Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday NOT the menu plan

For those of you not in Eastern Australia, it has been stinking hot bushfire weather. We have a fire far west of us, and the smoke has been coming across the mountains. Today was hot, smoky and windy - not weather for spaghetti and meatballs or mushroom soup (the things left on my plan).
Instead, for $3.75 we had a slight change of plans. The $3.75 bought rice vermicelli, lime juice and coleslaw mix. And we had satay meatballs with rice noodle salad.

Simple Satay Sauce
1 Can coconut milk (mine was light, but it didn't have to be)
1 Tablespoon red curry paste
2 generous Tablespoons peanut butter
Splash of fish sauce

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and simmer gently until slightly thickened. Add defrosted meatballs and simmer again until heated through.
Serve with rice noodle salad.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu planning monday

Back to some routine! Ryan did all the grocery shopping this weekend, and chose the menu, so it's a bit more expensive and creative than usual. But thats ok because we spent so little last week (not being able to get to the fruit & veg markets). He still spent less that $50 at coles, and only $20 at the markets, so our $100 a fortnight food budget is intact.
Here's the plan:
Last night: Salmon and vegetable kebabs on the barbecue (the salmon was expensive, but so worth it)
Monday: Arancini (Italian rice balls). We had oil left over from deep frying the wontons, which was Ryan's inspiration for this yummy, greasy dinner.
Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs (from last weeks cooking overload).
Wednesday: Ricotta gnocchi (ricotta also something we don't often buy. In one of my Donna Hay magazines there are instructions to make it, so I might have to try)
Thursday: Quesadilla's (I hope I spelt that correctly)
Friday: Fresh cream of mushroom soup.

I've decided to make it official, and joined OrgJunkies Menu Plan Monday.

I hope you're planning a yummy week too!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pumpkin curry and mushroom wontons

Every so often we have a clean-out-the fridge dinner. On my menu for this friday was curry, but our fridge was so empty it was looking like a stretch. We had half a butternut pumpkin, some left over wonton wrappers, quite a few mushrooms, and a fairly full tin cupboard. So this is what we ended up with.
Pumpkin & chickpea curry
Heat oil in wok. Add curry paste of choice (ours was Thai red), and try not to choke on fumes. Mental note - don't let husband cook and watch TV at the same time. The oil had been heating for quite a while...
When curry paste is fragrant (or the fumes have cleared) add half a butternut pumpkin, chopped. You could add a chopped onion, or any other 'hard' vegetables at this point. I would have added an onion if I had one.
Stir it for a bit, then turn down the heat. Slowly add a can of coconut milk. Leave to simmer until pumpkin is nearly tender, then add a well rinsed can of chickpeas and the remains of a red capsicum, thinly sliced. Leave until heated through and the pumpkin is finally soft.
Absolutely inauthentic mushroom wontons
Finely dice some mushrooms and a generous piece of ginger (we added some garlic too, but I wouldn't do it again). Add enough hoisin sauce to make it all stick together. Place a big teaspoonful in the middle of each wonton wrapper, then use a pastry brush to wet the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper together to make a parcel, squeezing the edges to stick, and squeezing as much air out as possible. Deep fry until golden brown.

Serve with rice and spicy popadums.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cooking overload, and hey - my dinner's cool!

Tuesday was kind of weird. I defrosted some beef mince to make chilli, and some blade steak to make the beef casserole for the next day's slow cooker. Then I realised that I had twice as much mince as I needed - it couldn't go back in the freezer, so I made it into meatballs . I browned the meat for the casserole, and chucked the meatballs in the oven (with the baked potatoes for the chilli).
For somebody who normally only eats one or two meals of red meat a week, it felt strange to be cooking up three or four meals of the stuff all at once!
Eventually, the meatballs went in the freezer to be flash frozen, the casserole went in the fridge for the next day, and the chilli got eaten. I was left feeling like the picture of a domestic goddess.

The beef casserole turned out brilliantly. I used the 'Wine-braised beef with herby dumplings' from Destitute Gourmet, but I had to modify the recipe for the slow cooker. I thought that meant using less liquid (the instruction manual said to halve it) but I won't next time, because it wasn't runny enough to do dumplings. It was perfect though - thick and rich and beefy. I served it with some lovely green beans. And to top it all off, CookieCrumb says casseroles are so retro that they are cool again!

Monday, December 04, 2006

A $21 Challenge - a frugal food fest.

