I was recently tasked with a challenge by McCain. My mission (should I choose to accept it) was to use McCain products every day for 5 days as part of the #McCain5DayChallenge. To be honest, it didn’t seem like it would be too difficult to accomplish from the start – simply because, if you open my freezer, you will only find McCain products.  I always use McCain because I just find it so simple, there is no prep work and they freeze in as much goodness as possible.  I don’t think it’s feasible to constantly buy fresh veggies – and this is just the next best thing.

I decided to use the products on a Monday-Friday basis, because that’s possibly when it can get most challenging – what with work, gym and social events throughout the week.  In the process, I created 5 pretty spiffy recipes using McCain products.

challenge products

Monday – Meat-Free Monday Vegetable Bake

I’m trying to get more into the whole ‘meat-free Monday’ vibe. Naturally, if you can’t have meat, you’ll try vegetables! I recently came up with a pretty quick and easy, and more importantly healthy, vegetable bake.

What You’ll Need

1/2 a bag of frozen veggies – I used (and love) a combination of products: the McCain Country Crop mix, along with the McCain Butternut and Sweet Potato mix

Butter

1 tablespoon of flour (all-purpose)

A pinch of salt

A pinch of onion powder

A pinch of caraway seeds

1/2 a cup of milk

1/4 a cup of shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1/4 a cup of breadcrumbs (wholewheat or white bread – but I lean towards wholewheat in an effort to pretend I live a healthy lifestyle)

1/2 a tablespoon of butter, melted

challenge combo

.What You Need to Do

1. Heat your oven to 180°C.  Cook your McCain veggies as directed on the package – you can boil them or pop them in the microwave.  I prefer boiling them but this means a bit more work.  Drain the excess water off your veggies.

2. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, over a medium heat.  Stir in the flour, salt, onion powder, and caraway seeds.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbly – you can then remove it from the heat.  Stir in your milk.  Put it back on the heat and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.  Stir for a further minute once it’s boiling.  Stir in your cheese until it has melted.  Mix in your veggies.

3.  Place your veggie mixture in an ungreased casserole dish.  Mix your breadcrumbs with 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter, and sprinkle all over the dish.  Bake the casserole uncovered for approximately 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

4.  Devour.

Tuesday – A Simple Stir Fry

Ross and I loooove stir fry. As in really love it. Inappropriately so. As in we would make babies with it if we could.

We have stir fry on almost a weekly basis.  Here’s my simple stir fry recipe. It really is super easy, and extremely quick to make.

What You’ll Need

A tablespoon of coconut oil

4 Chicken breasts

A sprinkle of chicken spice

Stirfry veggies (I use McCain Asian Stirfry mix)

Spinach noodles

Soy sauce

Sweet and Sour sauce

Stir Fry Challenge

What You Need to Do

1. Heat up your coconut oil in a wok, and get it to a moderate temperature.

2. Check the stir fry noodles that you have – the type I buy need to be soaked in water for around ten minutes before use (they’re pre-packaged). Prep accordingly!

3. Slice your chicken breasts into strips, and rub them with your chicken spice. Chuck the strips into the pan and cook them through.

3. Throw your veggies in with the chicken.  Ideally you want the wok to be quite hot by now so that the veggies start cooking immediately. I seriously love the McCain Asian mix because it has my favourite stir fry veggies in it – carrots, baby corn, sugar snap peas, red peppers and bean sprouts – but they actually have a great variety of stirfry mixes to choose from.

4. Once the chicken and veggies are cooked through, throw your noodles in to heat them up, and mix everything together.

5. Add some soy sauce, and some sweet and sour sauce to taste. Side note: If you have some sesame oil lying around, pop a couple drops in – it takes it to the next level.

This is genuinely the easiest meal I make. Try it – it’ll make your “What should I make for dinner?” nights a thing of the past.

“Wham, bam, thank you, m’am.” – Me, after making stirfry

Wednesday – Classic Fish and Chips

Classic fish and chips. Is there anything else that really hits that spot when you’re craving such a delicious and homely meal? I don’t think so. When I lived in London a few years ago, I had fish and chips a lot. Ok ok, ALL THE TIME. I have no regrets.

Now that I’ve been back in South Africa for ages, I had to create a recipe to rival the fish and chips that I came to love in the UK.  Here’s my classic fish and chips recipe (complete with a beer batter, nogal)!

