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Pork Satay. And A One-Pot Pasta Fail.

One Pot Pasta. The new “in” thing to cook. Scouring through Pinterest, there are loads of stunning photos with accompanying recipes for this new craze – you cook everything in the one pot, including the DRY PASTA!!! You what?! That’s crazy talk! How could I resist giving it a go?!

Well ….

Have a look at this stunning photo – don’t these ingredients look a-mah-zing in the pot?

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Oh, look at those fresh, yummo ingredients. Mmmmm mmmmm. This is gonna be a cinch! I’m gonna cook this every. night.

Well ….

Mr T is often telling me I should pay more attention to recipes. I like to wing it, I like to throw things in and hope the hit the target of a nice meal. Most of the time, they do. So, I went into this, guns blazing. I read a couple of recipes and thought, “right. Got the general idea”.

I did not have the general idea.

I put all the ingredients into the pot and covered them with a combination of chicken stock and water. Set it to boil for 10 minutes, checked the pasta. Nearly done. Another 6 minutes. Done.

Verdict

Well, I’m not sure why I was surprised. It really was a pot of veges and pasta, cooked in the same water. So, they all tasted the same. Not a lot of flavour, just bland boiled veges. Hmmm. Seems I missed a vital point in this – seasonings! Sigh. I divided out some for BabyGirl then tried to rescue the meal by tipping in a can of evaporated milk and some cheese. It made it palatable, though definitely not tasty by any stretch of the imagination. That heavens this wasn’t the only thing I had for dinner. The rubbish bin was well fed that night!

Alas, tonight I decided to be a little less adventurous. I had some trim diced pork and decided to make a pork satay of sorts. I also had lots of fresh veges that I wanted to incorporate. I made up the marinade and had the pork sit for a few hours in the fridge, which made the flavour really nice.

Pork Satay

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Pork

Peanut Butter

Soy Sauce

Brown Sugar

Veges – I used cabbage, carrot, broccoli and mushroom

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Mix together the ingredients for the satay marinade. Coat the pork and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Dice up the veges and combine with the pork in a deep frying pan. I added a little bit of water at this point to kick of the “steam” effect, then put the lid on the pan and let it simmer. The sauce from the pork seeped slowly into the veges while the water steamed them. Let it simmer away for around 20-30mins. I served it on brown rice (well, beside brown rice, thanks to BoyChild turning off the rice cooker midway through, resulting in the rice cooking much after the rest of the meal).

Verdict

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Really, really nice. Good, wholesome food. I chopped up some jalapenos into mine because I really fancy spicy food at the moment. Just a simply delicious meal.

And this, ladies and gents, is why I need to go back to basics. This is the kind of meal I love, and my family love 🙂 On with the show!

 

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Happy Birthday, Mr T! And Happy Takeaway Day!

Well, we did it. 35 days of No Takeaways. Tonight, we got our celebratory meal of fish and chips, and it was pretty darn good, I won’t lie.

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Followed by a lovely dessert of dairy-free chocolate cake, iced by Princess herself

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And, we didn’t even mind that, in her enthusiasm, she dropped the cake clean on the floor. Messy on the floor? Either way, we had a lovely dessert of floor-cake and it was good.

As we ate our dinner, we reflected on 35 days of No Takeaways. I am really, really proud of the effort we have made, and it is something that I am definitely determined to continue in the future. Have we saved money? I’m sure we have, though I have no idea how much.

Best of all, I walk away today having learned so much about myself, cooking and food in general.

I have learned

  • How to make a chicken stock
  • How to make risotto
  • How to cook sauces without using packets
  • How important potatoes and onions are in our diet
  • How to adapt a recipe to fit based on ingredients
  • How to convince my husband that real food really is better than takeaways
  • How to cook a complete meal on 3 hours sleep, and then blog about it
  • How to engage a 4 year old in cooking meals, and
  • How to get a 4 year old eating things she normally wouldn’t touch

I’m sure there is much more that I can’t think of right now (still on 3 hours sleep but YAY, BabyGirl’s tooth came through!), but at the end of the day, I did it, and that is something I am very, very proud of.

Tomorrow, I start afresh. Because, I have a freezer full of potential meals, a cupboard full of ingredients and components, a family who need food and an enthusiasm for cooking like I’ve never had before. I challenge each of you to try something like this. See how far YOU can go without buying takeaways, and let me know!

