The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Changing season, changing menu.

One of the nice things about the changing seasons is the different fresh foods that are available and that we might grow or find on great specials. I am a really seasonal cook and love to see the fresh produce that comes with each season.  If you eat this way over a year your diet has a lot more variation in it.

In winter I cook a lot of soups, casseroles, roasts... hot stuff! Long slow cooking, hearty warm things. I love soups. I love walking into the house and it smelling of cooking when it is cold and stormy outside. Winter food is more about comfort and warmth.

In summer we have a lot of BBQs. Lots of salads and cold meats. It gets hot here. I avoid using the oven and making the house hot. Also in the evenings we go swimming and eat outside most nights at the garden table. It is light outside up to about nine pm. It is just entirely different to winter and meals are easier and lighter.

By the end of a season I am ready to change over. I start to look forward to it. But the same thing always happens. I have kind of forgotten half of my good ideas and favorites from last season. One of the biggest helps in the kitchen is having a list of meals that you know everyone loves and that are easy and work well in the budget. It avoids those moments of wondering what on earth to make for dinner and what to shop for. Wendy, Cath and Tania all plan well ahead their menu plans. This does take a little planning but like all planning a little time spent saves a lot of time overall. You know what you will be making and you know what to buy. There is no panic. So much stress is avoided! I have heard people say they can't decide what to cook so they got take away. A menu plan and easy things stop that happening.

Mainly I shop by what is on special and what is marked down. This works out that I am buying fresh and seasonal things. Then I plan what I can make. Otherwise I am looking for things that will give us healthy and yummy meals that are simple.

Just this weekend our weather really warmed up. I needed a reminder and some inspiration so out came my recipe scrap books which hold all my best recipes. Plus notes I have written and a few torn out magazine articles etc with new things I want to try. Then I write up a list of meals I want to be making and remind myself about for the coming months. You can ask too. Ask the family what would they like to see on the menu.

I keep this list on the fridge, pick things from it each week and make a shopping list from that. It avoids those times when we feel totally uninspired or have brain fade and just don't know what to cook! We have all had that moment standing in the supermaket thinking "what will I make for dinner?"

This is my current summer meals list....

BBQs. This can be chicken, lamb, beef, pork, bacon, sausages or a mix. Plus vegies like onions, sweet potato, asparagus, broccolini, carrot etc. Mainly I cook extra that will become a lunch and a cold dinner for another night. I try to keep on hand things to become salads... some fresh ingredients and some from the garden. Things like pickles, relish, dressings... and some tins too like pineapple, corn, beans... so one way or another I have things to make salads. This means BBQs are a big variety of meals.

Some nights the BBQ might become hamburgers, steak sandwiches or BLTs.

BBQs are one of the biggest helps in summer. No heat in the house. No mess in the house!

Quiche, flans, tarts, zucchini slice, impossible pies. I group these together since they all use the same things and can include anything you have lots of! Perfect for making for picnics and taking to the beach. I would always make double at least. One for the meal then another for lunches, going to the beach for dinner or something like that.

Wraps. ie flat bread, turkey, cranberry, lettuce... or lamb, cheese, tatziki, lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber... or chicken, mayo, lettuce, bacon... etc. I often cook lamb or a chicken in the crock pot. It becomes wraps, rolls, and cold meat for a cold meat dinner. If I am making these I will make spares for lunch the next day.

Fritters. ie left over lamb or corn or zucchini and halmoui. And a salad.

Cold meat and salads. This could be roast meats now cold, deli meats, a cooked purchased chicken.. a combination. Andy loves cold meat and salads. He would have this every night. So easy.

Simple pasta. If I have lots of produce like onion, zucchini, tomato etc I cook it up lightly in a fry pan. Throw it over pasta, add a handful of chopped basil and herbs from the garden. Sprinkle of cheese.

Antipasto type platter. This can be a great way to use up all kinds of things.

Haloumi and salads.

Warm chicken salad. This is some kind of chicken ie crumbed and cooked, roast and sliced, fillet fried... sliced and over lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, cucumber etc with croutons and dressing. There are variations and crispy bacon is good on this. Left overs can be a filling for wraps.

Lamb, hummus, haloumi or baked feta and salad.

