Day 341, December 6th 2016

Ok, I admit it. I have completely messed up the numbers of my 365 days. When I have a spare moment I will go back and fix it – but for now, suffice to say – my bad. This is the correct number though.

Anyways, on this day I made a big batch of vegetarian and non-vegetarian chilli so we could have Mexican food galore. To change things up a bit, I decided to make a turkey chilli for we omnivores, and a ‘black and white’ chilli for our little vego, using black beans and black-eyed beans.

Turkey, sage and kale chilli

2 tablespoons rice bran oil – 6 cents

1 clove garlic, minced* – free

1 red onion, finely chopped – free

1 stick celery, peeled and finely sliced** – 15 cents

1 carrot, finely chopped – 10 cents

3 slices short cut bacon (about 100 grams) – $1

500 grams turkey mince – $5

1 can black-eyed beans, drained and rinsed – $1

1 can diced tomatoes – $1

2 teaspoons ground coriander – 10 cents

6 leaves sage, roughly shredded – free

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves – free

3/4 teaspoon paprika – 5 cents

3/4 teaspoon chilli powder – 5 cents

1/2 bunch kale, washed and shredded – free***

6 cups chicken stock – free

Heat the rice bran oil in a large stock pot. Gently sauté the onion, carrot, celery, sage, thyme, and garlic for ten minutes. Add the bacon and cook for five minutes, then add the turkey and cook for ten minutes, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.

Sprinkle with the coriander, chilli and paprika. Stir well and cook for another two minutes.

Add the black-eyed beans and the tomatoes and stir well. The pour in the stock.

Stir well and bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until the chilli is reduced. Season with salt and serve with rice for a burrito bowl, tortillas for burritos or quesadillas, or in tacos.

We served it on tacos with guacamole and hot sauce. Om nom norms.

Total cost: $8.51

Per person (serves 12): 70 cents.

We froze this in meal-sized lots and we still have some in the freezer. This is one of those ‘meat less’ meals that stretches a small amount of meat a long long way. The addition of many kinds of vegetables makes it a healthy choice, although the inordinate dollop of sour cream on top probably negates that a little!

Tomorrow: the vegetarian chilli recipe.

*I mince my garlic by hand. Just whack the full clove with the flat of a chef’s knife and the peel will slip right off, and then chop it up. It’s the easiest method for me, but you can use a proper garlic crusher if you like. I find them a pain to wash, so I don’t bother with them.

**I always peel celery. I just think it’s nicer.

***I’m growing kale in my garden. That stuff grows like a weed.


Ice cream season

Last Christmas (not the Christmas just past that broke our collective hearts #lastchristmas), my mother gave me an ice cream machine. We had great fun with it last summer, and then as the winter months drew in, we stopped making ice cream. Ice cream was still eaten (we’re not monsters), but we did not feel like making it ourselves.

Now the season of ice cream has returned. Mostly we use the recipes that came with the machine because I figure that the Ice Cream Advisory Board would not give bad advice, but now that I am more confident I have branched out a little. Also I had stuff in my freezer that needed to be used up.

So I present to you, Sour Cream Ice Cream with no eggs, no gluten, no nuts, but a ton of dairy. I adapted this recipe to use ingredients I had in my fridge. I used some lower fat ingredients, and less sugar, but as I also added sweetened condensed milk, I’m not sure it really counts as a ‘healthier’ recipe. Scratch that – it definitely does not count as a healthier recipe.

 I’m not going to include prices as it’s a bit fiddly – it was bits of stuff I had left over from Christmas cooking. Let’s just say it was cheap as chips and leave it at that. It’s not cheaper than the $2 el cheap home brand special, but it is cheaper and better than the gourmet, $5 for a tiny tub stuff you might buy to eat on a special occasion. Plus – no partially-hydrogenated oil of nut guts or orangutan-squishing palm oil in sight.


300 ml light sour cream

60 ml thickened cream

125g low fat natural yoghurt

Zest of one lemon

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl, whisking well.

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup full fat milk

2 teaspoons corn flour

Whisk the cornflour, sugar and a little of the milk together in a saucepan. Then mix in the rest of the milk and condensed milk.

Cook on a low heat, whisking gently until it forms a thickened custard. 

Carefully and gradually blend the hot custard into the sour cream/yoghurt mixture, whisking as you go. This process, of adding hot to cold and blending together, is called tempering. If you add the hot custard too quickly, you will curdle the cold mixture. 

When the mixture is combined, it will be very thick. 

Place in the fridge for at least four hours, or overnight.

