Day Twenty-Nine, Jan 29 2016

Date Night

On Friday nights we ask the kids to make themselves scarce, and we cook a nice dinner and watch a movie.

We do feed them first, of course.

This week we decided to cook one of our favourite Italian dishes, Pasta alla Puttanesca, a spicy Italian pasta dish that is both simple and decadent all at the same time. Puttanesca roughly translates to “prostitute’s sauce,” from the Italian word for whore, “puttana.” A friend of mine calls it “Whore Sauce” but I just call it by its Italian name and enjoy it for what it is: complex, salty, spicy, and truly delicious. Even if you are not a fan of anchovies, you will still enjoy this sauce. The anchovies melt into the sauce and form part of the overall complexity of the flavour, rather than dominating the sauce. If you are a vegetarian, you can omit them, but it will not taste as deep as it should.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of recipes for this sauce. My recipe changes depending on what I have, but there are some basic ingredients that are necessary to have the true puttanesca flavours:

  • Chilli;
  • Anchovies;
  • Garlic;
  • Kalamata olives;
  • Olive oil;
  • Capers;
  • Tomatoes.

The pasta should be a strand-style pasta, preferably spaghetti, but it can be bucatini or fettucine. We used spinach fettucine.

Puttanesca

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil – 24 cents

3 cloves garlic, crushed – 6 cents

3 anchovy fillets – 15 cents (guesstimate)

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – 5 cents

4 teaspoons capers, rinsed – 20 cents

1 cup kalamata olives – $1.00

2 tomatoes, chopped – 40 cents

4 tablespoons tomato paste – $1.00

1/2 packet San Remo Spinach Fettucine – $1.00

Water

Rinse the capers in water, and drain well.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and when hot, add the garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the anchovy fillets and stir, cooking until they melt into the oil and garlic. This will take only a minute or so.

Add the capers and olives, and stir until coated in the garlic and anchovies.

Tip in the tomatoes and cook for about four minutes until they begin to cook down. Add the tomato paste, and stir well. Begin adding a cup of water gradually until the sauce reaches a “saucy” consistency (technical term), and then put the lid on. Cook for about five minutes until the sauce is nice and thick.

Pour the sauce over hot pasta.

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Puttanesca sauce on Spinach Fettucine

Total cost $4.10

Per person (2 of us with some leftovers) $2.05

Eat in front of a movie or House of Cards, and follow up with an Espresso Magnum, if you can fit it in.

We always can.

 

 

Special breakfast

Every weekend we have a special breakfast. The kids choose what we have, and this usually boils down to a choice between pancakes, or eggs and bacon in some form or other (in muffins, or on toast). Occasionally, we branch out and try something different, like waffles or bagels, but my kids are pretty consistent. On Sunday mornings when I ask them what they would like for Special Breakfast, they spend a couple of minutes conferring and the answer is inevitably “Pancakes!!” or “Bacon and eggs!!”

Pancakes are just about the easiest food it is possible to cook. I tell my daughters that if they at least know how to make pancakes, they will never be hungry. According to Wikipedia (and what more reliable source is there), a version of the pancake is made in almost every country in the world. This is because it is a very simple, starch-based meal for which almost everyone has the basic ingredients in their cupboards. The European or American pancake is, or should be, simply flour, milk, and eggs.

This is why I have a deep irritation for those “pancake shake” products. They make no sense. I understand why there are other convenience foods, like pasta sauces in a jar, or two minute noodles, or powdered stocks. Pasta sauce and stock takes time to make. A jar or a powder is convenient, even if the convenient version doesn’t taste as good as the homemade version. Sometimes I use them. But pancake batter is not hard, and it is as quick to make as the “convenient” version. And often, pancake “mix” requires that you add an egg or milk to it. So if pancakes are just egg, milk, and flour, what the hell is in those mixes? Are we just paying $2 or more for basically a cup of flour in a bottle?

I dunno about you, but if that is the case, that gives me the irrits.

A whole kilo of flour costs me 74 cents from Costco. Why would I pay twice that for a cup of flour posing as a convenience?