What You’ll Need

4 fresh (or frozen but defrosted, if you don’t have the time to get to the shops) fish fillets – hake is my favourite, but you could really use whatever you like – cod or haddock is as about British as it comes.

A cup of self-raising flour (keep a little bit extra aside to dust with)

1/2 a bottle of beer – I used Guinness but I reckon any beer would work pretty well.

Salt and Pepper

500ml cooking oil

Chips (I like to use the McCain Oven Chips, or their Fry Chips depending on what I’m in the mood for) – the fry chips actually taste better than homemade chips – seriously.

Oven Chips Challenge

What You Need to Do

1. Make your batter by mixing your flour with your beer, and season to taste with salt and pepper – you could also add in any other spices you think go well.

2. Preheat your oven to 210°C and bake your chips for twenty minutes.

3. Heat your oil in a heavy-based pot (medium heat), and keep an eye on the temperature – you want the oil to look like it’s swirling or moving (but not actually boiling).  If you want to be pedantic and know the temperature, 160°C should be about right.

4. When your oil is at temperature, take one fillet and dust it with the excess flour. Then dip it in your batter, and throw it straight into the oil. By “throw it”, I mean gently lower it in or you’ll have splash-back. Avoid burns by all costs (or alternatively, get someone else in your house to do this).  Turn the fish after a minute or two, until the batter has turned a delicious golden colour. Remove your fish from the oil (a slotted spoon or spatula makes this easier), and pop onto some paper towel to drain off excess oil.

5. Serve your hot fish with your yummy crispy chips and some mayonnaise and vinegar! And there you go – all your problems are solved in one bite.

Thursday – Cauliflower and Bacon Soup

I have never really made soup much, but I needed to challenge myself a bit more in the kitchen.  I decided to start experimenting and threw a couple things together.  In the process, I came across the most delicious soup – EVER.  I was inspired by this dish after trying cauliflower mash for the first time.

What You’ll Need

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of crushed garlic (you have to ward off the vampires, don’tchaknow!)

1 potato, chopped

1kg of cauliflower florets (I use the McCain frozen Cauliflower Florets – it doesn’t get easier than that)

300ml of chicken stock

300ml of milk

A pinch of nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to taste

4 Rashers of bacon

Cauliflower Florets Challenge

What You Need to Do

1. Take a deep saucepan, and heat up your olive oil.  Add your chopped onion and cook until it softens.  Add your garlic cloves in.  Then pop in your cauliflower and chopped potato. Cover the ingredients with your chicken stock and milk.  Bring to the boil.

2.  Once it’s boiling, bring the deliciousness down to a simmer, cover and allow it to continue at a simmer for around 20 minutes (or until the cauliflower and potato are soft).

3.  Pop the mix into your food processor, and whizz away until it’s totally smooth.  Add your nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

4.  A nice little added touch is to cut up some bacon, and fry it until it’s crispy.  Sprinkle your crispy bacon bits over the soup to take it from ‘wow’ to ‘OMG THIS IS THE BEST SOUP I’VE EVER TASTED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE’.

Friday – Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry

I’m not really one for spicy food, but the problem is, I have a boyfriend who loves spicy food. I’ve been trying to increase how much spicy food is in our home and played around with this curry that is mild enough for me, and delicious.  This is also pretty simple because it’s a ‘one-pot recipe’ meaning minimal dishes (a dream in our household).

What You’ll Need

A tablespoon of olive oil

2 teaspoons of mild curry paste

2 chicken breasts, sliced into small pieces

2 cups of sliced up sweet potato (I used the McCain Sweet Potato)

300ml of chicken stock

400ml of coconut milk

175g of frozen peas (McCain has a great, convenient small pack of these called Garden Peas)

challenge combo 2

What You Need to Do

1. Heat up the olive oil in a deep saucepan.  Throw in your curry paste and fry for a minute. Then you can throw in your chicken and sweet potatoes and coat them in the paste before you pour in your stock and coconut milk.  Bring the mix to a boil, and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Throw in your peas, and simmer for another 4-5 minutes (uncovered).  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with basmati rice.

#McCain5DayChallenge

Check out the McCain Facebook page here, or their twitter account here.

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