Baked ricotta with crisp toast and greek salad.

Pizza. Now and then. I cut a whole heap of fresh herbs, rocket, lettuce and pile over the top after cooking.

Salads. Favoutites are pear, rocket, cheese,  walnuts and balsamic, Beetroot and fetta, Greek Salad.
I love to make up salads that will last several days. I made a big amount then that will be our salad and we always eat these up. Some actually improve over a day or two. They include rice salad, potato salad and salsa or bean type salads. They also travel well ie to a picnic. Some of these recipes are here.

I use the crock pot (other than the BBQ) mostly for cooking. So I might cook a chicken or leg of lamb then use the warm meat the first night and have cold meats for other nights. Also if we are having a BBQ I might fill the crockpot with baby potatoes in the morning and then at dinner throw over chopped onion, parsley and dressing. All the leftovers become a new salad for the next couple of days. Or you can get corn on the cob going in the crockpot, that is good too.

We don't eat desert every night. But in summer we have a lot of fresh fruit. Beyond that if I am having visitors I might use berries on a pavolva or parfait or something like that.

If I have lots of fruit to use up I make my anything fruit cake, muffins etc so that I can freeze a heap of these and get to eat that fruit later on (as well as enjoy an actual cooked desert).

Here it is covered in peaches..

And with plums...

The recipe is here.

So that is my menu so far which is about twenty things with a lot of variations. ie a BBQ is just about never the same twice nor is cold meat and salads or a platter. And there is nothing that we eat in winter it is entirely different. Just now I am really looking forward to it. But by the end of summer I will start thinking of soup and stew and hearty things have a sit down and plan the winter meals just the same.

This little bit of planning can save so much stress. I can make a quick list and also whatever specials I might find I will plan around those. Last year we had so many free peaches. They became our deserts, cake, salads.  And it is flexible. I might discover something new to try and add that.

Today I am going grocery shopping. I always watch for meat on special or marked down. These buys go into the freezer for BBQ nights.  And I need to build up my supply of things that help me make an instant dressing or salad. Then I am set for a very easy few months of cooking.

What is on your menu plan for the new season or tips on how to always have ideas with meals?
When the girls were at school the last thing they would always ask me as they got out of the car was "what is for dinner tonight?"  I would tell them and they would always say "Yum!" lol  Now the grown up version of this is Andy always sends me a text from work. One of these invariable says "whats for dinner?" Well, I love that our families look forward to and get excited by what we are making. After a long day dinner is important. It is a beautiful thing.

Have a wonderful week! xxx


  1. Annabel, I love the way you menu plan ... it makes so much sense! We will soon be heading into the soups and stews season and I am looking forward to it. The heat we've had this summer has been almost unbearable at times and I am definitely ready for the cooler temperatures of fall.

    1. Dear Patsy, Thats what is lovely about the seasons the variety. We get hot summers too. Cooking and heating up the kitchen is the last thing to do!
      Enjoy autumn. It is stunning. With love,

  2. oh Annabel, delicious and yummy as always. I think you would run an amazing b and b. Ever considered that? I can guarantee we'd all be queueing up. One thing I will be making is something I only recently started making and that is the two ingredient pizza base. 110gms of flour to 100 grams of yoghurt. I use natural yoghurt, greek is great. It's a thermomix thing but would be easy to do by hand. Simply mix and roll out and it's done in just over a minute. cannot beat that, then spread whatever you like on it. I have an awful feeling i've mentioned this not long ago, so if so, just smack me down, i blame it on doing 11 night shifts in this last fortnight and today I'm too tired even to go to bed. have been outside doing a few bits and bobs and have come in to eat lunch and look at your blog. but anyway if I haven't mentioned it, just increase each ingredient in equal increments. it's totally yummy. Lovely post. Fi xx

    1. Dear Fiona, I do run a B and B (our place!) and am flat out doing it but thankyou!
      We quite often use the dough recipe. I found out one time something... I had one tub of yoghurt but wanted to make a lot of bases. So I mixed the tub of yoghurt with a liter of milk then used all that into enough flour and made heaps. Turned out just the same! So now I use a blob of yoghurt and milk. Its surprisingly simple but it works so well. Pizza is a handy and yummy thing everyone loves and uses up left overs great.
      I hope you have a few days off now! Have a great week! With love,

