Non-Ambitious Meal Prepping

Meal prepping is so hot right now. However, it is more than a little intimidating to see all those Pinterest mums who spend a day covering their gigantic island benches with enough containers to feed a family of five with three meals a day plus snacks for a whole week. Bonus points if they are catering to some obscure allergy or intolerance. It’s just a little too ambitious for me.

What I’m doing is not quite as strict, but it also ends up working better for me because I am really not a fan of eating food that was prepped six days ago. Basically, I am cooking once every few days, sometimes longer, and trying to have two different types of containers in the fridge ready for us at any given time. So far, it has been great – we are eating heaps less junk food and takeaways (though we really have to work on our tortilla chip addiction). It also helps that we get all of our meat (except for bacon and fish, and chicken which I rarely cook anyway) through a CSA arrangement – it forces me to be creative about meal planning to use what we get, but it also means that I don’t end up getting overwhelmed at the supermarket by all the choices.

The CSA idea is pretty great so far. We signed up for a kilo amount per month, paying six months upfront (though we can change the amount if we find we’re eating more or less than we ordered). Each month, we go and pick up our pack of beef, lamb and pork, plus some free range eggs. The pack contains different things each time, and it’s a way for the farmers to reduce waste by making sure that more parts of the animal are being eaten, not just all prime cuts. We also get some handy things like mince, kebabs and sausages. I also like that we are reducing our food miles, because all of the livestock are locally farmed. The farmers told me about their welfare standards as well, and said that their philosophy was for their animals to have wonderful lives with only one bad day. I have a lot of guilt about eating meat but can’t seem to make the leap to vegetarianism, but it makes me feel better that I can at least be mindful about this stuff through my choices. It is also meaningful to me to be able to track exactly how many kilos of meat we are eating through the year, and what that amounts to in terms of actual animals – hopefully once we’ve been doing it for a while, we’ll be able to reduce our consumption. The only thing I would change about it is that it would be nice to get less variety, but bigger portions – sometimes we will get one piece of gravy steak, which is fine, but I have to stick it in the freezer and wait until we get more portions of the same thing, until I have enough to make a decent sized stew.

Right now, most meals revolve around roasting a piece of meat or cooking steak, chopping the whole thing up and sticking it in a container with various sides. This includes things like black rice, mashed sweet potato, green beans, broccoli, stir fried Asian greens, et cetera. I do need to branch out a bit in this area, but all these things are so easy because I always have them in the cupboard or the freezer. As for the meat, so far we’ve had teriyaki pork, steak, beetroot sausages, lamb rissoles stuffed with feta and pinenuts, and roast lamb studded with rosemary and garlic. It’s been good for me to think of meals in terms of mixing-and-matching proteins and vegetables, rather than sticking to some rigid ideas about what goes with what. Once I’ve got some experience with this, maybe I’ll share some recipes.

Tonight, I’m making my first ever pot roast with a big chunk of bolar roasting beef.

I basically followed these directions, adding in a few extra bits like mushrooms, and I’m really just hoping it will work out. It’s currently bubbling away in a cast iron Dutch oven on the stovetop, making my whole house smell like cozy anticipation. There is a whole bottle of wine and a whole bulb of garlic in there, so if it works, it will be glorious. We will be eating this concoction with green beans and broccoli, but if you’re not averse to carbs, mashed potato or bread would be great. I’ll update this post when it’s done, because I’m sure that the two people who read this blog will be dying to find out how it went! 🙂

Edit: It was good. Definitely room for improvement (next time I will brown the meat more and work on the timing for adding different vegetables, and next time I will not forget to put some potatoes in) but it was really tasty!

Little Bits + Posie in the Gardens

I was baking my own tortilla chips earlier today (curse this horrid diet). They had to be cooked in several batches because our oven is awful and wrecks every baking tray we put in it. Now, I can’t shake this edgy feeling that something is still in the oven that I have to babysit or else it will burn.

Aside from that, 2017 reading is not going very well. My particular brain chemistry situation is a blessing and a curse; if a book catches me at the right moment, I will devour it in a day and not stop for anything. The rest of the time, I will start a page with good intentions then find myself flying right over paragraphs without picking up a hint of meaning – then I backtrack and the same thing happens all over again. All while suddenly wondering about whether the word ‘dandelion’ refers to different species of plant in different regions, or daydreaming about delicious Alsatian (the region, not the dog) cuisine that I read about the other day, feeling the urge to google why I always get eczema on my left foot but never my right. ANYWAY.

We took the pups to Ballarat on the weekend and it was an experience. We may need to just concede defeat that they are never going to sit nicely with their seatbelts on when there is an alternative of jumping all over me. Also, the air conditioner refused to work the whole time except for the last five minutes, so I turned up sweaty, windblown and covered in dog hair to an extended family picnic. That was great. Posie loved the Botanical Gardens – she is a dog that must smell every flower.

I’m so glad we finally have a working air conditioner in our house. Last night, we set up an inflatable mattress in the living room because it was seriously like 28°C outside at midnight, and our bedroom would have been much hotter. I watched Martha Stewart’s Cooking School until 2am, drooling over things that I don’t even like. Why do eggs always look so delicious, even though I know I don’t like them? They are so sensual in their silkiness, the way that the yolk oozes and coats everything like a perfect sauce. Even scrambled, Martha Stewart managed to make something that looked cheesy-without-cheese, fluffy and gorgeous. I kind of hate that I don’t like eggs. It’s so ridiculous and I will confess that I think it’s silly when people write off an entire food category not for an allergy but simply because they don’t like it. Eggs look so good, but I know that as soon as that texture gets in my mouth, I will gag. It’s an irrational, uncontrollable response. Sometimes I can trick myself by making scrambled eggs with so much cheese, bacon and herbs that I can’t even really taste the egg, but egg by itself, I will always gag or throw up. I can dip soldiers into egg yolk, I can eat Hollandaise and meringue, but there is something about eggs by themselves (probably the whites) that I just can’t handle. But that’s going to change. 2017 will be the year that I eat an egg, all by itself. And I will enjoy it. Baby steps though – I’m going to start with frittatas and omelettes first. But I’m determined to be a person that likes eggs, especially since I am hassling Nathan to get some backyard chickens.

