Dinner – Thai Beef Salad

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I stuck to my menu plan even though it would have been easy to capitulate and opt for takeaway.

Thai beef salad was on the plan for tonight before I realised we were going to a free screening of Casablanca.  The scheduled time was 7pm for a 7.15pm start and we normally don’t arrive home until close to 7.30pm so clearly we had to make some adjustments.  I caught a train which had me arriving home about 5.30pm and GMan came in at about 6.40pm.

I sliced the beef and marinated it last night.  I used a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger and tiny red chilli (very hot) finely chopped.  Here is the mixture this afternoon before I cooked it.

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I prepared the remaining ingredients for the salad – lettuce, carrot, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.

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The carrot and cucumber were cut using a spiral cutter.

Due to the time constraints we had decided to pack our dinner as a picnic to eat when we got to the hall for the movie screening.

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I fried the meat in a tiny bit of coconut oil.  To add some extra flavour I mixed up a sauce and added that to the pan at the end.  I used a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of crunchy peanut paste and a pinch each of ginger and chilli powder.  I stirred the sauce through the meat and cooked for a further minute.

The meat was added to the salad and we were ready to go – complete with cutlery and serviettes.

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This was really delicious and I think the improvised sauce really added a nice finish to the meat.

Dinner – Bean Tacos

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There is no real recipe for dinner tonight.  We had tacos and salad.  Sometime I fill the tacos with spicy beef mince or shredded chicken.  Tonight was a vegetarian version with refried beans.  I make these from scratch in the slow cooker using dried beans.  It is a very economical recipe and freezes exceptionally well.

I simply heated the taco shells, half filled them with the hot bean mixture and topped it with grated cheese.  You can use whatever salad you have available but this is what I had.  Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and peach/capsicum salsa and some fried mushrooms.

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The peach and capsicum salsa was a new and successful recipe tonight.  Although most people regard tomatoes as the base of salsa, it can really be almost any combination of finely chopped fruits and vegetables.  I have used avocado, tomato, corn, mango, capsicum and red onion at various times.  I usually add a squeeze of lime juice or lemon if that is all I have and a pinch of chilli powder.  While this will horrify the purists, we really enjoy it.  Tonight I chopped a small peach and a piece of capsicum then added lemon juice and chilli powder.

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The other thing I wanted to show you was my salad spinner.  I am not a great fan of single purpose gadgets but this is definitely worthwhile.  I bought it from Aldi for $6.95 after seeing my sister use one.

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Being able to dry off the lettuce quickly means that I can pack it all into a lidded container where it will keep for at least 7-10 days.  If the lettuce is wet when it is stored it will quickly begin to go slimy.  This is important when you are preparing food for just two of you as it can easily take that long to use a full lettuce.

Dinner – Tuna Patties


For anyone following along with my menu plan for this week, here is the next instalment.

In the simplest form, tuna patties are a 425g can of tuna, drained and flaked mixed with mashed potato and lightly fried.  Beyond that it is entirely a matter of choice.

I chose to use sweet potato tonight so the very first thing I did was to peel the sweet potato, chop them roughly and cooked them in the microwave.

Meanwhile, I prepared the other ingredients.

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The tuna is flaked in the bowl and I will add some freshly ground black pepper and a cube of frozen lemon juice as well as about a tablespoon of some gourmet mustard.

You can use whatever herbs, spices or flavouring you choose.  I decided on the mustard as it was given to me and I thought it would work nicely in the patties.

Mash the cooked potato but do not add any milk or butter as it needs to be fairly dry for the patties.

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I also added 1/2 cup of grated cheese and a tablespoon of besan (chickpea) flour which helps to bind the mixture together.

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Rather than using a frying pan, I cook these patties on the sandwich maker with not additional oil and the lid down so that they brown on both sides.  The cooking is simply to heat them through and brown the outside as there no raw ingredients to be cooked as such.

We ate them with a salad lettuce, capsicum, cucumber and cherry tomatoes and a dollop of sweet chilli sauce.

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The mixture made a total of 9 patties so the others will be used for lunches.

As always, if you have any questions about the recipe please ask.

Tomorrow is bean tacos so I have taken a pack of refried beans out of the freezer tonight in readiness.