When the mixture is completely chilled, place in the basin of your ice cream machine if you have one. If you don’t, you can freeze in a plastic container, and remove every couple of hours and use a fork or a hand mixer to whisk it up, breaking up the ice crystals.

However, if you have a machine, churn it for thirty minutes or so. It will not be as thick as an ice cream made with egg yolks, but it will still churn. Place in a plastic container in the freezer and freeze overnight. 

This is a lovely, lemony, creamy ice cream – but it is pretty soft. Think of it as homemade soft serve and eat it quickly!

Day 350, November 27 2016

Salami and Green Olive Pasta with Beetroot Leaves

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

1 red onion, sliced – free

2 cloves garlic with, crushed – free

1 rasher bacon, diced – 50 cents

50 grams spicy salami, diced – $1

2 anchovies – 20 cents

250 grams green olives, with stones – $2

1 tomato, chopped – 20 cents

1 cup water

1 cup beetroot leaves or baby spinach – free

1 packet spaghetti – $1.75

This is a dry-style pasta sauce. A splash of white wine would be lovely in place of some of the water, but as we don’t drink alcohol we rarely have any around the place, even for cooking.

Keep the stones in the olives, and just have a small bowl on the table for people to spit the stones in. Charmed, I’m sure.

Olives just taste better with the stones in.

Cook the spaghetti according to the directions. While it is cooking, make the sauce – it is very fast to make.

Heat the rice bran oil* in a large frying pan. Cook the onion for five minutes, and then add the garlic, bacon and salami. Cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the anchovies. If you are an avid hater of anchovies, you can omit them, but I encourage you to try them.

After the anchovies have melted into the pan in a delicious morass of saltiness, add the tomato and water/wine, and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add the beetroot or baby spinach leaves, and cook for another minute or two until they are wilted. Serve over hot spaghetti with with some Parmesan cheese.

Total cost: $5.71

Per person (serves 6 with leftovers): 95 cents
*I use rice bran oil when cooking because I have fancy schmancy Tefal pans that do not do well with olive oil – if you use olive oil too much in them, it leaves a sticky residue all over the pan that cannot be removed. You can use olive oil in place of rice bran oil in any of my recipes if you want to, except in any of the baking recipes.

Meal plan, Weeks 46-48 2016

As 2016 drew to a close, we all panicked about the Trumpocalypse and our Christmas shopping at the same time (realising that the human brain is not ready to cope with that level of cognitive dissonance), and as parents the country over girded their loins to deal with the multi-tasking that is the end of year Christmas concert/impending family get togethers/work Christmas shows, so too did my meal planning become more and more simple in an attempt to cope – as you will see.

All I can say is thank goodness for kids that are overall not too picky, a husband that can also cook, and a deep freezer.

Week 46, November 19-25

Saturday: Homemade pizzas and tabouli

Sunday: Roast chicken and vegetables (non vegetarian), fuggets and vegetables (vegetarian)

Monday: Quesadillas (vego and non-vego)

Tuesday: Quesadillas (vego and non-vego)

Wednesday Worst Day: Chicken and kale pasta (non-vegetarian), pasta Napoli (vegetarian)

Thursday: Mac & Cheese (Vegetarian)

Friday: Freezer fun – Beef curry, vegetable curry, rice

Week 47, November 26-December 2

Saturday: BLTs

Sunday: Salami and Green Olive Spaghetti with Beetroot Leaves

Monday: Dinner at my Parents’ (bless ’em)

Tuesday: Takeaway night

Wednesday Worst Day: Mac & Cheese

Thursday: Honey soy chicken and fried rice

Friday: Vegetarian Pasta

Week 48, December 3-9

Saturday: Freezer deep dive night

Sunday: Dinner out

Monday: Vegetarian pasta

Tuesday: Tacos – Vegetarian white bean and kale chilli, Turkey and kale chilli

Wednesday Worst Day: Quick dinner (School Concert Night) – Fuggets, chips and salad

Thursday: Kale and burghal burgers with salad (vegetarian)

Friday: Bolognese pasta and vegetarian bolognese with salad

Ten ways to tart up your dinner

Most of the time I don’t have time to make my meals look fancy schmancy. I work full-time, until recently I also studied full-time (yay, graduation), and I have two kids. My life is full on. The fact that I am 21 days behind in writing this blog and it is already past New Year should give a clue to the fact that tarting up the presentation of my meals is not high on my list of priorities.

That and…you’ve seen the photos. Like I said when I first started writing this blog — this ain’t Pinterest.

