Category Archives: Cooking

My tips and recipes for the cook who wants to feed their family real food.

Brie, Ham, Tomato, Basil – Super Supper

OK, so I’m watching my portions but I worked hard today and hadn’t eaten much so i decided to have a little supper.

Two small slices of bread, some thinly-sliced Brie, two slices of shaved ham, and a couple of cherry tomatoes, topped with some basil harvested from the garden in the summer and frozen.

Hey, if I’m going to have a sandwich, it might as well be tasty. Small and tasty.

Oh, and the small glass of Châteauneuf-duPape isn’t hurting.

Frugal Friday – Vegetable Stock

I LOVE soup. I could live on it. And when I’m not eating soup, I’m using stock to boil rice or other grains.

It occurred to me recently that buying stock is probably quite a lot more expensive than making your own. I haven’t steeled myself for boiling up fish heads or giblets yet, but I did make a rather nice vegetable stock last weekend, and it was extremely simple.

The frugal beauty of this is that the most expensive thing in this were the dried mushrooms that I threw in (and they probably cost me about 50 cents). Everything else was stuff I had anyway, and stuff I would have thrown away (I wasn’t planning on using the beet leaves or the hard stems from the kale, the outer cabbage leaves or its heart).  Shopping around, I found that vegetable stock can cost $6 for the same amount of the cheapest one I could find, $11 for the nice organic brand I like.

So here’s my recipe. It’ll need salt, of course, but I thought I’d leave that out until I’m actually using it.

JULIE’S VEGETABLE STOCK
4-5 Red cabbage leaves and heart
Beet leaves (from a bunch of three beets)
3 spring onions
thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
Kale stems
1/2 red pepper
soy sauce (a few splashes)
handful of flat leaf Italian parsley
5 dried morrel mushrooms
1 potato
10 black peppercorns
3 taps of ground sage (sprinkler lid)
16 cups of water

Chop up vegetables roughly. Place in large stock pot. Heat until it reaches the boil (which takes quite a long time) then simmer for 30 minutes (or longer). Leave to cool. Put 2-4 cups into freezer bags, mark quantity on bag, and freeze. Use as needed.

Makes about 12 cups of stock

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Fried Potatoes

This is a great way to use up left-over baked or boiled or roast potatoes (if you ever have such a thing).

Delicious, nutritious and super-simple. Even my kids will eat this, and Weight Watchers approves too!

INGREDIENTS

1 large potato or several smaller ones
Olive Oil
Salt

METHOD

  1. If your potato is already cooked, slice it cross-wise into circles about half or three-quarters of an inch thick. If not, scrub it, prick with a fork and cook in the microwave for 5-8 minutes, turning over once. No need to over-cook.
  2. Heat a layer of oil about as deep as the potatoes are thick  in a skillet until it is almost smoking (if it’s smoking, it’s too hot. Taking off the heat for until it cools a bit).
  3. Slide your potato slices into the sizzling oil and cook for a couple of minutes until bottom is golden brown and a little crispy. Turn and cook for another couple of minutes.
  4. Drain on paper towels and dust with salt.

This can be left to cool and packed into a lunch box and, my five year old swears, makes a great accompaniment to a packed lunch.

SERVES 2

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Better Breakfasts – Perfect Oatmeal

My Better Breakfast quest continues – with Oatmeal! Mr Kellog may have had a point (we do need more fiber in our diets) but his refined cereals just don’t cut it as a morning meal for me. The carbs burn off and leave me hungry. The sugar makes me sluggish. I need protein! I need ‘no hunger’ breakfast recipes. I also need to lose weight. So here’s my latest Better Breakfast Recipe:

Perfect Steamy OatmealOatmeal is good for your heart, good for your intestines, good for your brain (eh, I made that up), but almost never cooked in a way that makes it something you might actually want to eat. It’s the national breakfast of Scotland, but I never ate oatmeal (or ‘porridge’) until I discovered this method.

It might seem like more effort than cold cereal or toast, but once you have it down, it’s actually really simple. Start it before you make coffee or while you’re making a packed lunch or whatever else you do first thing. It takes a little over five minutes. Honest.

The secrets?
1. Use old-fashioned oats (not instant or microwave or ‘easy’. This is important) [1]
2. Don’t use the microwave [2]

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup of water OR 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk (try it with just water first, and see what you think)
1 pinch of salt (this makes the oats creamy even if cooked only in water)
slivered almonds

Optional Toppings

fruit jam/jelly
dried fruits
fresh blueberries
brown sugar

METHOD

1. Boil the water and/or milk.
2. While that’s happening (or better yet, the night before), place almonds on a greased baking sheet and toast under the broiler. Hang around in the kitchen until you smell the first hint of delicious toasty almonds, then RUN to the oven and grab them before they burn. (If you do a whole bag of almonds today, you can put the rest in a ziplock back in the freezer for use on other days.
3. When the liquids are boiling, add the salt and stir.
4. Add the oats, stir once.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover.
6. Set a (loud) timer for 5 minutes. (This is where you can make coffee or go and yell at your kids to get up/dressed/showered).
7. When the timer sounds, turn off the heat and leave for 2 minutes, to absorb remaining liquid. (You can leave it for longer. It just gets thicker and thicker the longer you leave it. Honestly, you could go and have your shower and it’ll still be fine when you come back. You just might need to add some milk to thin it out a bit).
8. Crush the almonds a bit (with a spoon or your fingers if cool) and mix into oatmeal.
9. Add other toppings sparingly. Add a dash of milk, or half and half if you feel the need (This tastes really good with just a teaspoonful of a good fruit jelly or with fresh berries or dried fruit)
10. Fill the pot with water, to soak, while you enjoy your breakfast. There should be no sticky bits, but just in case…

Notes

[1] Insant or ‘easy’ or ‘microwave’ oats are the devil’s own breakfast. They cook up with no texture at all and will put your kids off oatmeal (AKA ‘lump-sludge’) for life. Using them also removes you from the register of People Who Can Claim Any Type of Celtic Heritage Whatsoever [*]
[*] This is not actually true. My mother uses microwave oats. In Scotland! I tell you, the woman is one breakfast guest away from an angry, pitch-fork-bearing mob…
[2] This is also not true. I use the microwave sometimes. It creates oatmeal with less texture (which you may/not prefer) and makes clean-up even easier, as you can make it right in your (large) cereal bowl. Just add the oats, liquids and salt, cook uncovered for 5 minutes on 50% power, and add toppings. It’s not quite as good but it’s not bad. Also it might be thicker. Or thinner. Depending on the day.