  3. Hi Annabelle,
    Thank you for another wonderful post!!! I always enjoy reading your blog and look forward to each new instalment.
    I have a question..I looked at your salad recipes (all yummy) and was wondering what salad dressing you used for the salads that you have included..
    My salad recipe is a simple coleslaw ..
    1/2 cabbage sliced thinly (any type of cabbage is fine)
    Small can corn
    1/2 capsicum
    1/2 red onion or some shallots
    A stick of celery
    Mix together.Add dressing. Sprinkle with slivered almonds for serving.
    1/2 cup egg mayonnaise
    Sweet chilli sauce. ( a good shake or to taste)
    Salt and pepper to taste.
    Enjoy..This will keep in the fridge and can be added to as needed.

    1. Dear Helen, Thank you so much! And thank you also for the recipe it looks lovely.
      Summer food is so nice. I am ready for the change.
      Have a wonderful week! With love,

  4. Annabel,
    It looks so yummy! I am ready to switch up the menu myself. I love the crisp air of fall and the glorious colors and the different meals. My husband loves everything on the grill, but I get tired of it. Chicken pot pie soup is one of my many favorites and dumpling soup really any kind of soup I guess. Along with the colder weather foods I look forward to the cold weather drinks as well, flavored cocoas or coffee creamers. I have more baked goods to offer during cooler weather too. Hope you have a wonderful week!

    1. Dear Vicky, Ahh autumn is lovely!
      One way maybe to get a change on the grill is to do some thing sin foil parcels. Then it is like a steamed meal ie fish and vegies in parcels etc.
      Andy loves the BBQ... ours has a lid so you can also do a roast... I dont know if you can do that but a roast also seems different and then theres the cold roast meat for other things...
      I hope you have a great week too. Prudent and diligent! With love, Annabel.xxxx

  5. It's been quite warm here for a while now. Saturday morning was lovely and cool after overnight showers. I decided I would make the soap I always make using Rhonda's DTE recipe. I don't know what I did wrong but this ended up a stinking revolting hot mass. After this disaster I didn't think anything else could go wrong. Well that turned out to be a mistake of thinking. I got my no fail chocolate cake recipe out, whipped it up and put it in the oven. I had a 40th to go to and needed to finish a bag I had cut out, so up to the sewing room I went. 20 mins later I could smell burning. I walked out of the sewing room into a smoke filled house. My cake had decided to act as a volcano in the oven. On a positive note I found out that my smoke alarms are not working so it is time to buy new ones. I am planning to stay out of the kitchen for a few days until I get my domestic mojo back!

    1. Dear Jane, I have certainly had days where it would have been safer to stay in bed! lol. It makes you wonder! I also amaze myself sometimes when I mess something up in some weird way! We have to laugh or we would cry!
      I hope this week goes better! With love,

    2. Jane, have a go at making Phil's soap recipe. It's on his blog House of Simple. I've made it twice in the last couple of weeks and it's super easy.

  6. Annabel i have a feeling that i would very much like to live at your place lol your menu and dishes look amazing and i think i'll have to keep reading your blog for a while longer today lol xoxo

    1. Dear Karen, Thank you! I cook really fast and simple things and avoid anything complicated. Most times I am in and out of the kitchen so quick! And making extras I get out of cooking many nights all together. Keep it simple is my motto. Have a wonderful week and thank you! Love

  7. Annabel, this post had me drooling from start to finish. The photos, the menu ideas...all so yum! Our Summer meals tend to centre around Asian flavours, and rice paper rolls, cold noodle salads, poached chicken breast, and flash fried super thin teriyaki steak are amongst our favourites. Gazpacho is another firm favourite and so easy to make...almost like a runny Salsa really, and soooo refreshing! Smoothies for breakfast, chilled puddings and mousses, semi-freddos and sorbets made with fresh fruit, mangoes eaten over the kitchen sink, cherry tomatoes plucked straight from the bush...mmmm...I love Summer :) Gorgeous post...Love, Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi, This year I would really like to make frozen fruit icecream/sorbets. I watched Jamie Oliver just freeze things and wizz them. They come out looking like icecream in an amazing way. I have to try this.
      I like smoothies for breakfast too. Lovely.
      I think the seasons are a healthy thing as we cover a lot more types of foods all up. Your mangos do sound amazing, That is something not common here.
      I hope you have a great week. I will be trying your parmi recipe! Love

