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.

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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

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. 

Ingredients

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.

Ingredients

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.

Day 333, November 5th 2016

Curry night

We love a curry in this house – this is partly how I was raised (my Grandfather was born and raised in India before Independence, and consequently we grew up eating legit vindaloo in a country town where lamb chops and mashed potatoes were the staples), and partly because chilli is a gift of the Gods and must be ingested on an almost daily basis. Where most families might have tomato sauce on their table, we have at least two kinds of chilli sauce at all times (plus two kinds of back up chilli sauce in the pantry just in case we ever run out). 

While I do use recipe books for some curries (the Magicke Curry Booke, or Spices Moste Potente, is a book passed on from my mother to all the kids in our family – I actually don’t know the title, author, or the publisher, but I believe it is out of print), most times my husband and I invent the curries that we eat. We use a few basic principles – onions, garlic, and ginger form the basis of most of our curries. After that, we tend to use a blend of the following spices in varying quantities: coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, chilli, cardamom pods, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks. We don’t use coconut milk or cream or any almond meal due to our allergies.

This beef curry uses red lentils as a thickening agent, creating a thick gravy that is really tasty. It also uses only a small amount of beef, making it a low (er) cost and healthier meat-based dish (it’s still expensive compared to vegetarian or chicken dishes – red meat has increased in price significantly over the past 12 months, which is why I don’t cook with it often). If you have not used garam masala before, it is a spice blend, most commonly made of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, bay leaf and cumin. Don’t be tempted to substitute it for something else in recipes that call for it – garam masala adds a very specific flavour that can’t be replicated. It is easy to buy from most supermarkets or from Asian supermarkets. 

Beef and red lentil curry

3 Spring onions, finely chopped – free

White stems of three bok choy, chopped – free

1 piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped – 30 cents

1 clove garlic, finely chopped – 5 cents

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

300 grams blade steak, cut into cubes – $4.80

1 cup red lentils, washed – 50 cents

2 cups water or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon salt – 1 cent

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder – 2.5 cents

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents

1.5 teaspoons garam masala – 7.5 cents

1 teaspoon ground cumin – 5 cents

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric – 2.5 cents

8 cardamom pods – 5 cents

Heat the rice bran oil in a deep, ovenproof pot (I used my Le Creuset Dutch Oven – I have had this pot for 20 years and it is still going strong).  Slowly cook the Spring onions, taking care not to burn. Add the garlic and ginger and the bok choy, and cook for two minutes.

Add the beef and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle with the spices and add the cardamom pods. Stir well and cook for two minutes.

Add the lentils and stir well. Cook for two minutes, and then pour in the water or stock. Stir well and then place the lid on the pot and put the whole pot in an oven pre-heated to 170 degrees C.

Cook for two hours, checking regularly to ensure the lentils have not stuck to the bottom. Add more water if necessary, stirring well each time. Season with salt.

The lentils will have formed a thick gravy and the beef will be tender.

Serve with hot rice and pappadams.

Beef and Red Lentil curry (left) served with rice and Green Lentil and Kale curry


Total cost: $5.69

Per person (serves 4): $1.42

Meal plan, Weeks 44-45 2016

I am running behind with this blog, my apologies. Work, kids, life, Christmas, more work have all got the better of me and I will not reach 365 days by the end of the year. Oh well. My main goal in starting this blog was to get into a habit of writing regularly, and I am happy to have done this. I have also become a better cook, but sadly have not become a better photographer.

Week 44, November 5-11 2016

Saturday: Vietnamese Soup (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Sunday: Beef and red lentil curry, Fish curry, Green lentil and kale dal (vegan), brown rice

Monday: Vegetarian pasta with salad

Tuesday: Vegan white bean soup

Wednesday: Haloumi burgers (vegetarian)

Thursday: Herb and garlic pasta (vegetarian)

Friday: Out for dinner

Week 45, November 12-18 2016

Saturday: Spaghetti bolognese (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and tabouli

Sunday: Birthday party leftovers

Monday: Vegetable curry (vegetarian) and rice

Tuesday: Vegetable curry (vegetarian) and rice

Wednesday: Red beans and rice

Thursday: Quesadillas

Friday: Quesadillas

Day 327, October 30 2016

Tabouli

Tabouli is my favourite salad. It was my grandfather’s ‘go-to’ recipe, and when I make it I think of him. I also love it because it is very healthy, super cheap (we grow our own parsley, spring onions, and mint so it costs us almost nothing to make) and it keeps well. When I make a big bowl of tabouli it will last several days in the fridge.

On this particular day, we served it with roast chicken and what we call ‘fuggets’ (vegetarian or faux chicken burgers that taste and smell like chicken nuggets – when I am in a pinch, I serve them to our little vego although I am not entirely convinced of their nutritional value). We also took it for lunch for the next day or two.


The key ingredients in tabouli are parsley, cracked wheat (also known as burghal or bulgar), tomatoes and mint. The important ratio is the parsley:burghal ratio – some people prefer more parsley, and others more cracked wheat. My grandfather was heavy on the parsley, and as you can see from the photo above, I tend to be slightly heavier on the wheat. It is entirely up to you, and happily it is easily adjusted to your taste. Just add more of either.

