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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 #12 – Corned beef

Quick and easy today – Corned Beef with mashed potato. I was out all morning and out working all afternoon. Tomorrow morning I fly out first thing to go to a wedding out of town, so amidst the packing and general chaos for the day, cooking was down low on the agenda..

Slow cookers are amazing – the idea that you can set your food to cook with minimal effort and leave it for the day, is genius. Corned Beef in the slow cooker is amazing every time, a real family favourite. I was cooking for extras tonight as well, as my parents have arrived to look after the children while I am away.

 

Corned Beef

Corned Beef

Brown Sugar

Malt Vinegar

Water

Put the corned beef into the slow cooker and cover 2/3 with water. Add a couple of spoons of brown sugar and a splash of vinegar. Put lid on and cook for approx. 4 hours on high (or 8 hours on low).

I served this with mashed potato and frozen veges

Verdict

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Classic win. As I said, this is always a favourite. Grandad wanted mustard with his beef, I must remember to make mustard sauce next time. Princess cleaned her plate completely, but not before building a snowman with her potato.

Tomorrow, as I mentioned, I am going away, so won’t be blogging my dinner. It’s a wedding so I’m a little bit excited 🙂 See you all on Day #14!

 

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Day #6 – Shepherd’s Pie. With Marmite. Stop it.

This evening, as I was preparing this meal amidst the usual chaos that is our house at 5pm, I was thinking about this blog and my “30 Days Without Takeaways” challenge. I came to the realisation that, as with many things, it often takes merely not being allowed to do something to stop oneself from doing it. In other words, I have challenged myself and am writing this blog as motivation to see the challenge through, and therefore I simply am not allowed to buy takeaways. And so, we are not. Today would have probably been an ideal fish and chip night – I spent a large part of the day working, Princess spent the day at a birthday party and Mr T is still under the weather. And, there is a cyclone looming, apparently. But, takeaways wasn’t even floated as an option. Because, quite simply, we are not allowed.

And thus I made Shepherd’s Pie.

This is another of the meals that Mr T mentioned when I asked him earlier in the week about meals from his childhood. Shepherd’s Pie (according to me, anyway) is just savoury mince topped with mashed potato. In some form.

Mince meat is one of those grocery items you buy every week, regardless of meal plans. Because it is so versatile, so cheap and so easy to cook – we always have at least one or two lots of mince in the freezer. I didn’t use a recipe as such for this dish because, as with many mince dishes, it really is a case of throwing things at the frying pan and hoping they taste good. I mean, any mince is tastier than what my flatmate used to cook when I was flatting as an 18 year old – he aptly named it Salty Mince because it contained mince and salt. Only mince and salt.

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Which brings me to Marmite. Marmite? Shut. The. Front. Door. Are you crazy? Well, yes. But we already know that! For those of you blog followers who don’t know what Marmite is, it is a black spread similar to the famed Australian Vegemite, only slightly sweeter. Very slightly. You either love it or you hate it. Oh, it is also very different to British Marmite, as we discovered when the NZ Marmite factory was closed for two very long years after the 2011 earthquake.

Shepherd’s Pie

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Mince

Onion

Garlic

Mixed Vegetables

Worcester Sauce

Beef Stock

Herbs and Spices

Potatoes (plus ingredients needed for mashing. We are dairy free due to BabyGirl’s allergy so we use margarine and olive oil to mash potatoes).

*You might like to top your pie with grated cheese as well. As above, we are dairy free so don’t but it is a nice addition

Marmite

Potato Pompoms (Now, these weren’t part of my plan but while I was waiting for the potatoes to boil, I found half a bag in the freezer. I love them, I absolutely adore these, so I decided to put them on top of the pie. This meant I didn’t need as many potatoes as well)

So, the method is pretty simple – as I said earlier, I just throw things at the frying pan. Not literally. Most of the time. Chop the onion and cook with the garlic, add the mince and cook until it is brown. Add the Worcester sauce, mixed veges and stock. Cook some more. With the Marmite, I put about half a teaspoon of it into about 1/4 cup of boiling water and stirred until it had mostly dissolved, then added it to the mince mixture. Trust me, it’s delicious.

While this is going on, peel and chop the potatoes then boil them until ready to mash. Mash potatoes.

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Once the mince mixture is cooked to your liking, put it into an oven-proof dish and top with pompoms or potatoes or whatever combination you have chosen. Top with cheese if ya’ll like. Put into the oven just until the potatoes are nice and crispy (about 10-15mins).

Verdict

Win. On a windy, stormy evening nothing is better than hot comfort food. Appearance wise, it looked like prison food but it tasted amazing. Smothered, of course, in tomato sauce. We didn’t need any side dishes because the pie itself is so jam packed with meat, potato and veges. There was enough left over that I can use it to create something for dinner tomorrow night.

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Here’s a question Mr T had for me today – are we allowed Takeaways if they are bought for us by someone else? Hmmm, I’m not sure. Food for thought!