And, of course, because I wouldn’t feel right leaving you without a recipe, here is the recipe for the Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake that we made for Mr T’s birthday tonight.

Dairy Free Chocolate Cake

2 C Sugar

1 C Cocoa

2 C Flour

2 t Baking Soda

1/3 C Oil

2 eggs

2 t Vanilla Essence

2 C Water

Add all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and combine. Mix in a separate bowl all of the wet ingredients, whisk then add to the dry ingredients. Combine and bake for about 45-60 minutes on 150C. We iced with basic buttercream (margarine beaten until nearly white, then mixed with icing sugar) and lots and lots of sprinkles.

A delicious, heavy, rich chocolate cake. Yummo!

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Day #15 – Lamb Curry

When scouring the internet for recipes, one of the most annoying thing is finding a great looking recipe, mentally checking off to see if you have all the ingredients, and then reading instruction number 7 and seeing it say, “marinate for one hour” or “roast in the oven for 3 hours”. With only half an hour before the children go rabid with hunger. And then searching “quick and easy” only to discover that every recipe seems to contain something that I (a) don’t have in my pantry and (b) would never have in my pantry. Not intentionally, anyway.

So, I made up my own recipe tonight. I winged it. I’ve never made a curry before from scratch, so I wasn’t holding my breath. I even had some sausages cooking away on the side as an alternative meal should the curry be an epic disaster. And here you have, Lamb Curry, Fantastic Mrs T style.

Lamb Curry

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Diced Lamb

Onion

Garlic

Spices (I used Cumin, Garam Marsala, Chilli and Corriander)

Curry Powder

Canned Tomatoes

Can of Chickpeas

Can of Coconut Cream

Brown the lamb in the frying pan and then set aside. Cook the onion and garlic, then add the spices (and a little bit of water if it’s too dry). Add the curry powder and the canned tomatoes. Put the lamb back into the pan and simmer it all together. Add the chickpeas, cover and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the coconut cream and the simmer once more to let it thicken.

Serve with rice and veges

Verdict

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Superb. Delicious. A surprising win. It was nicely creamy, not too spicy at all, and the lamb was tender. I really enjoyed this meal. And, Mr T thought it was “pretty nice” too.

Cooking with three preschoolers can be challenging at the best of times, so I thought I would share this – tonight I darn near killed myself stepping backwards in the kitchen, into this:

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How BoyChild managed to build this tower taller than him without my hearing him, I’ve no idea!

 

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Day #11 – Homemade Pizza

After days of begging to have pizza for dinner, I decided that it would be a nice thing to make tonight. Last night, Princess was so insistent that we make it, she began rattling off all the potential toppings we could add. I’m not too keen on a rice/apple/peanut butter/chalk/lunchbox/t shirt pizza, so I popped into the supermarket while I was out this morning and grabbed a couple of pizza toppings.

The logic wasn’t lost on me, I should add – that, in order to avoid buying takeaways, I’m going to the supermarket to spend money on components for a specific meal. But, I do believe that there are so many advantages to making food as opposed to buying it. At least I know with certainty what is going into the meal.

As I have previously mentioned, BabyGirl has a Dairy allergy. We are hoping that it is something she grows out of, but for now she is strictly dairy free. If there is one thing that I have learned in the past 3 months, it’s that vendors do not always know what is contained in the food they sell. I always ask if something contains dairy (or cows milk, or specific items such as butter or milk) and I am surprised at the misinformation I have been given. For example, we all got ice creams and I asked for a plain, empty cone for BabyGirl, and the woman selling the ice cream suggested I try a particular flavour as it was “non-dairy”. I happened to know that that flavour was not dairy free as we had purchased it before, it was just standard ice cream. This sort of thing has happened many times – I guess my point is, only you can be responsible for what you eat (or in this case, feed your children) and this is where making from home is the best option.

And, on that note, I needed a dairy free, yeast free pizza dough and the one I found worked perfectly! Add some delicious toppings and *hey presto*, pizza 🙂

Pizza

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2 C Flour

1 t Baking Powder

1 t Salt

2/3 C Water

Oil

Toppings (whatever you like, really)

Cranberry Sauce

Mushrooms

Salami

Ham

Green Capsicum

Olives

Cheese

To make the dough, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and water together to form a dough. Knead it for a minute or two then roll it out into your pizza shape. Rub the oil over the surface with your fingers – this prevents the sauce from soaking into the dough.