Pancakes

2 cups self-raising flour – 22 cents

2 eggs, lightly beaten – 70 cents

Either: 2 cups milk – 50 cents or 1 cup milk and 1 cup soda water – 45 cents

In your stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the flour with the eggs and the milk/soda water.

Beat until smooth. There can be a few lumps but try not to have too many. My husband thinks lumps are fine. Hate to argue with the professional chef, but I disagree. Mind you, his pancakes always turn out fine, so don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He was trained by a chef who had a word for a food like this. It is actually unprintable. I will just paraphrase it and call pancakes virtually “unmessupable.”

I like to set the mix aside overnight, covered, in the fridge. However, you can cook it straight away.

The secret to not cooking a dud on the first go is to make sure you use a good heavy-based pan and heat it well before you start. If you start with a cold pan, your first pancake will be a flop. It is a law of the universe.

I use rice bran oil to cook mine, but you can use any good quality vegetable oil with the exception of olive oil.

Drop a ladleful of batter in the hot pan, and cook until you see bubbles forming on one side, and then flip in one swift movement.

Makes about 10 large pancakes or 7 large pancakes and 12 pikelets for snacks later.

Total cost – $1.42

Serve how you like them. We like fresh fruit, honey, and whipped cream:

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Pancakes with fresh fruit, honey and whipped cream

If you want thicker American-style pancakes, add a teaspoon of baking powder to the flour and stir it before adding the wet ingredients. Don’t be tempted to add more baking powder, or your pancakes will have a bitter aftertaste.

If you want thinner French-style crepes, use plain flour instead of self-raising flour, and slightly increase the milk by a quarter of a cup to make a thinner batter.

You can make blueberry pancakes by gently folding a cup of frozen or fresh blueberries into the batter just before cooking. Don’t overmix or you will have purple pancakes.

You can also make chocolate chip pancakes by folding 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips into the batter just before cooking, but I find these are far too sweet and make a mess of your pan. The kids however, will think you are a hero. I have been such a hero to my children exactly one time.

I have also made these with commercially available gluten free flour and had no problems – the ratios are the same.

 

 

 

Day Twenty-Six, Jan 26 2016

Straya Day

January 26, for those of you who are not Australian, is a national holiday in these parts. It is the day we celebrate all the great things about this country, on the date that the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay and began the settlement of Australia by the English in 1788.

It is a day that also marks the day that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this country were dispossessed of their land. Many Australians, not only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, feel conflicted by the choice to celebrate all the good things about this country, on this date in particular. Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people call this day Invasion Day, others call it Survival Day. As I am not an Aboriginal person, I don’t call it either of these things, but I respect and understand their choice to do so. If you are interested, you can read some more about why this is considered a day of cultural conflict here.

I personally enjoy having a public holiday and other aspects of the day (finding out who won the Australian of the Year award, arguing about the merits of the winner, listening to the Triple J Hottest 100, wondering why I know fewer and fewer of the songs each year when it is obvious I am not getting any older), but I admit that I do think that date is a problematic date to celebrate all the wonderful things about this country.

So. How did I choose to spend it? Cooking of course! Specifically, by celebrating what makes me a unique Australian, and making Indian food.

What I do love very much about being Australian is the fact that we are a multicultural nation. Most people in Australia have an immigrant history that they do not have to scratch the surface very hard to discover. This is certainly true of my own family. My husband was born in New Zealand (although, truthfully, that can be said of half the country), and so was most of his family. My grandfather came to Australia just after the partition of India, and our extended family now is a blend of people who have come from many different countries including Wales, China, Ireland, and Italy. We welcome them all and love to learn about their families, their culture, and most importantly, their food.

So to celebrate Australia Day, which is also incidentally, Republic Day in India, we made Samosas. My mother taught me to make these when I was a child, and yesterday I taught my daughter. This is how all great food traditions are passed on: from parent to child, in a long unbroken line. As we made them it was like looking back through time, especially as we have exactly the same type of 1940s style laminex table we had as a child.

Samosas are a deep fried Indian pastry. They are easily available from Indian restaurants, but usually cost a bomb (compared to the actual cost), because they are time-consuming and fiddly to make. I also usually cannot buy the vegetarian version, which are far better than the meaty kind, because they often contain cashew nuts, and I will die a horrible, horrible death.