But sometimes, I want to make things look pretty, because I have people coming over, or because I feel like making an effort for the people I love. All of the things I listed above remain true however, so I have to come up with fast (and cheap) ways to make things look Pinteresty without having to put much effort in.

These have to be simple because I am also artistically-challenged. When they were handing out the genes for making stuff look arty, they passed me by, and then handed my share to my younger sister. She can take a handful of newspaper, a piece of recycled ribbon and a toilet roll and voila! homemade Christmas wreath.

Give it to me and it goes in the recycling bin.

So, here are my ten, simple cheap ways to tart up your dinner without driving yourself bonkers. No #pinterestfails, I promise. Coz this shiz is so simple, it wouldn’t even make it to Pinterest in the first place.

  1. Colour co-ordinate. Things don’t have to match exactly, but if you have plates and bowls that are the same colour, use them. I have been collecting bits that all roughly match in colour, even if they don’t match exactly in style. That way when I need to set a table for more than the four of us (say, at Christmas), everything looks like it was meant to go together. And if someone breaks something, I can just get another white or red bowl/plate/cup.
  2. Use a board. Jamie Oliver started this trend of serving things on rustic looking wooden boards a couple of years ago, and now you can’t go into any homewares shop or even K-Mart without spying a wooden board. My daughter made this cute little centrepiece with candy canes and little (mismatched) white condiment bowls at Christmas. The photo isn’t great (of course) but you catch the drift. Suddenly butter, mustard and cranberry sauce look like a rustic board of festive pleasure. Or something.


3. Serve it at the table. On a board.


Serving your dish to guests ‘family-style’ so that they can help themselves makes them feel included and again gives that rustic, peasant feel.

4. Put a herb on it. We grow a lot of our own herbs because we have a big garden, so we can use all the herbs we want. I realise this is not the case for everyone, but happily for us it is. So this Christmas we turned a pretty bog-standard Christmas platter into a very lah-di-dah affair by using a mix of flowering herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, and mint, interspersed with purple carrots. It looked amazing but was actually free because we already had these herbs in the garden, and it was easy because all I had to do was pick and wash them.

5. Use little bowls. I have a vast collection of little white bowls (see point 2 above) that I use for condiments, dips, olives, butter, cream, jam and anything else I can think of. As I mentioned in point 1 above, they don’t need to match – they just need to be the same colour. There is something much nicer about butter in a little white bowl than a tub of butter whacked on the table, or a little white bowl of jam rather than a jar of IXL on the table. It even tastes better. I noticed this one day when I was out for breakfast and they offered me ‘compote’ with toast. I swear it was bog standard strawberry jam from the supermarket, but because it was served in a little white ramekin, they could tell me it was ‘berry compote’ and charge me seven bucks. Lesson learned, peeps. White bowls = tarting it up.

6. Use good cheese. Even if you are making the simplest pasta dish in the world, or you are serving homebrand Jatz, if you are serving a good cheese, no-one will care. However if you are serving handmade pasta made with free range eggs, but putting powdered parmesan in a can on it, people will only taste that. Even good cheeses have dropped in price so you can buy a good feta or bocconcini nowadays for about four dollars, and it will make your pasta dish look and taste like a million bucks. I would rather have one nice piece of cheddar on a cheeseboard than five average cheeses any day, and when it’s gone – well, I like homebrand Jatz anyways.

7. Slice the bread yourself. I know it’s easier and quicker to get Baker’s Delight to slice your bread medium-thick and not to bother to do it yourself, but if you have a good breadknife, get them to bag it for you in paper. Then take it home and slice it in front of your guests and present it on (yep) a wooden board with butter in a (you guessed it) little white bowl. It will look almost as good as if you made it yourself.

8. If you are making it yourself, and you have no allergies, seed it up. Homemade bread is amazeballs, and if you sprinkle some nice chunky seeds on it – like pepitas or sunflower – it will look a million bucks for a lot less than a million bucks. In general making homemade bread makes you look like a superstar (weird, considering humans have been making bread for hundreds of years, so it can’t be that hard), but adding that little touch of an eggwash and some seeds takes it up a notch. Not sure why. Must be the visual.

9. Ditch the disposables. I know, I know – they make life bearable if you don’t have a dishwasher and you are having lots of people over. I’ve used them myself lots of times when I have been in that boat. But if you have a dishwasher, invest in some good quality reusable plates and cutlery, and it will be much nicer (and cheaper in the long run). And better for the environment. And you won’t break a cheap knife on a steak, which is really annoying.

