Archive | June, 2012

cooking secrets

29 Jun

This is a misnomer. There is no such thing. Anyone can cook if they want to. You can boil water so you can cook. It is not even confidence that gets you there. Just find a recipe and follow it. The only secret is in understanding the terms used and if you find a good basic cookbook it will explain them. My reference is my school cookbook and it should be yours too.

It is not necessary to produce what you find in a flash restaurant, in fact if you are cooking for me I would rather you didn’t as there is little nourishment in such meals and less satisfaction. I am all about meat and 3 veg. There are many things that can be done with them for variety and it will always be filling and nourishing. If I eat out it is a place where I recognise what the menu says and the waiter will look at me.

You can dress them up with sauces, gravy, jus (whatever you like to call it) and cover you mistakes, most of which will not affect the taste. You can add luxury ingredients like nuts, cheese or cream for variety and flash at a dinner party, garnish will do this too ie. parsley, curled carrot strips, grated anything sprinkled (carrot, zucchini, cheese etc), add a side of pasta.

Leftovers are great as bubble and squeak (shredded vegetables in the frypan and bound together with some beaten egg), actually this in not dissimilar to hash browns which are great with a variety of grated veggies, or mystery parcels (toasted sandwich filled with leftovers, baked beans, tomato and ham etc)

As you see it is only your imagination that limits what you cook. Just give it a go and you will immediately start saving money.

My feeling, my responsibility

27 Jun

It is a strange thing to find that I have nothing to say. Having published 30 posts it seems I have cleared my mind of its logjam and my head is now clear.

Actually this is quite true. I am much calmer for having expressed myself. I sleep really well most nights and recognise that most of my feelings about my family come from jealousy.

Everyone was talking about my brother the other day and I realised that what I was feeling was jealousy and it always had been. It is interesting that the same brother feels that in the family he is nothing. He explains it this way, there are four of us; the oldest, the youngest, the daughter and him who is nothing. I can tell him he is the comedian.

This means I have to take responsibility for how I feel. Confronting such feelings is not easy, especially when you have lived with them, un-acknowledged, for many years. It colours all my interactions with my family, I have to think about how I respond to many conversations. Again i am in the positions of looking withdrawn/aloof from everyone because I am considering my reaction and adjusting it as per my acknowledged negative feeling, to be more positive.

This all goes back to where I thought I should be the centre of attention and if I am not then I am not loved. What a stupid thought! Reverse it, if someone else is not the centre of attention, I don’t feel less love for them than whomever is front and centre. Therefore I am back to my initial thought from when I returned home. Wait to find out where I fit in. Patience. Just being there and showing love will get me to where I want to be.

Yummy risotto

25 Jun

This is a great dish for a special meal on a budget.

If you make meat balls a few hours before you cook them they hold together a lot better and taste better too. I rolled them while sitting in front of the tv, so get the kids to help here.

Meat balls are easy to make whether they are for your barbecue or the fry pan. Take 500 g (about 1lb) mince, add 1 whisked egg and about 1 cup breadcrumbs. Then you can flavour it with anything, tomato paste, fresh basil finely chopped, Cajun spice, mixed herbs, sweet chilli sauce etc. It need to have enough moisture in the mix to hold it together when you squeeze it into a ball. Meat balls are usually the size of a flat baseball, the ones I am having tonight are golf balls, they will cook more quickly and suit the rice dish. The best things about meat balls are they are tasty and cheap to make. This recipe should make enough for a family of five, or one person for five meals. More fill for the freezer.

Now the risotto. It takes a bit more time and attention but the secret is to get the ratio of rice to stock correct. So for every 1/2 cup of Arborio rice you need 1 cup of stock and will get two large serves from it.

In a large pot heat some oil, about 1 oz or tabs. I am using coconut oil at the moment because it is supposed to help lower cholesterol but generally I use olive oil as it is healthier than vegetable oil.

Into this put one finely diced onion and garlic clove plus a handful of pine nuts and fry til soft. Now add 1 & 1/2 cups of rice, stir to coat with oil. Into this add 1/4 cup white wine. (This gives a nice flavour and the alcohol is cooked off). Once wine is absorbed add stock, 3 cups, reduce heat to simmer and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat for 10 minutes

While waiting cook the meatballs.