Ingredients

1 cup fine burghal, soaked in two cups cold water for at least one hour – 50 cents 

2 cups chopped parsley – free

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint – free

2 spring onions, finely chopped – free

4 small tomatoes, chopped – 50 cents 

1 Lebanese cucumber, diced – 30 cents 

3 tablespoons olive oil – 36 cents 

2 tablespoons cider vinegar – 10 cents 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Using a fine sieve, drain the burghal for at least half an hour. With clean hands, press any remaining water from the burghal. Place in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, and mix well.

Total cost: $1.76

Per serve (serves 10): 17 cents 

Day 322, October 25 2016

Vegan White Bean Soup


We have had such a long Winter and a mild Spring (a Sprinter) that I have been cooking Wintery dishes all the way through October and into November. This thick, white bean soup is really a dish for cold nights by the fireplace, but we were eating it at the end of Spring (it freezes perfectly).

This soup is vegan, gluten free, and nut free. I served it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, but you don’t have to – I just love the depth of flavour that adds to a soup or pasta dish, especially a bean dish.

Ingredients

2 onions, finely chopped – 20 cents 

2 carrots, peeled and chopped – 20 cents 

2 sticks celery, peeled and finely sliced – 30 cents 

500 grams Great Northern Beans, soaked and rinsed  – $3

4 tablespoons olive oil – 48 cents 

3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary – free

2 cloves garlic, chopped – 10 cents 

2 vegetarian stock cubes – 14 cents 

2 teaspoons salt – 2 cents 

8 cups water

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and carrots. Cook on low for at least fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are soft, taking care not to burn. Add the garlic and rosemary. Stir and cook for another two minutes.

Tip in the beans, and stir well.

Pour over 2/3 of the water, and crumble in the stock cubes. Bring the water to the boil and then reduce the heat. Let simmer for two hours, checking the beans and the water levels occasionally, and stirring to ensure it is not sticking. 

Add more water as required. 

When the beans are cooked (test by mashing a bean with a fork – it will mash easily), remove from heat. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the soup. You want some to be chunky and some to be puréed. 

If you prefer a smoother texture, you can use a food processor or hand blender to purée all of it.

Check consistency, and thin slightly with some more water if desired. Return to the heat, and season with the salt. Reheat and serve drizzled with olive oil. 

Total cost: $4.44

Cost per person (serves 10): 44 cents 

Day 320, October 22 2016

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Dal

This was a dish I invented to a) feed our little vego b) use ingredients I already had and c) make use of produce from our garden.

Our garden is not one of those over-abundant veggie plots that sustains the whole family without the need for modern intervention. We still rely on ye olde supermarket and fruit and veg shop for most of our produce needs. But I do love gardening and I’m not happy unless I’m growing something. 

View of my rhubarb and herbs – the rhubarb has flowered, which is that long white flower.


Anyways, this week I had spring onions and kale to use up. Kale grows like a weed, and before you know it you can’t give that stuff away. I always say that anything I grow in my garden is ‘free’ in my list of ingredients, although technically, I have paid for the water to grow it and for my own labour. But that was a pleasure. 

There is a hilarious book about ‘saving’ money while growing your own vegetables; it’s called The $64 Tomato by Bill Alexander. Let’s just say that ‘free’ is probably a gross miscalculation on my part.

The dal turned out delicious. The basic recipe is vegan, although I like it with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt on top. It’s also nut free and gluten free, and cheap as chips.

Ingredients

5 spring onions (1/2 bunch), roughly chopped – free

2 tablespoons rice bran oil – 12 cents

1 thumb-sized piece ginger, grated – 20 cents 

2 teaspoons ground cumin – 10 cents 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric – 2.5 cents 

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents 

1 teaspoon garam masala – 5 cents 

1 cup red lentils, washed twice in cold water and drained – 50 cents 

1 cup finely diced pumpkin – $1

3 small potatoes  – 80 cents 

200 grams green beans, cut into 2cm lengths – $1.50

Small bunch kale, washed and roughly chopped  – free

2 cups water

Salt to taste – at least one teaspoon – 1 cent

Heat the oil in a deep pot and add the onions and ginger. Cook on a very low heat, taking care not to burn (spring onions can burn very quickly). Add the spices and the potatoes and pumpkin, and stir well. Cook on a low heat for two minutes until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the lentils, and ensure they are well coated in the spices. Pour over the water, and cook on a low heat for abut  twenty minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it does not stick. 

Check the potatoes and the lentils – they should be almost cooked or cooked by this point.

Add the green beans and the kale, and stir well. You can add some more water if you need to.

Cook until the beans are tender and the kale has collapsed. Season well with salt to taste. 

Serve hot with rice. 

Total cost: $4.35

Per person (serves 8): 54 cents 

Alas – I forgot to take a photo of this, which is a shame because it was very pretty, with sunset and green colours. Oh well.