Friday, November 4, 2011

A healthy lunch box treat.

Now that the price of bananas is returning to normal after the price hike that came from the Queensland floods it is nice to be able to enjoy the humble banana again.
Banana bread is a popular treat in lunchboxes and at cafes but the reality is much of it is high in fat and not as good for us as we would like to believe.
This banana carrot cake is low-fat and uses wholemeal flour and as such is a great option. You can omit the nuts if your school or work place is a nut-free environment as so many are. Alternatively I have used chopped nuts or walnuts rather than pecans if that's all I have had on hand.

Banana carrot cake

90g butter
1 cup raw sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup grated carrot
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder sifted
1 teaspoon bi-carb sifted
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup chopped pecans (I leave these out due to nut-free school policy)

  1. Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in carrot and banana
  2. Fold in sifted ingredients and pecans. Spoon mix into greased and base lines 20cm round cake pan.(I use a lamington pan because the slices are a better shape for lunch-boxes etc).
  3. Bake in a moderately slow oven 180C fo 50-55 minutes of until cooked when tested. Stand 5 minutes before turning out.

I cut before I freeze. Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Re-igntiting my interest in the kitchen

I am just back from a fabulous month-long vacation in the USA. We drove over 3,000 miles through the South-West, we took on Orlando with a vengeance and we sampled some of the best that NYC and Washington D.C have to offer.

We collectively agreed we probably didn't need to eat another burger or fry for quite some time and my daughter definitely doesn't want to see a children's menu featuring cheese pizza, pb&j or mac and cheese anytime soon.

So now we're home and it's back to the kitchen for me. It's time to get creative and it's spring which means a shift in how we eat; more eating outside, less casserolles and pasta bakes.

Tonight however we're having a Shepherd's Pie. I found some nice lamb mince at a bargain price and it's a nice hearty veggie filled dinner. For a twist I'm cooking it in my cast iron skillet which we are putting in the oven to cook the potato. Sometimes just altering the way you serve or present a meal can alter your experience of it entirely.

Sheperds Pie in a Skillet
500g lamb mince
1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
2 celery sticks diced
1/4 cup tomao paste
1 tin crushed tomato
1/2 jar spagetti sauce
1 tablespoon worstershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried italian herbs
4 chopped basil leaves
2 teaspoons chopped dill
1/2kg potato, boiled
1/2 cup grated cheese.
1/4 cup grated cheese (reserved)
paprika if desired

Soften onion, celery and carrot in oil in skillet or oven-proof fry pan. Add lamb mince and herbs and brown. Add tomato paste and cook off to release flavour. Add tomato, spagetti sauce and worstershire and cook till delish and flavours melded...about 1/2 an hour.(you may need to add water if it is too dry).

Mash potato to taste and stir in grated cheese. Top meat mix and sprinkle on extra cheese(and parika). Cook in oven till potato sets...about 1/2 an hour.

Enjoy. We're having ours with corn, brocolli and grean beans. The whole meal works out at about $2 a head which is very good value for a meal laden with veggies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu planning - part one

I know plenty of people who never menu plan or have never even thought to. Some people think it inhibits creativity and boxes you in.  It’s a bit like people who write books, lots of them think plotting/planning is creative death.
When I write a book I like a rough outline. I know sometimes I will deviate from it and plans will change and I’m prepared to be led wherever my characters want to take me.
I’m the same with menu planning. I like looking at the list on my fridge and knowing that we have the food and the ingredients  to keep us nourished for the week but if my husband’s shift changes or friends invite us over for dinner I am happy to change my plans.
I happen to have a husband with a rather unpredictable job which means some days he starts work at 5am, sometimes he starts at noon and some days he doesn’t start at all, so flexibility is key.
I find menu planning saves me stress and money. We have been on a no-takeout policy around here since January 2010. I think we have had take-out for dinner maybe twice in all that time.  At $20 a week that’s quite a saving.
I’m also a very lucky gal because my lovely husband is a great cook. If I have a menu plan on the fridge and I am held up I can say “pick something off the list” and he can make dinner. 
I menu plan in two ways. Sometimes  when life is extra crazy I just plan for the week ahead and other times I plan for the month.

The weekly plan
If I’m doing a weekly plan and I have a vague idea of my husband’s schedule I like to plan around that and my daughter’s schedule and mine.
For example she has activities that keep her out until 7.30pm Monday’s and Wednesday’s but she is ravenous when she walks in the door. On Thursdays I take her to clarinet from 5.30-6.30pm so there isn’t anyone here to cook then.
I also try and incorporate the following into the menu
-          Chicken
-          Red meat
-          Meat free or not so meaty meal (eg quiche, risotto, vegetarian pasta, spanokopita)
-          Fun (pizza, tacos, burgers, myo crepes)
-          Restaurant style ( a fancier more labour intensive meal)
-          Something DH cooks (So I get a night off)
-          Roast (this might be the beef or chicken or pork…it gives us meat for sandwiches and usually for another meal eg a pie, a stir fry)
-          Leftovers or a makeover meal

So our menu might look like this:
Monday – slow-cooker pot roast
Tuesday  – oven fried chicken, cornbread and coleslaw
Wednesday  – quiche
Thursday – spaghetti and meatballs
Friday – homemade pizza
Saturday – bbq
Sunday – paella
How will I have reached that menu?
Well I buy meat that looks good at a good price wherever I see it so firstly I look in my freezer. What have I got? A piece of beef? A whole chicken? Prawns and chorizo? Lots of eggs? And what haven’t we had lately…we really don’t want to eat roast chicken three weeks running or too much pasta or rice either.
You can search all over the internet for lots of information about menu planning.

Come back later for planning the monthly plan

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A new start

It's the start of 2011 (yes I know I am a week late already!) and so I thought I might record how we eat, our meals and our efforts to eat well as a family without going insane with the spending.

We're a small family of 3 but we like to eat well.

In 2010 we decided (or rather I decided) that we wouldn't eat take-away food at all. I'm all for eating out because I love the experience of being out in the world and experiencing different foods. Somehow when you get these same foods home in small plastic containers or pizza boxes they don't quite taste the same and the cost of them makes me nuts.

We did well with that challenge. I believe we broke it twice so all in all I think that was a success.

This year we will continue with that but also try to cut costs from our food budget and keep waste to a minimum, if possible.

We eat our share of spagetti bolognese and sausages but we also like to cook more interesting foods...I guess if you keep reading you will learn sme of our favourites. I hope to post savings, recipes and creative solutions to keeping the budget under control without sacrificing taste and quality.