Top pizza how ever you desire, then put into the oven until cooked.

Verdict

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Absolute WIN, no contest. This pizza was fantastic. I have never had much success with homemade pizza dough and of course, the simplest recipe appears to be the most successful. The dough came out crunchy and thin, well cooked and delicious tasting. Princess ate her slice and part of mine, BabyGirl wasn’t a fan of the cranberry but loved the olives. And Mr T declared it to be “the best pizza ever. So delicious”. High praise – I’ll take it 🙂

Another easy meal for the kids to help you prepare. “What’s for tea” tonight became, “what are we making for tea”, and was followed by a very helpful 4 year old setting the table, making her own “kids salad” and proudly displaying her pizza to all and sundry, all without needing to be asked by me. Another win.

Tomorrow night, corned beef. Can’t wait.

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Day #10 – Chickpea and Lentil Patties with Homemade Chips

Some days I have plans from the get go about what I’m going to cook. I can say, with 100% certainty from the moment I get out of bed, exactly what would be for dinner. Today was not one of those days. I left the house at 10am today and didn’t get home until after 3pm. As I walked in the door, a little voice said to me, “What are you going to cook for dinner?!”. Truth be told, it wasn’t a little voice. It was a surprisingly big voice from a perpetually hungry 4 year old girl. And, it was more like, “Muuuuuuuuuuuumm! You’re hoooooooooooooome! What’s for TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEA?” (remembering, of course, that it was only 3:15pm). Captain Sigh.

So, what was I going to cook? I opened the pantry and (because, well, it was just one of those kind of days) a can of lentils literally rolled out and hit me on the foot. Followed closely by a can of chickpeas. I decided two things – 1. BoyChild really needs to stop stacking cans in the pantry, and 2. Chickpea and Lentil Patties for tea.

Being that they are kind of burger-y, I decided to attempt to make hot chips. Not oven fries from the freezer, real ones. Like, from potatoes. Wow. Stop it. As seems to be the norm right now, Princess was ready and waiting, apron and all. And, I am proud to say, once again she more or less entirely made the chips. She painstakingly peeled the potatoes (asking that I not peel mine so fast because I was making her potatoes sad), sliced them carefully with the knife and did everything bar putting them into the oven. It’s hot, she informed me. Fair call.

Chickpea and Lentil Patties

1 can Chickpeas (drained)

1 can Lentils (drained)

1 Egg

1 T Curry Powder

1/2 Onion (diced)

Garlic

Cumin

1/2 C Breadcrumbs

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Combine the egg with the can of chickpeas and put into a food processor until smooth. Mix in a bowl with the other ingredients. Form into patties and fry until golden on both sides and cooked through.

Homemade Chips

Potatoes

Flour

Oil

Peel the potatoes and slice into chip-shaped pieces. Put into an oven tray and sprinkle flour over, shake up until all the chips are coated. Drizzle on oil and once again ensure they are completely coated. Cook in the oven until chips are golden and crispy.

Verdict

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For me, I call this a win. The chips were pretty fantastic, not as crunchy as deep fried ones but no less tasty. I really liked the patties although next time I might be more creative with the seasonings. BabyGirl loved the patties as well, she ate two entire patties. For Mr T and the other kids? They loved the chips but weren’t too sold on the patties. Mr T says they were “nice enough”. Princess picked all of the onion out of hers then declared it “ruined” and left the table. Shrug. Perhaps something I will make one night for just BabyGirl and me – maybe they would be more popular served in a bun. Will definitely make the chips again though 🙂

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Day #7 – Pea, Pie & ‘Pud

Ah, leftovers. Probably Mr T’s and my biggest failing in the kitchen. Neither of us are terribly fond of leftovers. But, the whole purpose of this challenge is to utilise what I have etc. Leftovers are a necessary component of home cooking and I really need to learn to use them and, more so, enjoy them.

Tonight we are having a meal nearly entirely made up from last night’s leftovers. I decided to make Pea, Pie & ‘Pud. That is, peas, pies and potatoes. I decided to make Potato Pancakes with the potatoes and an egg, they come out like little pikelets/thick pancakes. Princess helped me with the pies and she had a lot of fun doing it, she was able to scoop the mince out and create her own “pies”. Special shout outs to her pie “with a window”, her absolutely teeny tiny pie that she made for her brother, and her “pie with no meat” (aka a ball of pastry).

