enjoy their Charcuterie menu to its fullest. Gregs coffee was hot and delicious, and it didn't take too long for our food to come out. Actually it was pretty impressive considering there was a full house and a line of about 3 or 4 tables waiting for seats. The doughcakes were decadent and delicious. I'm talking beautiful doughy pancakes filled with hot jam and served with bacon icecream [yes, you read that right!] and a chocolate crumb. Seriously, dee-vine. Greg had the chorizo and bacon meal with cabbage and toast and loved it too. I ordered an orange juice during my meal that still hasn't turned up, but hey, they were busy and let's be honest, I didn't really need it. 

One of the nicest surprises was the cost. It was affordable, tasty and the atmosphere was excellent. We will be going back for sure, and I would say if you are in the neighbourhood, you should probably get your butt down there. 

Service: 4 out of 5
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5
Coffee: 4 out of 5
Food: 4 out of 5
Overall: 4 out of 5

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