No snack is worth that.

This recipe is once again from our family Magicke Curry Booke, but it has been adapted to taste. I have a love for whole cumin seeds that even the Magicke Curry Booke cannot assuage, so unless there is a good reason not to, I will add them to almost anything curry-related. My daughter asked me this morning if I would add them to ice cream.

Now there’s an idea.

If you do not like to deep fry, which I understand, you can make these using frozen puff pastry, and bake until golden. They will not be the same, but they will still be tasty.

Samosas

Pastry:

300 grams plain flour – 22 cents

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder – 10 cents (guesstimate)

3 tablespoons rice bran oil – 18 cents

Water

In a stand mixer (you can also do it by hand), mix the flour, baking powder, salt and oil. With the motor running, slowly add small amounts of water until it forms a soft, elastic dough. It should be pliable and easy to handle. Set aside.

Filling:

450 grams potatoes, peeled and parboiled – 18 cents (we got an amazing deal on spuds the other week, but even if you paid double what we did – this will still be cheap)

100 grams frozen peas – 19 cents

1 onion, diced finely – 25 cents

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – 5 cents

2 teaspoons garam masala – 20 cents

2 teaspoons cumin seeds – 20 cents

To fry – 500 ml rice bran oil – $1.50

Parboil the potatoes for five minutes, then drain and run under cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Dice into 1cm cubes.

Heat oil and cook onion until tender. Add the cumin seeds and fry gently for a minute, then add the other spices. Stir and then add the potato and peas, and stir until they are coated with the spices. Cook gently for 2-3 minutes until the potatoes are tender, then remove from heat.

Make a flour paste from 1 tablespoon plain flour mixed with a little bit of water. This will be used to ‘glue’ your samosas together.

Knead the dough gently and separate into ten balls. Roll each ball into a circle. Cut each circle in half.

Using a teaspoon, put a little of the glue along the straight edge of the samosa pastry and bring the two corners together, overlapping slightly, to make a cone. Press the pasted edges together.

Fill the pastry with about 1.5 teaspoons of the filling – don’t be tempted to overfill. Apply more ‘glue’ to the open edge of the samosa, and press the edges to seal shut. Continue until you have 20 completed samosas.

This is a little bit tricky until you get the hang of it. There is a video on YouTube of how to make the little pastry cones here. The lady on the video makes her pastry slightly differently, and cuts her pastry in a perfect circle. I have found that you do not need to do that – just knead your pastry into a ball and it should roll nicely into a circle. Roll it as thinly as you can so that your final samosa is not too doughy.

Heat about 500 ml rice bran oil in a saucepan. When your oil is hot (I test by pinching off a corner of one samosa and frying it), fry a couple of samosas at a time.

Makes 20 samosas

Total cost: $1.63

Plus the oil to cook them (which you can strain and re-use next time you want to deep fry something. Just store it in a glass jar in the fridge): $3.13

Per samosa: 15 cents.

We served ours with a tomato and cumin biryani, and a yoghurt dipping sauce. We had plenty leftover for tomorrow night’s dinner.

 

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Samosas right out of the pot

How do they taste? Like home.

What is your Australian food tradition?

Grocery Shopping Week Four 2016

My ‘little shop’ week was not so little. We had an all-important side trip to Costco, along with the usual trips for fresh fruit, and to the supermarket for the usual milk and so forth.

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Wonky pic. 

Notice that due to the dodginess of the scanning, the receipt on the left makes it looks like I purchased some “pre-packed crap”? While I have been known to buy some junk in my time, not sure if I have ever bought pre-packed crap… They were actually grapes. And the “choc cherries” were a fancy type of tomatoes. Which most def did not taste like either chocolate or cherries. Much to my disappointment.

Total for the week:

Coles (receipt lost): $25.85

Fruit and veg (not the Hilltop): $27.37

Costco: $28.27

Total: 81.49

Remaining: $40.72

I do have to pick up some more milk and fruit this afternoon, so that will probably take care of some of that, but still. Not a bad effort, lady.