On the SS website (see link over on the right somewhere) there has been a lot of discussion about doing a $21 challenge. The challenge being to spend only $21 on food for the week, and use up everything you have sitting around in the cupboard and the freezer. Seeing as I didn't get time to shop, I guess I'll be doing that this week.
In the freezer, I have three lots of casserole beef, one big bag of mince, some puff pastry, frozen peas and flat bread.
In the cupboard I have tinned tomatoes, beans, coconut milk, cous cous, pasta & stirfry noodles.
(and lots of baking stuff, including 5 types of flour... how did I end up with 5 types of flour?)
In the fridge I have yoghurt, milk, 3 eggs, 5 potatoes, 2 sick looking tomatoes, some cheese, plus the ingredients for the pumpkin and feta pasta I was going to eat last week.
So far, the menu is going to be
- pumpkin & feta pasta (I mean it this time!!!)
- baked potatoes with chilli con carne
- flat-bread pizza
- beef & red wine stew in the slow cooker
- some sort of beef curry that i'll decide at a later date.
And that takes us through to Friday!
I'll let you know how it goes...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hiking is really, really bad for you

Camp Cooking

OK, maybe not completely bad for you, but definitely bad for your diet.
The complete list of food I've eaten since friday night:
- burger at icky fast food joint
- muesli with long life milk
- white turkish roll with tuna & that icky 'cow' cream cheese that doesn't need refridgerating
- spui min (oh, sorry, one of those packet meals where you just add boiling water & sit. this one was sweet & sour pork flavour, to give you the idea)
- small plastic container of so-called chocolate mousse (also didn't require refridgeration)
- muesli with long life milk and tinned fruit
- a much better mushroom & onion burger at a much better take away place.

But this leaves out the snacks - half a kilo of trail mix, violet crumble, jelly snakes, shape biscuits... I think that's it.
I haven't cooked a single thing all weekend. I have no idea what we are going to eat this week, and haven't done any shopping. I'm sure I'll figure it out soon. I hope your week has a better start!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pumpkin and feta pasta

This is one of those really flavoury dinners, that you keep doing because it's easy, and it's easy to fudge if you don't have exactly the right ingredients. In theory, it serves 4 people, but I made it for lunch for 5 of us one day, and ended up with around a third left over. Maybe they meant 4 hungry lumberjacks. I originally found the recipe in 'bowl food' from Murdoch Books.

1.2 kg of butternut or japanese pumpkin, peeled & cubed
1 tsp fresh rosemary (I only do this because it grows outside my front door)
4 cloves of garlic
olive oil
500g pasta (i usually use penne, but the bowties work well too)
1 large red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
200g feta, crumbled
100g fresh rocket leaves (I think north americans call it aragula. i'm glad i don't have to pronounce that) I've used baby spinach as well.

Bake the pumpkin, garlic, rosemary & olive oil in a hot oven until the pumpkin is cooked.
Cook the pasta & keep it warm.
Cook the onion (in more olive oil) in the frying pan for a couple of minutes, then add the honey. When the onion starts to caramelise, add the stock and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes, until its reduced a bit.
Add everything to the pasta and stir through, I usually season with lots of cracked pepper.

This dinner freezes ok, it just doesn't reheat very well. Melted feta is pretty rubbery.

Monday, November 27, 2006

And for this week's dinners...

Last night we had roast lamb for dinner (yum)
So the rest of this week is
Monday: Lamb fritters (inspired by donna hay's magazine for spring)
Tuesday: Dinner with my dad (maybe)
Wednesday: Greek-style lamb wraps
Thursday: Pumpkin & fetta pasta.
Friday: Apparently we are going hiking this weekend, starting after work on Friday. So not sure what (or where) we'll be eating.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lamb Roast

Well, it's Sunday afternoon, and it's stinking hot. Not weather for toiling over a hot stove. So I've done a very Australian thing, and I'm cooking a lamb roast.
When my mum makes a lamb roast, it's very simple. Slather the roast in whole grain mustard, stick in a baking tray (add onions if feeling creative). In another tray, add big chunky pieces of carrots, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato and maybe another onion. The vegies are drizzled with olive oil, and cracked black pepper. Cook until done.
If we were lucky, we'd get gravy - mum's gravy was always thick and yummy. I try to replicate it sometimes, but it's tricky. Her recipe involved heating the juices in the roasting tray on the stove top, simmered with added water. Soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce or whatever else was close at hand would be added in judicious amounts. And often it would be thickened with cornstarch at the end. This whole feast was inevitably served with minty boiled peas.
My roasts aren't much different, but I experiment. Today's roast has slivers of garlic stuck into it (thankyou, Gabriel Gate, for that idea) and was brushed with a mix of rosemary and olive oil. I cook my roast on a rack - which i've never seen Mum do. And my vegetables include whole cloves of garlic and quartered beetroots. I've done more asian style flavours, and sometimes middle eastern with harrisa and lemon, but today i just felt like an old-fashioned lamb roast.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Creative Prawn Ravioli

What do you do with too much home-made prawn dip?
Turn it into ravioli, of course.
I was going to put some photos in here, but blogger is being very unhelpful.

