Monday, 28 April 2014

Two-day dinners

Today I'm going to blog about something that may be second nature to a lot of you, or a brand new concept. Either way I hope you find it interesting!

One of the challenges facing many home cooks is making healthy food from scratch with minimal effort and maximum enjoyment. We don't want to be slaving over a hot stove everyday yet if we present the same meal to our family two or three days in a row there might be complaints.

So I've stumbled upon some great base meals that can be enjoyed in a different way on subsequent days, and some are barely recognisable,  yet you have only one day of "proper" cooking.

Enter the Tomato base:
Sauteed onions and garlic, tinned tomatoes or fresh, or passata, or bottled. Tomato puree if you have it, a touch of honey/molasses/sugar, herbs/spices, salt and pepper. This is my tomato soup, or pizza sauce, or curry base, or pasta sauce... you get the idea. In a saucepan on the hob, or in the slow cooker (I wouldn't be sautéing before slow cooking, defeats the purpose)
You know better than to ask for quantities. I would always try to cook at least twice as much as I needed, and freeze the rest.

Well yesterday this smug mama found a bag of frozen tomato, lentil and chickpea soup in the freezer, made with the above tomato base and enjoyed a couple of weeks ago for a lunch with cheese and crackers. I defrosted it overnight (microwave RIP, don't think we'll buy another one). Today I bunged it into a saucepan with half a tin of coconut cream, some fresh spinach, frozen green beans, curry powder, cinnamon and turmeric, for the easiest curry ever. I also put 1 part rice and 2 parts water into a buttered slow cooker and left on Med for about 2-3 hours. Dinner is done with 5 minutes preparation.

Here's another versatile dish that I only discovered recently: patatas bravas with beans (for yesterday's dinner it was served with sausages) but today I put a flour wrap on a hot oiled frying pan, sliced on some cold sausage (veggie for me), spooned on some of the potato and bean mix, grated on cheese, wrapped up and toasted on both sides, delicious and took only 10 minutes to prepare and cook.

The patatas bravas are another great base dish, with meat and/or salad as they are, or reheated with cheese like today, or mashed and shaped into veggie burgers with some peas/carrots/corn through them, if the mixture was too wet I'd add breadcrumbs or gram flour.

How to make them? I learned a couple of weeks ago from a friend (thanks Gab!) Just slice potatoes, onions and garlic, fry in oil until almost cooked while you are preheating the oven. Add a tin of tomatoes, a tin of baked beans, herbs/spices, pour into ovenproof dish, top with grated cheese and bake until fully cooked. Yesterday I discovered I had no tinned tomatoes/passata, so I ended up using 2 tins of baked beans, thus my resulting dish was way higher in sugar/salt than I'd like, but we still enjoyed it.

I've pretty much cracked our food waste, now everything that gets bought gets eaten. We used to leave some stuff to spoil, especially vegetables, so now I'll peel, chop and freeze things like celery which only get used once a week or so.

I've been reading some great frugal living blogs which give ideas on how to store, preserve and cook food which really save you time and money. Please share any of your tips with us below!
Nee x

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