The rice will be ready to eat now or you can add more flavour, chopped basil, chopped sun-dried tomato, parmesan cheese and cream. Any or all of these go well. Alternately you may add strong cheeses to make a cheese risotto or chopped cooked chicken for chicken risotto, either to be eaten alone. There will still be 4-6 serves as a main dish.

So you see this cooking thing is pretty easy if you ignore masterchef, who cooks like that outside a restaurant?

Budgets

22 Jun

For some time now I have been listening to the ‘experts’ tell us that Australia is in a good economic position and there is no need for us to be nervous about spending. Well it is great for those on six and seven figure salaries to tell us that when they don’t have the experience of struggling to pay the bills.

The haves want the have nots to spend their money. Well, the bills are going up, electricity, gas, food. I hear comments that the real price of food has come down but that has no relevance to the consumer. People are losing their jobs by the hundreds, there is no job security while the bills keep coming in.

Now the government is telling us we are lucky that their new carbon tax is only going to cost us 8% in cost rises for utilities. Aren’t we lucky!!

It is not the time for new taxes and the government must accept this. While they impose further costs on the working people there is no money to spare and I for one am going to keep as much as I can so I can be warm, housed and fed. No new clothes, no luxury items, no household goods, appliances or office wares etc. Strong economy be blowed!

Satay

21 Jun

I feel really sorry for those who are allergic to nuts. They are not able to enjoy satay and it is a really wonderful dish.

The last recipe I posted is adaptable to satay. Just get a jar of satay sauce and use it instead of the pasta sauce. Of course the best meat to use is chicken but a good cut of beef or even lamb works with satay.

I love the ready-made sauces. It makes cooking so easy. It is only when I actually feel like cooking that I will do it all, including making the sauce. I can feel one of these coming on actually.

Sometime in the next week I am going to make one of my favourite ever recipes. It is meatballs with risotto. It has some great flavours and after I make it I will share it in simple terms so that those learner cooks can cook something very special. It is even doable on your budget.

What I just realised is that I have said nothing about my favourite lunch. It is chicken salad. I cook 2 chicken breasts in chicken stock. This will give me 5-6 serves depending on size. Then I take a leaf of lettuce, 1/2 tomato or 3 pieces of sun-dried tomato and a slice of red onion. Dress with balsamic and enjoy.

Happy cooking

More cooking for one

19 Jun

There is really one thing to remember if you are cooking as I am suggesting, that is to ensure what you cook can be frozen.

Buying and cooking in bulk saves both time and money but you also need simple recipes. I am now thinking about those singles who think they cannot cook. Here is a simple recipe for you;

Slice 500g meat into bite size pieces. Slice one brown onion +or- 1 clove garlic.

Use large saucepan on high heat, add 20 to 30 ml or 1 oz of oil or butter, when hot add onion and garlic and stir until it starts to soften (about 2 mins). Add meat and brown well, stirring frequently. At this time you may wish to drain off any fat in pan for a leaner dish, it will not affect flavour. Now add 1 jar of pasta sauce. Any sauce will do, any flavour, any brand, something you like. Mix in well, lower the heat so the sauce just bubbles (simmer) and allow to cook for at least one hour. This will allow the meat to cook and the flavour to absorb. If it looks to be drying out, add 1/2 cup water as required. It is now ready to serve over your choice of steamed vegetables.

This is a quick and simple dish that can be added to as you choose to experiment. I like to add things like red wine, dry herbs, even sliced vegetables which makes it like a chow mein.

Settled (at last)

18 Jun

It is now a year since I moved into my new home back among the family. I am still delighted to be here. I am having a couple of champagnes to remember it and why I am here.

I gave up a well paying job to move back here and have not worked since. My time has been spent doing work around my new home and participating in family activities.

Recently I have joined the Lions club and am volunteering at the library in an effort to participate in community. Most people do not realise how difficult it is to fit into a new community and meet people. I do not have children so have no connection with a school, I am not working so have no colleagues to ease me into it and am not playing sport. It is quite isolating and is just as well I enjoy my solitude.

I will continue to be patient because you have to earn your place in a community and I am trying to do that but it will not happen quickly. At some point they will respect me for myself and not just for who my family are. Only then will the invitations start to come, that is when you know you are part of community life.