 

Day Twenty-Five, Jan 25 2016

Froggy Burgers

Someone on Facebook posted a pic of cute burger rolls made to look like little frogs. I thought my kids would get a kick out of these, and as I was making bread anyway, I made some up. I don’t usually come over all Pinteresty with dinner, but it’s not like these were hard. And they loved them.

I used my regular bread recipe, and used about a third of it to make hamburger buns.

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Hamburger buns, with extra balls of dough on top to look like frog’s eyes

To make hamburger buns, just use a larger piece of dough than you would for a dinner roll, and flatten it on the tray so that it rises in a flat burger bun shape. Easy!

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Baked froggy face buns. I used sunflower seeds for the eyes, and sprinkled with poppy seeds.

I made some vegie burgers to go with these. They were very simple but went well in these burgers.

Vegie burgers

2 cups mashed potatoes – free, frozen leftovers from previous meal

2 cups beans (I used Great Northern Beans), mashed – 81 cents

1 egg, beaten – 35 cents

2 cups rolled oats, whizzed in the Nutriblender – 25 cents (you could also use the equivalent volume of breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs)

1 teaspoon dijon mustard – 5 cents

salt and pepper and a shake of hot sauce to taste

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together until well-combined. Chill in the fridge for an hour.

In a large, heavy-based frypan, heat some oil (I use rice bran) and shallow fry spoonfuls of the vege burger mix (flattened to form burgers) until browned on both sides.

Makes about 16 burgers

Total cost $1.46

Per burger 9 cents (and this is why vegetarian food is seriously more cost-effective than meat)

You can serve these as is, with a salad and fries on the side, or as we did, in a mock baked frog’s head. Which now I think about it, is pretty freaking medieval.

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Veggie froggy burger

Meal Plan, Week 4 2016

This week’s plan is as usual dictated by our work schedules, the weather, and what we have in the pantry and freezer.

To work out a meal plan for a week, I think about what is in the fridge, freezer and pantry, and then look at what we are doing in the week. If one of us is home at least an hour before dinner, I plan something that requires more time to cook. If we are both working right up to dinner, I either plan something “heat and eat” out of our freezer stash, or a quick meal like a stir fry or a fast pasta dish. If it is also going to be hot, I think of something really simple, like BLTs, or burrito bowls.

This week we have some cooler weather, a public holiday, and some more flexible work schedules, so we can spend more time cooking interesting meals.

Saturday: Tandoori chicken, Indian-style fried rice

Sunday: Sushi

Monday: Vegetarian burgers, salad

Tuesday: Samosas, cumin rice

Wednesday: Ricotta spinach rolls, salad

Thursday: Chicken pasta

Friday: Date night: Pasta puttanesca for us, quesadillas for the kids

Day Twenty-Four, Jan 24 2016

Picnic in the Park

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Sushi and other treats. Not pictured: ants and European wasps.

We planned a picnic today for an extended family celebration. My goal for this picnic was a no-trash picnic. I have been reading The Story of Stuff, by Ann Leonard, a book that charts the Western world’s obsession with Stuff and the waste that we generate as a result. The author is an expert on waste and waste management, and the book has been a fascinating, if depressing read, about the amount of waste we generate in the developed world.

Our almost no-waste picnic was still a delicious picnic. To achieve our no-waste picnic, I considered the type of food, the containers, and even small things like napkins and cutlery. I have some lovely cloth napkins made by my sister-in-law several years ago, and I brought these, along with washable plates and cutlery, and all the food in washable containers. The foil was washed and re-used afterwards. Aluminium foil is one of the most energy-intensive products we use and throw away, so I am trying to re-use this as much as possible before throwing it away. Once I run out of the roll I have at home, I will reconsider buying it again. In the end we had only one small piece of rubbish, and were able to bring everything else home to either re-use, recycle, or wash.

The food was delicious homemade sushi, a cheese and tomato pullapart, fruit salad, and a chocolate cake.

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Chocolate cake with ganache topping – almost all gone!