I am already starting to form ideas for the menu for next week.  I am pretty sure it will include pizza as I have these semi-dried cherry tomatoes in oil with garlic and herbs.  I dehydrated the tomatoes and packed them in oil on the weekend.  We have such an abundance of cherry tomatoes that I am always looking for new ways to use, store and preserve them.

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Dinner – Stuffed Mushrooms

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Another day, another recipe.  We are having stuffed mushrooms for dinner tonight so I took some time this afternoon to prepare them making sure I measured the ingredients and took a few photographs.

This is my recipe but please make sure you read right to the end for ideas, substitutions and variations.

I bought 3 large mushrooms for this recipe as GMan and I have 1.5 each.  The best ones are open but not too flat so that the stuffing is somewhat confined by the edges.

Here are the ingredients I chose before I started.

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Using the point of a sharp knife remove the stalks of the mushrooms.  Chop the stalks as finely as possible

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When I am making something like this, the first thing I do is to look carefully at the finished volume that I am aiming for.  Based on my best guess I used the following quantities:

Chopped mushroom stalks
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 heaped tablespoon of besan (chickpea) flour
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon powdered onion
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered celery
1/2 teaspoon of homemade ‘tabasco’ sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the above ingredients then add 3/4 cup grated cheese, 10 cherry tomatoes (chopped) and a small piece of capsicum (finely chopped).

The consistency of the mixture should now be crumbly but hold when squashed together.

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Press the mixture into the mushrooms.

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I will cook these in the microwave for about 8 minutes then top with a little extra flaxseed meal and grated cheese and finish under the griller.  They will be served with lettuce cucumber and grated carrot on the side.

Now for the really interesting part – what you can change!  Just about everything!

If we strip this recipe right back you will discover that it consists of a container – the mushroom, in this instance, and the filling which can be split further into the bulk and the flavour.

The container – I use mushrooms because we love them and they are nutritous.  They are relatively expensive and if you are on a really tight budget I would not necessarily recommend them.  Capsicums are another option – especially if you can pick up a bagful at a reasonable price.  Although most recipes for stuffed capsicums show them upright with a ‘lid’ at the stalk end I find it easier to cut them lengthwise and serve them filled and open.  You could also use a large zucchini/marrow split lengthwise with the seeds scraped out.  It would need to be partially pre-cooked before stuffing.  Half a butternut pumpkin is another possibility.  The pumpkin or large marrow could be cut into wedges to serve rather the individual serves as with mushrooms or capsicums.

The bulk – I choose to use almond meal and flaxseed meal due to the fact that they are gluten-free, we like the flavour and texture and they provide a range of nutrients.  They can also be expensive.  Other options include quinoa, rice and soft breadcrumbs or any combination you choose that suits your family’s tastes and your budget.  If you are using rice, a short grain rice that will stick together would be a good choice.

The flavour – sky is the limit here and you can let your imagination run wild.  The main thing is to remember to keep any pieces fairly small so that the mixture will stick together.  In addition to the things I used you might like bacon (although smoky paprika is an excellent substitute), chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley or other fresh herbs.

I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to try stuffed vegetables as an addition to your menu plan.

Please let me know what you think.


Dinner – Sweet & Sour Meatballs


I have listed my menu plan for the week a couple of times recently on online forums and have had an overwhelming amount of interest and numerous people asking for the recipes.

Unfortunately, many of the meals I make have been made so many times that they tend to be created without regard for a recipe.  I substitute ingredients without thinking about it so the same meal may not ever be the same on more than one occasion.

However, I have committed myself to writing the recipes down as best I can – the quantities may be a bit variable – and photographing the steps involved to give you a clear idea of what I do.  I hope this is of some help and look forward to your feedback.

While there may be a greater emphasis on cooking meals and recipes at the moment, there will still be plenty of posts on gardening, simplicity, decluttering and sewing.  I trust that there will be something for everyone.

A couple of points to remember – I am serving 2 adults, although many of the meals I make serve more than that so I either portion them up for lunches on the following days or freeze for another meals in a week or so.  Also, we eat a gluten-free diet but the meals are eminently suitable for anyone.  Anything with an * beside it will have more explanation at the end of the recipe.

Here is the first recipe which was our dinner tonight – Sweet & Sour Meatballs.