Update: I've figured it out!!!

We now have pictures : )
Yummy ravioli with a thick balsamic tomato sauce mmmm...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Spice Rack

I saw this on Morsels and Musings and thought I had to give it a go. I've been meaning to see what's been hiding at the back of that shelf, anyway. The original inspiration is from Rubber Slippers in Italy, so I'll answer Rowena's questions first:

1. Which is the most indispensable spice on your spice rack?
Am I allowed to say garlic? Not the powdered type (i don't actually have any) but the bulbs that sit above my fridge. It doesn't seem to matter what I cook, there's usually garlic in it. Into the pan at the beginning of pasta sauces, curries or stirfries. Into the roasting pan every time I bake vegetables, or most meats. In the sauce if I make pizza. I've been known to make garlic mashed potatoes. Last week Ryan made some VERY strong garlic bread. And it often goes in the pot if I'm making stock or soup. About the only thing it doesn't go into is salads, but if you have a recipe...
Otherwise, rock salt and ground pepper are pretty high on my list. As is cinnamon for anything sweet, and it's mandatory on porridge.

2. Which is the most used? This being determined by a near empty bottle compared to the others.
I think cumin is probably the most used (I have whole seeds and ground). I put it in mexican food and many curries, as well as adding the whole seeds to raitas and dips.

3. Which is the least used?
Juniper berries. We bought it for a particular recipe, and Ryan announced he didn't like the result. I think I'm going to have to find another use for them - from memory they are in Jerk Chicken?
Two close seconds are steak spice mix (I don't even remember buying it, let alone using it. I think the ex-flatmate must have bought it) and five spice powder. The five spice I find smells too 'desserty' for mains for me. I have got a lovely pork recipe that uses it, though. I just don't seem to buy pork very much any more.

4. Is there a spice or seasoning that you know of or just learned about and would like to add to your collection?
I have been meaning to buy fenugreek for a while. It's in a curry recipe I have used a couple times (substituting mustard seeds, or just leaving out the fenugreek). I'm not entirely sure what the flavour is like, although I know I've used it before. Maybe the name just sounds cool : )

5. Are there any health remedies that you practice with the use of spices?
I do drink peppermint tea as a tummy settler after eating too much. I have also been known to make ginger tea, and lemongrass tea, and sometimes lemongrass & ginger tea. But that is just because I like the taste!

The full list!
Allspice & Star Anise
Bay Leaves
Cayenne pepper, carraway seeds, coriander (ground & whole seeds), cumin(ground & whole seeds), chilli (dried, ground & fresh), cloves (ground & whole), cinnamon (cassia, sticks, and mixed with sugar), cardamom (green whole pods & ground).
Fennel Seeds
Ginger (ground & fresh)
Juniper Berries
Mustard (seeds & 'keens mustard powder')
Nutmeg (whole & ground)
Paprika (mild & hot), pine nuts, poppyseeds, peppercorns
Vanilla bean dusting sugar.

Mixes: 'Mixed herbs', 'mixed spice', 5 spice powder, harissa, garam masala, steak spice (?), old fashioned english curry powder.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You can see!

Last night Ryan showed me how to get photos out of his digital camera - so now I can post some! This is the newly-beloved slow cooker, filled with chilli con carne.
This is cous cous salad with rocket, from dinner last night. Notice our retro, orange benchtop. Kinda matches the slow cooker, dontcha think?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Busy weekend - spicy soup

This was a big eating weekend for me, but not so much cooking. Between dinner with friends, a baby shower AND a hen's night, I wasn't really home much.
That said, Ryan made an excellent not-so-spicy soup tonight. Coconut and lentil spicy soup, with garlic bread, because we both like it and hadn't made if from scratch lately.
As I write this, Ryan is making a batch of muffins for work this week. We both prefer spending our play money on "dinners out" rather than "snacks at desk".
I did get around to grocery shopping today, while ryan went to the vegie markets. The menu for this week is:
- Chicken & Broccoli stir fry
- Home made pizza
- Chickpea & Roast Sweet Potato salad
- Chilli con carne (finally try out the slow cooker!)
- Beef in red wine - and old favourite that we may be brave enough to try in the slow cooker.
- Oops! the mint pesto pasta that we didn't get around to making last week. But only if the mint is still looking ok...