    2. I know right? That's all there is to them really. Sort of a soft serve sorbet...yum. I meant to say too...I see that Jes featured us both amongst other friends, over at The Art of Homemaking Mondays! Congratulations! Mimi xxx

  8. Hello Annabel,

    I love your summer meals! We barbecue in summer too, and I use the crockpot on the verandah instead of in the kitchen to try and keep the house a little cooler. We'll be barbecuing until the end of daylight saving next March now.When people ask how I can stand to cook a roast every week, even in summer I just smile and tell them it's done on the BBQ :)

    Yes, my meal plan is done until December 31st and I'm working on next year's based on our stockpile only to fit within our new budget for 2016.

    My favourite potato salad is so simple. I usually make enough to last at least 3 days. Just scrub some potatoes or use washed potatoes (as many as you think you'll need) and cook until tender (steam/boil/microwave - up to you). Cut them into largish chunks. Mix together equal quantities of balsamic vinegar and a good egg mayo and stir through the hot potato. Before serving, fry some sliced onion until crispy, drain, sprinkle over potato. It's so easy and you won't believe how tasty it is, and it just gets better with age. It's good served warm or chilled - I love it both ways :)

    Have a lovely week.

    1. Dear Cath, I think when theres visitors or a crowd that potato salad is one of the best things ever. It is filling, inexpensive and keeps. Yours sounds beautiful thank you.
      Running the crockpot outside is a good idea. I sometimes have it going in the laundry with the same idea.
      I am loving your series. I was so thrilled you were given all that produce. What a boost. With love,

    2. Just a quick question for Cath regarding the slow cooker being used outside. Do you pop a cover like a t-towel over the top to prevent flies trying to taste it? Top idea and one I must remember. I live in Penrith and 40 degree days are a nuisance when it comes to cooking inside. We also face west so its HORRIBLE on the verandah in the arvo.

  9. Oh Annabel, this is just the kind of post I love!.

    So many recipe ideas for the coming Spring and Summer.

    Thank you for keeping us inspired.


    1. Dear Tania, I read your menu plans... your honey chicken is getting tried out here. I love that meal! Truly if I didnt have a list I would get brain fade.
      Thank you so much, hope you have a great week. Love

  10. Your recipes sound lovely, Annabel. As I have really cut down on sugar I am experimenting at times with replacing it with Dextrose or Rice Malt Syrup. The photo of your Pavlova reminded me that I need to do some experimenting before Christmas as I always make a Pav for Christmas lunch. Lots of salads coming up in the next few months as the warm weather kicks in.

    1. Dear Nanna Chel,
      The best bit of a pav is the chewy bits! I learned that to get it chewy you put droplets of water on the baking paper before spreading the mixture on. It works to get extra "chewiness" lol if thats even a word! I hope your experiment works. With love,

  11. LOVE the seasonal meal inspiration! Thank you :)

  12. We have just had our first chilly mornings here in the Southern USA so I beginning to think of those warm comforting meals. Summer was quite short since it warmed up so late this year and I am not sure I am ready for cold weather! We are predicted to have a very cold winter with lots of ice storms---ugh.

    1. Dear Lana,
      I think you might get more severe winters than us. But the comforting hot meals are one of the good things about the season and are something to look forward to. And I think everyone is more hungry when its cold.
      Enjoy the autumn to the full. I am wanting to make the most of spring as our summers are so hot. But now its just lovely so I hope it lasts as long as possible! Have a great week. With love,

  13. Dear Annabel, I love this post! You are so organized!! :) The pictures are beautiful!

    I'm looking forward to soups, stews. baking corn bread and other breads and rolls to go with them!.

    Vicky, your chicken pot pie soup sounds delicious! Do you use noodles or dumplings for the "crust"?

    Thank you to everyone who commented and shared recipes and ideas!! Have a great week! Love, Teri

    1. Teri,
      Neither you make your favorite creamy chicken soup and bake pie crust flat on a pan and either cut it nice squares before baking or just bake flat and then break into pieces and serve on top of the soup when you put it in your bowls. It is really delicious I love, love pie crust!