Sushi

Sushi is very easy to make, but I am not the sushi maker in our house – the kids and their dad make this. It is one of the few times we choose white rice. We use a calrose rice for our sushi, which is not authentic sushi rice, but works fine for us.

Cook 3 cups calrose rice in boiling water. When it is cooked, drain and while still hot, season the cooked rice with rice wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Place in a flat tray and cool in the fridge until it is cold.

Decide on your sushi fixings. We do not make ‘authentic’ sushi, with raw salmon. We tend to make sushi with whatever we happen to have, and make a mix of different kinds, served with soy sauce. It is hard to access fish that is fresh enough to make raw fish sushi at home, so when we want sushi like that, we go out for it.

One of our favourites is egg sushi, which is hardboiled egg mixed with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and cucumber. We also love avocado and cucumber, and chicken and cucumber. Today we had leftover cold chicken from the tandoori chicken, eggs, and a mix of fresh vegetables.

Take a sheet of nori (roasted seaweed, available from all supermarkets in packs of 10), and place on a bamboo mat. Spread your cold rice on your nori, and place your filling in the centre like so:

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Sushi making is so easy, my kids can do it. This is my daughter’s sushi roll.

Use the bamboo mat to roll your sushi tightly, like a sausage roll. Slice in smaller rolls of whichever size you prefer. Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi if you like that. We like it with soy sauce.

Keep a dish of cold water next to you while making the sushi as moist fingers are helpful, and moistening your nori on one side helps to ‘glue’ the sushi together. There are a lot of helpful ‘how to’ videos on You Tube.

Sushi is cheap to make, but mostly it is fun to make. My kids love sushi time, and although our sushi will never win a Japanese cooking contest, it is an entertaining way to feed the family.

Day Twenty-Three, Jan 23 2016

Spices Moste Potente

You may have noticed that we love spicy food in this house. Some of the cheapest, healthiest, food there is comes from those cultures that know how to wield the chilli with one hand and the coriander with the other. Even Italian food, that is not traditionally thought of as a spicy cuisine, has plenty of spicy food in its culinary arsenal. Puttanesca sauce, I’m thinking of you, you wanton little thing.

Tonight’s dish comes from the Magicke Curry Booke, otherwise known as Spices Moste Potente.* It is a recipe for Chicken Tikka, but instead of using boneless chicken, I am using chicken drumsticks, because that is what was in the freezer. My mother made this recipe when I was a child, and I make it regularly for my family. My grandfather emigrated from India, so we ate curries often growing up, and continue to eat them often now. When I was a child, I used to watch in awe as my grandfather chewed up the cardamom pods when he encountered them in his curry, amazed that someone could eat something so pungent. Now when I find one in my curry, I just crunch it on up and keep going. The force is strong in this one.

In honour of this cultural heritage, no child may grow up in my house and be a curry wuss. When they complained about the chilli as small children, I told them they were just growing the callous on their tongue, and to keep on going. They now eat almost any curry put in front of them, without even blinking. They are not yet crunching up their cardamom pods.

Chicken Tikka

150 ml plain yoghurt 22 cents (because I used homemade)

1 teaspoon chilli powder (I used crushed chilli flakes) – 10 cents (guesstimate)**

1 teaspoon ginger paste, or you could use fresh grated ginger – 10 cents (guesstimate)

1 teaspoon minced garlic – 3 cents

1/2 teaspoon salt – 2 cents (guesstimate)

2 teaspoons garam masala – 20 cents (guesstimate)

1.5 kg chicken pieces – (I used chicken drumsticks, $7.25)

This recipe also calls for 1/4 teaspoon of red food colouring, to give it the characteristic tikka paste colour. I never do this, as red food colouring is saved for birthday cakes. However, to give it a bit of a red colour, I sometimes add a teaspoon or so of tomato paste, if I happen to have it. Today I did, so I dropped some in.

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Tandoori spice mix

Mix the yoghurt with the garlic, ginger, chilli, garam masala, and salt, and spoon over the chicken pieces. You could skin the chicken if you prefer, but I do not bother.

Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least a few hours, preferably overnight:

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Marinate the chicken in the yoghurt mix.