10. Go vintage. I have a collection of little vintage dessert plates that I bought for – literally – 50 cents for the lot at a garage sale. I treat them like hell (throw them in the dishwasher etc) because they cost me nothing. I don’t mind little kids using them because if they break one – well, it cost me less than ten cents. But I love to eat dessert from them because they look so pretty.


I’ll probably discover after they have all been smashed to bits that they were worth $50 each. Oh well.

The point is, it doesn’t cost a lot or take a lot of effort to make your meals look much fancier than they are. The fact is that your friends and family will mostly remember that you put in effort to cook for them and won’t recall the details of whether you had a nice plate or butter in a little bowl, but sometimes it is nice to make an effort.






Day 344, November 16 2016

Red Beans and Rice

When I took this dish for lunch at work the next day, a colleague commented on how delicious it smelled. 

‘Wow, what is that?’ She asked.

‘Red beans and rice,’ I told her.

Her face fell. ‘Oh. I thought it was going to be something much nicer.’

I had to laugh because she was wrong, wrong, wrong! Red beans and rice is a delicious, old school Southern American dish that is easy and cheap to make – and she should have been nicer about it because I sure won’t make it for her now!

I made this in my slow cooker, but you could make it on the stove. I also made it with bacon, but you could make a vegetarian version without it – just omit the bacon. The smoked paprika is really important. You could used regular paprika and still get the lovely colour and sweetness, but the smoked paprika obviously provides the element of smokiness that adds that extra delicious element. It is very easy to find at supermarkets and is not expensive.

This made a big pot and I believe I still have some in my freezer to disappoint my colleagues over lunch. 


3 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed – $3

1 red onion, sliced – free

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced – free

6 slices short cut bacon, diced – $2

1 teaspoon mustard powder – 5 cents

1/4 teaspoon chill powder – 1 cent 

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika – 2.5 cents

2 tablespoons tomato paste – 44 cents

3 sprigs fresh thyme – free

2 bay leaves – free

3 peppercorns 

1.5 cups water

Place everything in the bowl of a slow cooker and mix to combine. Turn on low and cook for 6 hours. Serve with hot rice, grated cheddar and a dollop of sour cream. 

Total cost: $5.52

Per person (serves 8): 69 cents 

Day 333, November 5th 2016 – Curry Night Part II

Bengali-style Fish Curry

This is a simple fish curry that I invented to go a,onside the beef curry I posted previously. It is a Bengali-style curry – the Bengali region is famous for fish curries, and use of whole spices like cumin seeds, and fresh ginger. They don’t use garlic much, but I have in this recipe, and they often use coconut, but of course we can’t do that due to our crazy allergies. Still, it was yummo.


Green parts of three Spring onions, finely chopped – free

Stems and roots of a bunch of coriander, very well washed and finely chopped – 50 cents

A large pice of fresh ginger, peeled and grated – 50 cents

1 clove garlic, minced – free*

1 can diced tomatoes – $1

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder – 2.5 cents

1 teaspoon cumin seeds – 5 cents

1/2 teaspoon turmeric – 2.5 cents

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents

1 teaspoon garam masala – 5 cents

8 cardamom pods – 5 cents

2 bay leaves – free

1 teaspoon salt – 1 cent

1 cup water

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

500 grams frozen white fish fillets, thawed overnight in the fridge, and cut into large chunks – $5**

In a deep, heavy-based frying pan, heat the rice bran oil and cook the onions, coriander roots and stems, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn.

Add the whole spices and wait a few seconds of the cumin seeds to crackle before adding the other spices. Cook for two minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes and water, and cook for ten minutes until the sauce is thick.  

Carefully place the pieces of fish in the sauce, and reduce the heat. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Take care not to stir the curry, as the fish will break up – just give the pan a gentle shake now and then. 

Serve hot with rice and a dollop of natural yoghurt.

Total cost: $7.32

Per person (serves 4): $1.83
*Excitement plus – I successfully grew my own garlic this year, and my neighbour also gave me some of his, so I am currently using homegrown organic garlic. I have never successfully grown it so every time I whack a clove with the flat of my chef’s knife I feel unspeakable pride. Just saying.

**I used New Zealand Hoki fillets, but you could use any thick white fish fillets. I try to buy fish that is a) sustainably fished (this had a label on it that said it was and I guess I have to believe them) and b) that is as local as possible. I don’t buy fish often because I don’t really trust how it is fished. Also, my Father in Law is a recreational fisherman and I know he does follow all the rules. He brings us fresh fish occasionally, so I tend to wait and enjoy some really fresh fish when that happens.