The good, the bad, and the imminent

Things I've been doing:
Good: fantastic actually.  I had a weekend in Nelson with three wonderful friends and got back yesterday.  Being a tourist in Nelson is fun.
Good: Morelands Fabrics in Nelson had 50% off all of their fabric last weekend.  Pictures to follow - I did well.

Bad: crap really.  Heart palpitations/racing heart/breathlessness/scary irritability.  Then worse: the medical people, who I saw as soon as I got back after my weekend away, decided it was all in my head.  Stress, apparently.  I've had the cruisiest holiday since I became a parent this summer (I've been a parent for 10 years).  So there is more to be done on that score, as I would seriously like to get rid of these symptoms.  They are not as bad as a few days ago, but they are still there. 

Progress: getting ready for going back to work.  I've put the word out that I'm looking for a cleaner.  I took three bags of rubbish to the dump, a yoghurt maker and dehydrator to a friend and lots of bags to the Sallies.  There will be more tomorrow.  I cleaned out some of the fabric cupboard while Brighid wasn't watching, which worked pretty well.  The fabric sorting I did while she was watching was hopeless.  Apparently she loves all of the fabric I was going to pass on. I've had the radical, inspired, idea of putting the sheets from the Sallies, which I bought for making dresses/muslins before I discovered that knits are where my sewing and wearing is at, in the linen cupboard and on the beds. 

Kitchen: haven't had that word on here for a while.  But it's time to sort out some shortcuts for term time dinners.  I made two marinades tonight: a soya sauce/garlic/ginger/honey marinade and a cajun spice mix with garlic and olive oil.  I mixed eight pieces into the first marinade and 12 into the second and ended up with five meal packs of chicken for use in the next couple of months.  I'm thinking of meal planning on a weekly basis this year - hopefully it helps the flow of food onto the table as well as the budget.  Easily springing to mind are:
1. sausages/potatoes/broccoli.  The girl loves it. Everyone needs one night per week without complaints.
2. Nachos/refried beans/sour cream/cheese.  Very easy.  A bit light on the veges though.  Sometimes I cook broccoli on the side.
3. Roast chicken.  Dependent on someone being home after school.  Nice though.
4. Chicken pieces.  Plus veges.  Should be good.  See above preparing in advance comments.
5. Burgers.  Bought more packs of merino burgers, which are on special, tonight.  Yersterday I bought three 8-packs of burger buns and divided them into bags of four each for the freezer.
6. Lamb shanks.  I have a good oriental style recipe from Alison Holst.  I suspect I could do that before freezing another time.  Though we have no specialist butcher left to buy good quality meat from anymore.
7.  Mince.  See above comment on the quality of our meat sources once we use up the supplies in the freezer.
8. I need to develop a staple made of lentils or some other non-dairy vege food.  Suggestions very welcome.
9. Vegetable bake.  Like quiche but gluten free because I only put veges, sometimes bacon, and eggs in the greased dish.  Particularly good given we have our own chooks for eggs.
10.  Running thin now.  I used to cook risotto, but it requires more patience than I currently have, and is carb-intense which I don't aim for so much these days.
11. Fish night.  Needs to be on a day when I can go to the fish shop, unless I get organised and buy lots and freeze it.  Which I shall do tomorrow.  Stirfry fish with veges is great.  Battered fish fried at home is very yummy but not worth the mess in a kitchen without a rangehood and where the window is a distance from the stove.
12.  Soup, though not until the weather cools and there is NO hurry for that.

Books: Reading Jacqueline Fahey's Before I Forget which I am enjoying. I read Emily Perkins' The Forrests over the weekend and found it thoroughly depressing.  Two friends have suggested it is a bit close to the bone and thus lacks any delicious escapism opportunities and I agree with them.  Perkins also does a thing which I'm not wild about, where she uses her very superb descriptive skills to bring alive detail about a person or their small action, but it seemed that the landscape, and any sense of place, was deliberately not evoked.  Perhaps aiming at an internaitonal audience and fearful of being buttonholed as a "New Zealand author"?

Abstinence: I didn't drink at all this weekend, far too worried about crazy hyperthyroid symptoms to risk doing something which I think does encourage my heart to race.  Now I'm going to extend that to a three month period of not drinking any alcohol.  I've not done this as an adult outside of my pregnancies, or not as far as I can remember.