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Pies

Puff Pastry (I used sheets of frozen pastry that I thawed out)

Leftover mince

Cut the pastry into rectangles. Put a small amount of mince in the lower half of the rectangle. Fold over the pastry and press down the edges with your fingers. Bake in the oven for 20ish minutes, until the pastry is cooked.

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Potato Pancakes

Leftover mashed potato

Egg

Mix together and fry to make little pancakes

Peas

Peas

Cook peas.

Verdict

Yum. Not a fancy meal by any means but, as with last night’s meal, it hit the spot. We have two pies leftover so they will be tomorrow’s lunch.

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I’m really enjoying this challenge at the moment – I have noticed a significant increase in the nightly dishes but I popped into the supermarket today and realised that I don’t need to buy large amounts of food like we normally would, because I’m making so much from home.

Week one done and dusted and we have survived – on to week two!

 

 
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Day #5 – Roast Beef

Roast beef tonight. Not because I particularly feel like roast beef mind, but simply because I thawed it so must use it. It is actually quite a muggy day today and the oven blasting at ridiculous temperatures just adds to the heat. But, here we are anyway.

Because I am cooking a rump roast (don’t ask me about different cuts of meat vs their merits, I know about as much about beef as I do about fish. Which is, very little. But, I’m learning!), I decided to do it by searing and then cooking at a low temp. I would love to say that I’m cooking it with all the trimmings (kumara, parsnip (gross), carrots, onions, peas, yorkshire pudding) but I’m not. I don’t have most of those things in my house, so we are having Roast Beef with potatoes and peas.  And maybe carrots. Since typing ‘yorkshire pudding’, I’m reconsidering cooking it, because I LURVE it. But, no, not tonight. Definitely putting that on the list for another night though!

Roast Beef with Potatoes and other vegetables

Roast beef (as mentioned, I have Rump Roast)

Garlic

Salt and Pepper

Onion

Cup of water

Potatoes

Olive Oil

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Leave the beef out in room temperature for about half an hour before cooking. Why? Because that’s what they recommend on MasterChef. True story. Make 4-5 slits in the rump (it’s ok, I giggled too) and shove in some garlic and salt and pepper. Put more salt and pepper over the entire piece of meat. Sear in the oven for 20 minutes at 235C. Bring out and add the chopped onion and water to the dish. Put back into the oven and cook at 135C until cooked to your liking. I like my meat medium-well done, Mr T likes his a bit bloodier. Rest your meat when it is done, for about ten minutes before cutting. This one I know why – it is about the juices going back into the meat and making it more tender and moist. Or something (told you I knew).

For the potatoes – I am trying to master the perfect roast potato without smothering them in fat. I’m about 80% there, I think. I peel and boil them until they are just tender, then drain the water and give them a good ruffle-up. A shake up. Roughen up their edges, if you will. And then I roast them with some oil until they are crunchy and delicious. Om nom nom. I could eat roast potatoes and gravy until the cows come home, I tell ya.

Gravy. GRAAAAAAAVVVVYYYYYY. Because the meat was cooked in water and onion, making the Most Amazing Gravy was super easy – just add flour to the tray once the meat is removed and whisk it over a low heat. This gravy was Homer-Simpson-drool-worthy.

Verdict

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Amazing. One of, if not The Best, roasts I have ever cooked. The garlic added a nice mild flavour, it was cooked to perfection and of course, the gravy. Did I mention the gravy?

There were even leftovers. I’m already excited for tomorrow when I get to eat the meat gravy again.

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Day #3 – Lamb Shanks With Red Wine

Ok, I got the Lamb Shanks out of the freezer last night and thawed them overnight so they are right ready to crack on to this morning. I also got a beef rump roast out which is thawing in the fridge, for tomorrow night. I should mention at this point that last year we were lucky enough to get a homekill beef and a homekill lamb which is why I have these fancy schmancy meats in my freezer. Not meat I would necessarily buy, let alone be able to afford from the supermarket.

I have a packet in the pantry for slow cooking lamb shanks, one of those handy flavour sachets that require you to only add one or two ingredients. Which is fine, and I was absolutely intending to use this (under the justification that it was purchased before I declared No More Packets, so that’s ok, right?) until I decided that I might as well start now with the full cooking experience.