Monster in the Kitchen

This post is probably going to be boring for anybody who isn’t me, but I am utterly thrilled – I’m making sourdough starter. It’s just flour and water, carefully tended, but it will eventually (hopefully) give me springy, chewy, tasty bread. It sounds completely gross, but I’m basically colonizing wild yeasts from the flour and the air and growing them into this living culture, kind of like yoghurt. I got the recipe from Breadtopia and will be attempting my very first loaf of bread later this week. Someone I know took about five attempts before getting an edible result, but I’m kind of hoping I’ll be a sourdough prodigy and magically get it right first time… I’m so looking forward to this bread! Nathan and his work colleagues have been making fun of the whole thing though – “the grossest thing I’ve ever heard” according to one of them. He’ll be eating his words (ha) when Nathan brings fresh sourdough to the office though. Apparently I’m growing monsters in the kitchen, and I guess I kind of am. The starter ‘breathes’ out little carbon dioxide bubbles and grows a bit every time I feed it. Some people online kept their starter going for more than five years, some people even took it on holiday with them so it didn’t get neglected. So, we have named our ‘monster’ – Candy, short for Candida, which is also the name of a type of yeast.

Sourdough starter

Look at all those bubbles! Apparently, I can also use this stuff to make hot cross buns, crumpets and pizza dough. But what I am most excited about is: making a loaf of bread from scratch, chopping up homegrown garlic and parsley, maybe even making my own butter from cream. Then putting together my own garlic bread that is completely ‘me made’. Nathan doesn’t really get it, but this kind of thing gives me an enormous sense of accomplishment.

At this stage, I’m aiming for a loaf of bread by Friday afternoon. I have to figure out exactly when to start, because it needs 12-18 hours to rise (or prove?) before I can even start baking. Wish me luck – hoping I’ll have triumphant photos to share!

Edit: We have a name change. Candy is now known as The Yeastie Boys. And I don’t know if I’ll have bread on Friday after all – this dough doesn’t seem to be rising at all!

yum cha + spring

Spring has sprung! We got a little taste of delicious weather on the weekend, when it got up to 21°C and was warm enough to wear sandals. Nathan and I went for a wander down Pakington Street and spotted some gorgeous flowers.

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Then we went for yum cha. Previously, yum cha was something that you would have to go to Melbourne for, until last week when Wai Bo opened in Geelong. The carved wooden chairs reminded me of Taiwan, and the place filled up completely in the time we were there. We ordered: roast duck, BBQ pork pastries, prawn rice rolls, chicken feet, BBQ pork steamed buns, seafood and chive dumplings, and prawn dumplings. And oh my god, egg tarts. They were still warm from the oven, the pastry was flaky and perfect, they were creamy and sweet – perfect. We ended up ordering too much and it was a struggle to get through it all. I thought the portion sizes would be smaller, so it was quite good value. We’ll definitely be returning.

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I loved the warm weekend, but of course, now it’s over and it’s cold, wet and horrible. Lucky we got to cut the grass before our backyard turned into a soggy swamp again. Bring on summer!

Edit: It’s about 4pm and I’m not even joking, there are pea-sized hailstones bouncing off my window right now. Crazy.

meal prepping: teriyaki salmon and vegetables

One of the lovely things about growing up with a mother who is a tremendously good cook is that there was always something delicious for dinner. One of the bad things about all this is that it has completely and utterly spoiled me – I have such high expectations with food now. I hate eating mediocre food, and I hate eating the same thing for dinner every night. I have spent years making time-consuming (but yummy) food from scratch every night, which meant we often weren’t eating until 8 or 9pm… and then there were the dishes to contend with.

We can’t do it anymore. So, inspired by pinterest (of course), I’m throwing my hat into the ring of meal prepping. We’re not hardcore enough to do once-a-week cooking, but even just making enough meals for 3-4 days is making a world of difference. We’re eating healthier with less effort involved, wasting less food, Nathan isn’t buying his lunch from a cafe every day, and we have so much extra time on weeknights. And a little part of me gets a kick out of seeing all those containers stacked up in the refrigerator and knowing I can relax for a few days.

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Today, I made teriyaki salmon and vegetables. So easy, it doesn’t even warrant a recipe. The salmon fillets were marinated overnight in teriyaki sauce, then roasted. I steamed broccolini, asparagus and snow peas, and roasted some cherry tomatoes. Easy, delicious and almost no carb (usually I try to put a small low GI carbohydrate portion in each box though, because I have a history of fainting when I eat cut out carbs completely). Tomorrow I’m adding into the rotation: steak with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, roasted butternut pumpkin and parsnip. With two types of meals in the fridge, we can alternate lunches and dinners.

I was dubious about the whole eating-the-same-thing-every-night thing, and honestly, this is still hard for me. Even if something is awesome, I’m usually bored with it by the second time I have to eat it. But it’s really a mind over matter thing. Whenever a cheeseburger looks more appetizing than what I’ve already prepared, I just remind myself of two things: a) am I really going to let the money and effort involved go to waste? and b) I have about two months until I have to appear in a swimsuit. Suddenly plain steamed vegetables are so much tastier!