250g lean beef mince
1 tablespoon of tamari*

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Combine ingredients and form into small balls.  Fry in a pan with a little coconut oil.

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Set the cooked meatballs aside and prepare the vegetables.  I use zucchini, carrot, capsicum and pineapple.

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I used one small zucchini and carrot, about 1/4 of this large capsicum and two slices of pineapple.

Cut the vegetables fairly finely so that they need very little cooking*.

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The prepared vegetables are in the dish at the back of the photo and the container at the front is the base of the sweet and sour sauce which had been frozen from the last time I made this dish.  I tipped the sauce into a saucepan and heated it but I will explain the process for making it.

The ingredients for the sauce are:

200ml water
60ml pineapple juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (ketchup)

These are rough start up quantities but essentially you just need to add more or less to suit the tastes of your family.  It should be as the title says – sweet and sour.

Once you are happy with the flavour, thicken the sauce using cornflour or arrowroot blended in a little cold water.

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Add the pineapple pieces, vegetables to the sauce and finally the meatballs.

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This can be prepared ahead of time and then simply heated in a saucepan or microwave according to your preference.

Serve with rice*.


Tamari is a (generally) wheat-free soy sauce.

When making the meatballs you can add other ingredients to bulk them out if you wish.  The cereal crumbs from the bottom of the packet are great to use them up if gluten-free is not an issue for you.

You can used tinned or fresh pineapple.  When using fresh pineapple I juice some to have on hand for making this recipe.

I usually par cook the vegetables before adding to the sauce – about 1:30 in the microwave leaves them tender but not soggy.

I use home-made tomato sauce and worcestershire sauce.  You can click on the hyperlinks for the recipes.

You can add shredded chicken instead of meatballs for a variation.

The 250g of mince made 15 meatballs which is 3 serves for us.  I used two serves tonight and the other one will be lunch for GMan on Monday.

We use brown rice but white rice or even noodles or fettucine would work with this recipe.



A Blast from the Past


Last week I had lunch at a local cafe and I chose a salmon and dill tart which was listed as gluten-free.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the base was actually rice!  I remembered a long-forgotten recipe which I used to make that was exactly the same except mine used tuna rather than salmon.

You could use any variation of a quiche filling that you wish but this is the idea for the base which is simple and gluten-free.

A quantity of cooked rice – about 1 – 1.5 cups and 1 well-beaten egg.  Stir the egg into the hot rice and press into a pie/flan dish.  Chill until firm then fill and bake as per any quiche recipe.


A New Recipe

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It is not very often that I come across a recipe that is not just a simple variation of something I already make.  However, here is one I came across from ‘Christine’ on Simple Savings.  I don’t know what the origin of the recipe is.

007It was so good that I did not even have a chance to photograph it before we served up our dinner.

This is exactly as Christine presented the recipe.  I made a few minor adjustments and will continue to do so but more of that in another post.

Lasagne sheets
Bean Sauce (see below)
Cheese Sauce (see below)
250g frozen broccoli or equivalent fresh (I use fresh & steam it a little)
90g matured cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
½ cup light sour cream

Lightly butter a 20cm square casserole dish
Lay sheets of pasta on base and cover with half bean sauce
Spread half cheese sauce evenly over bean sauce
Chop broccoli into pieces and place on top of cheese sauce
Cover with another layer of lasagne
Spread with remaining bean sauce then cheese sauce
Top with final layer of pasta
Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese, then with parmesan cheese
Bake, uncovered 180 deg C for 20 minutes
Drizzle sour cream over top and bake a further 10-15 mins or until golden brown
Stand 10 minutes before cutting & serving

Bean Sauce:
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
125g mushrooms, sliced
1 x 440g can red kidney beans, drained
Salt & pepper to taste
½ tsp oregano
1 x 425g tomato puree

Melt butter, add onion, garlic and sliced mushrooms.
Saute gently for 3-4 mins
Add beans, salt & pepper, oregano & tomato puree
Bring to boil the simmer 10 mins or until slightly thickened

Cheese Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp plain flour
Salt & pepper
Pinch nutmeg
500ml skim milk
100g matured cheddar cheese, grated

Melt butter, add flour, salt, pepper & nutmeg and blend until smooth
Allow to cook 2 mins
Remove from heat and blend in milk
Return to heat, stirring constantly until sauce boils & thickens
Reduce heat and cook 1 minute
Remove from heat and stir in cheese

Have you ever seen this or a similar recipe?  What do you think?