Friday, November 10, 2006

A spinach disaster : (

Last night I did curries for dinner. Spiced lentils, rice, popadums, chutney and spinach curry. The spinach curry is a great recipe - I've used it a lot and it's always turned out fine. But not this time...
On Sunday we got to the vegie markets rather late. All the loose leaf vegetables were gone, but I picked up a bunch of greens on the $2 table. They were kinda funny looking - like overgrown baby spinach, or really fat rocket leaves. I thought I'd ask what they were, but I was pretty sure the guy would just say 'Spinach, silly!' so I grabbed it.
As I washed the leaves for dinner last night, I had a nibble on it - it was SO bitter.
"Don't worry," I thought. "As long as it's thoroughly cooked, the bitterness will go."
Besides - I was cooking them in a very spicy onion sauce. You wouldn't be able to taste it anyway, right?
When we sat down to eat, the greens looked great. Unfortunately, they tasted horrible. Even the curry sauce couldn't mask the bitterness, and the aftertaste was horrible. Ryan didn't attempt a second mouthful. And I wasn't brave enough either. At least we had more than enough lentils.

I guess the moral of the story is: don't buy mystery greens.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chicken & Pumpkin Risotto

Loosely based on Donna Hay's Baked Risotto in The instant cook.


1 Tb Olive Oil
1 Brown Onion
2 C Arborio Rice
5 C Chicken Stock
1 1/2 C Diced Roast Chicken
1 1/2 C Chopped Japanese Pumpkin
3/4 C Grated Parmesan Cheese

Lightly brown the onions (and some garlic if you've got some) in the frying pan. Place the onions in a casserole dish with the rice, pumpkin and stock and stir. Cover tightly with alfoil and bake at 200 C for 30 minutes. Stir, add chicken, re-cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, stir in parmesan and lots of cracked black pepper. Let the risotto sit for 5 minutes, or until it thickens.

I served this with steamed broccolli. It made enough for dinner for 2, and 4 lunches to go in the freezer.


If you would prefer a vegetarian option, I've also posted Pumpkin and Feta Risotto, and Beetroot Risotto (which is very, very pink).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chicken Stock

After the excitement of new things, life has settled a little. The slow cooker had a wobble, so we'll be exchanging that on the weekend. This means my chicken stock is now just bubbling away on the stove... not cleverly slow cooking without me! I don't mind too much - I just enjoy making stock. It makes me feel all self-sufficient and domestic goddess-y.
The stock will go into a baked chicken risotto, loosely based on Donna Hay's recipe in The instant cook. My version is going to have pumpkin, pine nuts, and a bit less chicken, because that's what i've got this week.
I don't often do a roast chicken, but I did this week. I love the idea of rubber chicken, from Flylady, using every last part of the chicken. So we had roast chicken with roast vegies on Sunday. We both took leftovers for lunch (yum), had chicken burritos on Monday (with leftovers as well). Tonight, I've stripped all the remain meat for the risotto. And put the bones in the stock pot. So one chicken became 5 meals for two.
Hang on, maybe it's more than that:
  • Roast dinner, plus two lunches of leftovers (2)
  • Burritos, plus chicken wraps for lunch (2)
  • Chicken & Pumpkin risotto, with 4 lunches left over (3)
  • 3 Cups of chicken stock left in the fridge for (maybe) soup.

Not bad for one not-so-big chicken!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Toys

The gifts from our wedding registry arrived on Friday. I wanted to go home early to look at them, but couldn't leave work. When we finally opened them that night (while eating quiche) there were a few much-anticipated kitchen things. We got a slow cooker, a new blender, a beautiful cake stand and some new casserole dishes. Also a very nice new stainless steel pot, which Ryan is excited about. (He is fed up with our other ones.)
AND a new Donna Hay cookbook! Off the Shelf

I have planned our meals for this week around the new kitchen things. And then (with the grocery money we didn't use while away) we did a bulk butcher shop. We should have enough meat for us for around a month.

So the plan for this week is:
- Roast chicken with roast vegetables (I'm not sure yet if i'll roast it in the slow cooker)
- Chef salad
- Chicken burritos
- Dhal and spinach curry
- Chicken risotto (with stock made in the slow cooker)
- Minty pesto pasta (from Donna Hay, using new blender)

We are off to the fyshwick markets to get this weeks vegies.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A new start!

Hello and welcome!

This is my cooking blog. Not the swanky Julie&Julia kind, but just the everyday stuff. The cooking that, when you let it get away from you, turns into six straight nights of spaghetti bolognaise or tacos.

So it's about menu-planning, groceries on a budget, and aiming for romantic dinners for two, seven nights a week!
(hey, we all have dreams)