Garden: looking good for the most part, though my tomatoes under the lean-to are chronically diseased and the ones by the kitchen window (i.e. outside completely) are doing well but something unidentified is eating the ripest tomatoes every day (or night perhaps).


Deborah said…
I'm thinking of meal planning on a weekly basis this year - hopefully it helps the flow of food onto the table as well as the budget.

We've done this for 14 years or so now, ever since our eldest daughter was born. As you suggest, it really does help with both food flow and budget. I recommend it. I have a whiteboard on the fridge, and I write a weekly menu on it, and from there write a shopping list for the week. It's also where we note down basics that we have run out of, or are low on, that we need to get from the supermarket.

I also run a fairly efficient second stocking system. I have a green crate that sits at the bottom of the pantry, with sugar, flour, cornflour, dried fruit, rice, pasta, canned toms, etc. If I run out of whatever item it is on the pantry shelves, then I get the backup supply out of the green crate, and make a note on the whiteboard to get a replacement backup next time I do the weekly shop.
Heather said…
For '8', one thing our family and lots of our friends really enjoys is monastery lentils.


¼ cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
½ t each dried or 2-4 sprigs each fresh thyme and oregano
3 cups stock or seasoned water
1 cup red lentils
salt to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
¼ cup sherry or red wine (optional)
⅔ cup grated sharp cheese


sauté onions and carrot in oil 3-5 minutes.
Add thyme and oregano and sauté a further minute (note that there is no need to chop the fresh herbs if you count the sprigs at the beginning and fish them all out at the end).
Add all the remaining ingredients except the sherry/wine and cheese then cook till tender - simmer 30 min. or pressure cook 10 min. If you pressure cook you may want to use less water as it gets quite sloppy.
Add the sherry/wine if using.
Divide the cheese between four serving bowls then ladle the soup over.

Note that this soup serves four if served on its own, but eight if you serve it on rice and it freezes really well.

from "Diet for a Small Planet" by Francis Moore Lappé, 1976
Hi... I'm trying some food planning for this year too.

One option that our kids love is Pick'n'Mix Pasta:

You can use up any leftovers, takes no time at all, and can be made with gluten-free pasta.

On the roast chicken front, if you flatten the chook, it only takes 45 mins to cook - it is our Monday night staple... recipe on the website above!

Hope that helps, I love your writing about life on the Coast.
missjoestar said…
A bolognese sauce (onion, garlic, brown lentils, herbs and or chilli, tinned tomatoes, salt and pepper) freezes well and can be used with pasta, on rice, with corn chips or with raw or steamed veggies.

If you make this sauce quite bland (or bland dahl, red bean chilli etc) then the children might be amenable to it and you can always have hot salsa or chutney with it.

If you make a bulk nacho mix with kidney beans then you can put lots of veggies in it - carrots and broccoli are good. It freezes well and defrosts in a pot on the element if you didn't get it out that morning.

Pulses and legumes are primarily carbohydrate, even though they contain protein. Eating rice with dishes like these is great to pad out a meal if you're on a budget, but is not necessary for a nutritionally rounded meal. Another option is to serve with chopped raw or steamed veggies.

I made bulk hummus to freeze today - it doesn't taste like Lisa's but it is much cheaper!

Sandra said…
Thanks Deborah. I like your second stocking system. In past years I had used a weekly shop and a list more effectively, but I'd gotten out of whack with it in the last year especially. I have a whiteboard on the fridge already, which I was using to track the children's activities. I shall add the dinner menu on to each day.

Heather your recipe looks great thanks - exactly the kind of thing I had in mind. I shall post when I have made it.

Hello Food That Tastes Great and thanks for your comment. I like the flattened chook tip and shall use it. Sometimes I chop the chicken up roughly into pieces for speed. We do a kind of pick'n'mix but with wraps or pita breads instead. Smoked salmon or smoked chicken or cheese, leftovers, lettuce, spreads, carrots, tomatoes, etc. I use it as a way of not cooking but not buying takeaways. It doesn't count as a budget-conscious meal if I buy pesto and smoked salmon though...

Missjoestar, thanks for the tips. I like the idea of making a nacho mix with lots of veges and freezing it. Do you heat it in the saucepan and simultaneously dry it out a bit before putting it on the chips and in the oven? Nice work on the hummous. I'm not planning on freezing hummous at this stage, but I will carry on making a generous batch every week.
missjoestar said…
I seem to make things quite thick to start with. To thaw anything in a pot I put a bit of water in the bottom so it doesn't stick.

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