    2. Dear Teri,
      Cornbread! that is something we love with soups etc. Ahhh there is a lot to look forward to in winter cooking too.
      Just now we have a lovely day of true spring. And our yard has several trees all covered in blossoms. Some pink! I will take photos!
      Have a wonderful week! With love,

  14. What a fabulous post Annabel. I will get out my notebook later on and jot lots of things down. I love having a list of meals written up. I have my meals written down, but I love the idea of having a seasonal one. Your post makes me excited about Summer. I'm most excited about the fruit after dinner. Cold watermelon, icey bbqs at the beach too. One of my favourite things 😀 Love, bridge

    1. Dear Bridge,
      Thank you! When you are busy with a baby it is an extra help to make it easy with meals. I love making things where one thing becomes another. Ie do a roast lamb. On night one make yirros (the wraps with tatziki and salad rolled up) the next night have cold meat and salads. Cut up the last bits and make fritters. I usually freeze those bits so its not three nights in a row. When I am stuck I get those bits out of the freezer, add corn etc and make fritters. They are good with salad and relish. Anyway things like that where there are several meals out of one cook.
      In summer Harper will be able to try fruit! How exciting is that! She just had some rice cereal. Im not convinced any has actually gone down yet!
      Thank you Bridge, with love,

  15. Annabel you are so organised.

    I like to have Mimi's chicken fillets on hand in the warmer weather, you can do so much with cooked chicken fillets.

    I have a salad that I make using a chopped up chicken fillet and green salad veggies, add a brick (for want of a better word) of the thin rice noodles that have been rehydrated in hot water for a few minutes and then chopped up mango (you can use tinned mango for this recipe) - it did originally have a dressing but I couldn't eat it so I haven't got it anymore but I find that the natural dressing from the mango and other items is more than enough.

    The greens that I usually use are avacodo, spring onion, lettuce, cucumber and green peppers - I just use what I have and what is available.

    This salad is great the next day too so even if you have left overs there is your lunch done.


    1. Dear Lynette,
      I agree the poached chicken can be used in so many ways and is lovely.
      Your salad sounds beautiful. I often use no dressing either. If there is something with juices ie juicy tomatoes, pineapple, even peach juice or whatever like the mango juice it is beautiful and who needs dressing.
      We love avocado too. Avocado and chicken is a match made in heaven.
      Now you have me really looking forward to these beautiful salads!
      I think we are very lucky with our abundance of beautiful fruits.
      With love and thanks, Annabel.xxxx

  16. Hi Annabel. Your food looks fabulous. So yummy and all those bright colors !!! I need to get my Summer meal ideas out again. I might even have an old Summer menu plan I can dig up for inspiration.

    Darren has a bbq outside that's connected to natural gas. We hope to make better use of it this Spring and Summer.

    I don't mind cooking Winter meals in Summer although we don't have them as often. After a week of salads my family is looking for a hearty Winter meal. My slow cooker comes in handy as I don't need to stand at a hot stove stirring.

  17. Dear Annabel, I am loving the change of weather too . My menu over summer is very similar to your and the BBQ gets used all the time. Salads and fresh fruit get eaten everyday and just the last few days at work I've had salads for lunch and fresh fruit chopped up and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. i make a curried rice salad too which everyone loves and a bean salad or potato salad that are my go to salads, but this year I'm going to do the potatoes in the slow cooker like you do so they are ready for dinner. I think I will try Cath's potato salad recipe also.
    Hope you have a great week Annabel

    1. Dear Debbie,
      The work the BBQ saves me is huge. No messy kitchen. I really love it and being outdoors. Good for everyone. Those salads are wonderful and actually taste BETTER the next day and day after. It is so good to have them in the fridge.
      I hope you are having a good week too. Some spring cleaning today but ironically there is thunder and lightening! lol. I never expected that! Love Annabel.xxxx

  18. Chili, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, Cowboy Stew, chicken and homemade noodles. Love winter coming on!

    1. Kathy I am going to look up what is Cowboy stew. That sounds good! Your meals sound great! I love hearing other peoples favorites Thank you! xxx


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