The Magicke Curry Booke recommends grilling the chicken. We have barbecued it before, but we usually bake it at about 190 degrees C for an hour or until the chicken is cooked and golden, and your whole house smells like heaven.

Total cost $8.19

Per person (3 people) $2.73

We only ate half of it, so the leftovers, will be used tomorrow for our sushi, giving us duo meals for the price of uno. This technically brings down the cost of this dish to about $4, but who’s counting?

To accompany it, I invented this Indian-style fried rice, because we had cold cooked brown rice from the burrito bowls the other night, and because I am a little tired of salads. The weather was cool enough to bake and cook, finally.

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Tandoori chicken and Indian-style fried rice

Indian-style fried rice

1 onion, diced 25 cents

1 carrot, diced 9 cents

1/2 red capsicum 25 cents

1/2 mug of frozen peas 39 cents

2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cents

2 mugs of cooked brown rice 32 cents

1 tablespoon rice bran oil 6 cents

2 teaspoons cumin seeds 20 cents (guesstimate)

2 teaspoons curry powder 20 cents (guesstimate)

salt to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy-based frypan or a wok. Our wok is a cast-iron behemoth and I can’t lift it, so I generally use a large, deep frypan. When the oil is hot, add the onion, and fry for a minute or so before adding the other vegetables and the garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are golden.

Add the cumin seeds and stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add the curry powder. It doesn’t matter what brand or type you use, but for the record, I used Clive of India Hot Madras curry powder. It’s a nice flavoursome powder that has an authentic taste.

Cook the spices with the vegetables for about two minutes, stirring so they don’t stick. Then add the rice. Stir fry the rice with the vegetables and spices.

Stir fry as you would regular Chinese-style fried rice, ensuring the rice is well coated with the spices. Then dump in the peas. I usually thaw my peas for about ten minutes before I cook fried rice, so that they cook properly.

Stir well, and then moisten with a few tablespoons of water. Stir fry for about another two minutes, and then turn off the heat, put the lid on and let it sit for about five minutes, so that the vegetables continue to steam in the heat of the pan. Serve.

Total cost $1.78

Per person 44 cents – there were leftovers for a snack as well.

 

 

*A now out-of-print curry book handed down from mother to daughter. My copy is a copy of a copy and is also falling apart, probably requiring a copy of a copy of a copy. The original may never even have existed…

**I can’t remember how much I paid for the various spices in my cupboard, so I am just guesstimating that they all cost 10 cents per teaspoon for now. Many of my prices are estimates in any case, because a) it can be hard to determine the exact unit price of some items, and b) because prices change. I do my best using a calculator, a set of digital scales, and my noodle.

Day Twenty-One, 21 Jan 2016

Burrito Bowls

I have posted about these before, but this is more of a how-to guide to the family staple that is the burrito bowl. We love these, but they are a recent discovery for us. Prior to October last year, when I discovered them on a trip to the Sunshine Coast for a conference, our go-to Mexican dish was the quesadilla (pronounced kay-suh-dee-ya, or in our house, queasy-dill-ah).* While we still love our quesadillas, the burrito bowl has replaced it as our favourite Mexican meal, and we eat them about once a fortnight.

We love the burrito bowl because of its versatility, its healthiness, its general deliciousness, the rapidity with which we can slam it on the table on a weeknight, and its cheapness. I can generally feed the four of us a burrito bowl each for about six bucks or less. If I am relying on convenience foods like a stand n stuff taco bowl or salsa in a jar, the cost will go up, but even then, each bowl will cost less than a Curtis Stone ten-dollar meal.

There is no recipe for a burrito bowl. I have made them vegetarian, with fish, chicken, or beef. With guacamole or without. With homemade salsa or that salsa in a jar that they say is hot, but really, who are they kidding? With brown rice, quinoa, or a bit of both.

Srsly though, I am giving up on quinoa. I went to buy some the other day, and they were asking $8 for 500 grams. $16 kg vs $1.31 kg for brown rice. That is over a 1000% difference in price for a grass seed I can barely pronounce. Fugeddaboutit. You can read about why quinoa is so expensive here. It’s basic supply and demand economics – we all wants it, so it costs a buttload. Well I refuse to play that game, baby.