Until I discovered that EVERY Lamb Shank Slow Cooker recipe calls for red wine. I don’t drink red wine, Mr T doesn’t drink red wine (and I’m relatively confident the kids don’t drink red wine) so it seemed to me to be an unnecessary expense for the meal. Deciding to just not include it, I had a glance up at our wine cupboard and happened to notice this:

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Hello there, Mr Bottle O’ Red Wine. No idea how you got here but great timing! On with the recipe!

I read a number of recipes that all seemed to follow along the same lines, so this is my interpretation based on ingredients I already have.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

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4 Lamb Shanks

1 C Red Wine (Note: you need a corkscrew to open red wine. No matter how hard you try, doing it with a knife WILL result in some of the cork ending up IN the wine. Rustic, I call it. Adds to the flavour)

1 Can Tomatoes

1 carrot (diced)

Garlic

Onion

Stock

Herbs (Oregano and Rosemary is what I used)

To cook – brown the lamb shanks in oil until they are brown and crispy. Set aside. In the same pan, cook the onion and garlic, then add the can of tomatoes and the carrot. Cook for a bit then throw in the wine and the herbs. Allow it to bubble to burn of some of the alcohol then let it simmer for a bit.

Pour it into the bottom of the slow cooker then place the Lamb Shanks on top. Make sure that they are covered in liquid then set your slow cooker on high for 8 hours. Occasionally spoon sauce over the lamb.

Verdict

Well, firstly, 8 hours on high is a bit too much, for my slow cooker anyway. By 4.5 hours the meat was already falling off the bone and looking cooked so at that point I turned it down to Low. And, I think I turned it off completely after 7 hours and let it just sit until dinner was ready.

I served these with mashed potato and veges (the only way to serve lamb shanks, really) and they were pretty delicious. Even Princess ate them, declaring “I LOVE MEAT!”. Baby girl wolfed it down as well 🙂

The downside is the work put into the meal. I want easy meals and this certainly wasn’t. Granted, a lot of the effort was unnecessary – I didn’t actually need to make my lamb shanks look like cooked ones by hacking and attacking them to expose the bone, because they actually go like that when they cook (thank YouTube for saving three out of four of mine). And of course, having a corkscrew for the wine would have saved a lot of time and effort as well!

I’ll call this one a win, if only because the effort warrants the score.

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Day #1 – Fish Cakes

And here we start our basic food. I went to the supermarket today and tried not to buy pre-made food. Surprisingly (or not!) I came in well under budget. We may make that up later in the week though as things run out.

For dinner tonight I am making fish cakes with a spinach salad – I asked Mr T what he would like, what food he remembered from his childhood that he really liked. Fish cakes it is.

Ingredients:

Fish cakes

Fish (Tarakihi Fillet)

2 Potatoes (recipe calls for 2 Large so I’m using 5 small – medium ones)

Onion, grated

1 egg

Parsley (I will use Oregano because it’s what I have)

Butter (the recipe calls for butter but since BabyGirl is dairy-free, we will use margarine)

Breadcrumbs (not in the recipe but added at the frying stage because that’s the way Mr T’s mother did it)

Spinach, tomato and grated carrot as a side salad for me, broccoli for Mr T and the kiddles

(I am also roasting some pumpkin for BabyGirl which will hopefully do two or three meals)

Fish Cakes

Peel and halve potatoes and boil them in a pot until they are nearly tender.

Add fish to the pot and let them both cook until they are soft.

Drain well and put into a large mixing bowl. Add margarine, onion, egg and herbs (I’m using Oregano because it’s there) and mash together.

Shape into patties. Add breadcrumbs if you so desire.

Cook in oil on a frying pan over medium heat until they are golden brown on both sides.

Verdict? Pretty tasty! 4 out of 5 empty plates at the end of the meal, though getting BoyChild to eat anything at the moment is a task-and-a-half so I declare this one a win. Will definitely be doing it again.

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Notes: You can probably get away with using any fish. Canned fish would work well and is a much cheaper option. I’m not a “fish” person so cooking with fish is a new experience for me. I’m a bit of a Fish Noob, you might say.

These would be delicious with sweet chilli sauce as well

Now to think about tomorrow’s dinner … I think I’ll attempt Lamb Shanks