Home-made Hummus


I was recently reading a discussion about home-made hummus and what constituted the perfect result.  I realised that I was unable to contribute very little to the discussion as I do not usually measure any of the ingredients as it is all done by taste.

When I made another batch I was careful to measure the ingredients and write down the method and here it is.


1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
3 cloves garlic (roasted)
1 large lemon (zest and juice)
60ml olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 heaped tablespoon peanut paste

Cover the chickpeas with 4 cups boiling water and soak for 4 hours.  Drain chickpeas, place in saucepan and add fresh water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours or until tender.  Drain chickpeas and place in blender/food processor with garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and oil and blend until smooth.  Add spices and peanut paste and blend.  If mixture is too thick add a little water or more oil/lemon juice if you prefer.

NOTES:  I always roast the garlic as I found the flavour is sweeter and more subtle.  I use about 1/4 cup lemon juice which is the yield from 1 of our lemons.  The peanut paste is used instead of tahini which I do not particularly like.  I use one made from freshly ground peanuts with no additives.  The salt is important to release the other flavours.  I use pink Himalayan salt.  Although I make my hummus using dried chickpeas you could also use canned chickpeas.  You would probably need 2 cans for the quantity in the recipe.

There is no right or wrong way to make hummus – it really is a matter of personal taste.

Dried chickpeas

001Chickpeas soaking

002Chickpeas ready to cook

005The final result

009This recipe makes a substantial quantity.  It keeps quite well in the fridge for a week or can be frozen.

Do you make hummus?  Any personal tips or tricks?

Eating In – Baked Potatoes


Baked potatoes are one of my favourite meals.  They are probably best wrapped in alfoil and cooked in the coals of an open fire but that is generally not practical so we compromise with what we have.  It is uneconomical to turn on a conventional oven to bake 2 potatoes and for many years I cooked them in the microwave.  While they are not strictly baked it made it reasonably quick and easy meal for a family.

In the last couple of years I read about cooking baked potatoes in the slow cooker.  According to the article, you simply wash and dry and potatoes, rub them with a little bit of oil and put them in the slowcooker on High for 4 hours.  It just seemed too easy but I decided to give it a go as I had nothing to lose – except maybe 2 potatoes.  When I took them out they were cooked to perfection and were even crispy-skinned on the bottom – just like the ones you can buy from the baked potato carts in the street!

Since then I have tweaked the recipe slightly and add a spicy coating.  Black pepper, herb salt, cumin and chilli (just a pinch of each) into a bowl and a teaspoon of flaxseed meal.  I use this because it is gluten-free and it has some nutritional value.  You could just use plain flour (either wheat or gluten-free) if you prefer.

005Rub the potatoes lightly with oil then roll in the spice mixture and place in the slow cooker.  No other oil or liquid is needed. 006I find that 4 hours is perfect for medium-sized potatoes but if you have larger ones you may want to extend the cooking time by another 30 minutes.

I serve these filled with refried beans and topped with a dollop of plain yoghurt and grated cheese.  Coleslaw is a favourite addition and usually some fried mushrooms.  Alternatively, you could fill with a bolognaise mixture or even tuna for variety.  Some salad on the side makes a complete meal.


Two Minutes to Tidy


It is great to feel that the decluttering efforts are really making a difference.  This morning I noticed that the shelf where my recipe books are stored was very grubby and needed cleaning.  It was a simple matter of grabbing an armful of books and placing them on the bench while I wiped down the shelf and then replaced the books.  This took me less than 2 minutes.

2015-02-07 01I have never had hundreds of cookbooks but nevertheless it has taken about 3 rounds of culling to get it to this.  You can read about a previous effort here.

Cookbook shelf

That was about 14 months ago but a few more have moved on since then, too.  I do not miss any of them and have not have occasion to regret my decision to move them along.  Recipes are something that has really been revolutionised by the advent of the internet.  There is nothing you cannot find.  Also, recipes are like clothes – there are definitely trends and fashions.

Do you have recipe books?  Have you reduced your collection?