Anyways, back to the burrito bowls. This is how you make them. In a bowl, layer the following ingredient ‘types’ in order. It doesn’t have to be neat, and if you don’t have some of them, that is fine. This is not a recipe, more of a style-guide:

  • Base: about 1/2-3/4 cup of a cooked grain like rice, *cough* quinoa, or you could try couscous. I haven’t tried that yet but I probably will.
  • Beans: Cooked, warmed beans of any type, but I love black beans or pinto beans. You can also use heated tinned bean mixes such as Mexe-Beans or refried beans. I heart refried beans but the rest of the fam is not really down with them.
  • Protein: Diced chicken, thinly sliced beef, diced cooked white fish (I have used baked ling), cooked minced beef, turky or chicken, diced tofu or a meat substitute. If you are vegetarian you could just use the beans. Sometime I use leftover meat, or sometimes I will bake some chicken breast or fish especially for burrito bowls, and I will spice it up with some garlic and chilli before I bake it. Or not, depending on the time I have.
  • Grated cheese.
  • Salad: Again, use what you have. We usually use diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and capsicum, and shredded lettuce or spinach.
  • Salsa: If I have time, I will make it. If I don’t and I have some, I will use a jar of salsa, and if I don’t have that, I will douse mine with sriracha or louisiana hot sauce.
  • Guacamole: We usually make our own with an avocado, the juice of half a lime, and salt and pepper.
  • Sour cream or yoghurt: I prefer sour cream, but if I don’t have it I will use plain yoghurt.
  • Sometimes I will put some corn chips on the side, but only if I happen to have them.

When you are done it will look like a precarious mountain of tastiness. It is even more precarious and messy to eat, but it tastes amazing. Because it is layered with so many things, you actually do not need very much meat. We find that two fish fillets or an average sized chicken breast will be enough to feed three people, now that there is one of us that only eats the beans. This is a good way to introduce a “less meat” meal to your family.

 

*This is due to the one queasy-dillah rule. I will post about quesadillas another time. It’s not that quesadillas are bad for you. But wobetide to anyone who thinks that they can eat two. It doesn’t matter how hungry you think you are. Two quesadillas do not fit in any stomach. It’s like E=MC2 – it is one of the fundamental rules of the universe.

Days 18-20, 2016

These were the hurried days. The days in which we ferried kids from place to place, and wished for five minutes to ask each other “how was your day?” The days of the crockpot and the microwave, and the days in which we were grateful for parents and friends to help us out.

Day 18 we had dinner at my parents’ place. After two courses, my mother delivered a five course dessert (cake, fruit salad, ice cream, custard, and chocolate) and then apologised that she hadn’t had time to whip the cream. We wouldn’t have accepted her apology, except that we were all in a food coma and had no energy to be outraged.

Total cost: Free (to us anyway). To my parents I am sure it was most definitely not free. Minus of course the whipped cream.

Day 19 I threw a corned beef in the crockpot two minutes before I left for work in the morning, and texted my husband the required accompaniments to prepare when he got home from work. My wonderful friend babysat my youngest daughter, who is now refusing to attend Vacation Care, and we all sat down to corned beef, mashed potatoes, and a salad, because he said it was too hot to steam vegetables. We had a few minutes to enjoy a meal together, including our friends, and it was good.

Total cost $12.49 (only four of the six of us ate it – the vego had salad and pasta)

Per person $3.12

Day 20 I prepared a picnic of the rest of the corned beef in some sarnies, and my daughter and I scoffed them on the way to her singing lesson, so that we would not be tempted to drive through at Maccas. The youngest and dad had mac and cheese. Pasta is becoming a theme for the vego which I need to rectify. More diverse vegetarian options on the menu, stat!

Total cost $1.57

Per person (two of us picnicking in the car) 78 cents

Compare that to two Maccas meals $14.75 – ouch – plus my sarnies were on wholemeal bread with fresh salad, and no fries or Cokes. So add health points and the savings are exponential.

Of course, the teenager asked if she could have Maccas next week. Grrrr.