Summer Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole

After April’s Month of Slow Cooking, I have used our Slow Cooker occasionally, for doing stock and things like that. However, this recipe worked really well in the Slow Cooker, and tasted amazing. It was an adaptation of a dish on Saturday Kitchen, but Saturday Kitchen hasn’t quite caught up with the technology of the Slow Cooker yet.

It makes a really good, easy, one pot meal, and I can confirm that it went down well with Ben too. Putting the lemon in the stock makes it really flavoursome and the chicken was perfectly tender – slow cooking it avoided the sometimes dry texture that can happen with chicken breast. I used courgettes and spinach because they are in season, but I’m sure this is one of those recipes which could be easily adapted.

I’m entering this for June’s Simple and In Season, which I have entered before, and in Credit Crunch Munch, which I haven’t entered before. Credit Crunch Munch is run by Fab Food for All and Fuss Free Flavours and this month it is hosted by Anneli from Delicieux.

Summer Chicken Casserole

Serves 3 (or 2 adults and 3 baby meals)

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 lemon
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 500g new potatoes
  • 2 courgettes
  • 100g baby spinach
  • Handful parsley
  • 5-6 sprigs mint
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Method

  1. Cut the chicken in half and place into the Slow Cooker.
  2. Halve the lemon and add to the Slow Cooker with the thyme and chicken stock. Cook on High for 2 hours (3 hours in total).
  3. 1 hour before serving, parboil the potatoes for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes to the Slow Cooker.
  4. 10 minutes before serving, dice the courgette and add to the Slow Cooker. Add the spinach.
  5. Put the parsley, mint, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar and capers into a blender and whizz together.
  6. Serve the casserole and drizzle the sauce on the top.

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A surprising holiday destination

At the beginning of June, we went away for a week to Essex. Yes, Essex.

Now, I don’t actually watch TOWIE, but I have been made all too aware of its influence: the perma-tans, the eyelashes and everything else. My impression of Essex was based on TOWIE.

So when my cousin announced that he was getting married in Essex, and my parents invited us on a pre-wedding holiday, I didn’t really know what to expect. What we got was not what I expected.

I should caveat this by saying that we managed to go on holiday in Britain during the best week of the summer so far: blue skies and bright sunshine every day, soaring temperatures and balmy evenings certainly didn’t tie in with our previous experiences of Staycations. In addition, the location chosen by my parents was beautifully rural: close to Maldon, where the sea salt comes from; and Tiptree, where the jam is made.

We stayed in a lovely converted barn which was perfect for the 7 of us (my parents, sister and brother in law and us) and one dog. The living area was all open plan, so Ben had a lovely time crawling as far as he could. The area surrounding the barn was all open fields, so the dog had miles and miles of country walks. Everything was of a really high specification.

Highlights of our holiday included:

The Layer Marney show, with Dog Show (mum’s dog won Judge’s Favourite):

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The tigers at Colchester Zoo (which is an amazing zoo – I even fed a giraffe):

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Strolling in Promenade Park in Maldon:

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Visiting the Beth Chatto gardens, which were just breathtaking:

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These are actually the most beautiful gardens I have ever been to. Everything just works together: the colours, the textures, the environment. There are water plants by the water, drought-loving plants in the gravel garden, and these beautiful beds which were somehow not intimidating in the slightest. I loved the softness of the plants; the way everything seems to complement each other, and nothing jars your eyes. It was such a peaceful place.

Lunch at The Company Shed on Mersea Island:

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The Company Shed was an interesting experience. It has received rave reviews across the media for it’s incredible seafood, and was hailed as a real treat. The restaurant itself is little more than a shed: the decor is basic to say the least. You take your own bread and drinks with you, and the menu is just about the seafood.

But the seafood was the best and freshest I had ever tasted. We had the platters, and there was no way we could have finished them. The prawns were incredibly sweet, the crab delicious and the langoustines were beautiful. Even my seafood-skeptical sister enjoyed it.

It was a really lovely holiday, and we came home really relaxed and refreshed, which is what you need a good holiday to do. I can also highly recommend holidaying with family when you have a 10 month old baby in tow! Essex certainly surpassed all expectations.

 

A short break in proceedings

So it’s June. Which, for me, means exam season. In my real life as a teacher, I have the opportunity to work as an exam marker. It’s a real insight into the exam process, as well as being a good opportunity to earn some pennies – very useful at this point in maternity leave.

However, exam marking takes time. 3-4 hours a day, every day, until it’s done. In the past, I’ve done this after a long teaching day. This year, I’m fitting it into Ben’s nap times, which is when I would usually blog.

We’ve also had a holiday and I’ve organised a baby shower, both of which will feature on the blog in due course. But for now, the marking has to take priority, so the blog will be a little bit quiet.

Here’s a little picture of Ben on holiday last week to keep you entertained. IMG_3473

Cloth Nappies Part 3: Our system

So, our system is simple. Ben wears the nappy. When it is wet or dirty (I try to change it every 2 hours or so to avoid him sitting in a wet nappy for too long), it goes into the nappy bin. Any poo gets flushed down the toilet now that he is on solids. When he was being fed purely milk, the nappy would go straight into the nappy bin. The nappy bin has a mesh bag. When the bag is full (usually around 3 days worth of nappies), I take the mesh bag out and tip all the nappies and the bag into the washing machine. The mucky Cheeky Wipes go in too.

I wash our nappies at 60C, and add Napisan to our normal washing powder. This kills any germs lingering, and also seems to cut through the nappy smell. The nappies dry on the line or on the airer if it is raining, and go back into the bag to be worn again.

I highly recommend cloth nappies, and like that we’re not adding to landfill as much as we otherwise would be. Ben seems to like them too.

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