I am back in the blogging hot seat after an unscheduled break. My excuse…Motherhood!
Since my last blog, I’m happy to say that I now officially work in the cooking industry and I love every minute of it. I am the Cook for a very nice, brand new childcare centre. Whilst it is completely satisfying to have a job that I enjoy and am passionate about, it still comes with its trials and tribulations. I no longer cook for just one toddler, I cook for a centre full of the fussy little tots!!!
It is a real pleasure to walk into work each morning and be greeted with happy smiling faces. Being in a brand new centre from day one has allowed me to bond and build relationships with all enrolled children. It however comes with negatives. I now feel somewhat obliged to keep these little ones happy and try to accommodate all their personal likes and dislikes just as if they were my own children. As we grow, we will have 120 children everyday at capacity, I logistically and mentally cannot keep up with the demands. In a very short time I have learnt that what they like today, they may absolutely loathe tomorrow. I am learning to not take it to heart. It’s what kids do!
The biggest challenge faced by childcare cooks is the extremely tight budget. Less than $2 per child a day to provide morning tea, a wholesome, nutritious cooked lunch and afternoon tea. It is a real stretch for some. Budgets are calculated per head, so whilst we only had a few children each day, the budget reflected this. I slowly filled my pantry over a few weeks with home branded staples and avoided convenience sauces and prepackaged foods. This has really helped in keeping the costs down. Home brand (or supermarket branded) products are super cheap and of a good quality. I would definitely recommend if you were on a tight budget. Budget cooking doesn’t need to be boring and tasteless. With a little know how, you can get really good tasting food without the heavy price tag.
Here are a few of my latest dishes that really were cheap to produce and hits all round at work and at home.
Sweet and Sour Pork, came in at $15.00 for a family of 4. The pork fillet was the expensive component at $9.90 as I used Pork Fillet. I served this meal with plain steamed rice, which was just $1.50 per kilogram.
Honey Soy Chicken, came in at just $5.70!!! This fed 4 very hungry children and 1 adult when paired with noodles and steamed vegetables. I used Changs Long Life Noodles (they taste like Maggi 2 Minute Noodles without the seasoning) at $1.10 a packet. Purchasing the Chicken Breast Fillet from the supermarket Deli department rather than the meat department held down the cost.
Mr. M is always on the look out for a bargain. Every time I take him grocery shopping I end up with a trolley full of ‘Reduced Quick Sell’ items. As a result, we have had a 5.5kg turkey in our chest freezer since The New Year.
Whole Turkey is readily available for the Christmas season and as a result, you can grab a bargain after everyone has celebrated. The huge bird cost us just $17, that’s just $3.10/kg.
The next challenge: when were we going to cook this mammoth bird? We had more than enough for our little family and wanted to share. We contemplated Christmas in July and that came and went so we settled on Father’s Day lunch. I really wanted a special lunch because it was Mr. M’s very first Father’s Day and he loves Turkey. We invited all our family and Mr. M cooked the tasty bird over charcoal on his spit. We had all the trimmings with Roasted Vegetables and Pudding for dessert.
After feeding our hungry family lunch, we still had a swaggering amount of leftover meat. This tasty meat is underrated and simply too good to waste. So for a quick weeknight dinner after work, I decided to make my own Vietnamese Meat Rolls.
Vietnamese or Banh Mi Rolls are gaining huge popularity around Adelaide but you can simply make your own at home. Traditionally made with Pork, I will use any leftover roast meat we have on hand. Pork, Turkey or Chicken will all provide the same tasty results. These rolls are light, tasty and quick. I fill fresh rolls with meat that has been fried off again, Kim Chi crunchy vegetables and top with fresh coriander and mint.
We are lucky enough to be surrounded by quality Asian supermarkets both located near home and work. Herbs that we don’t grow ourselves are purchased here. Large bunches of Coriander and Mint are just $1 each. These bunches are twice the size of that available at the supermarket and only a fraction of the price. You can also get Lemongrass, Curry Leaves, Spring Onions, and Bok Choy at a considerably cheaper price. Bean Sprouts set me back just 80 cents a bag. Our local store also has a great butcher hidden in the back but I will write about another time.
Matt also won the Father’s Day raffle at Childcare. We now have a 4.5 kg, 80cm long Toblerone to consume. Let’s see how I can utilise this in the next few months. Thankfully we have lots of friends and family who have already received chunks.
If you are anything like me, you will tend to cook enough for a small army. Maybe, it is the way I was raised but I always make sure there is always plenty to go around. There is nothing worse than leaving dinner guests hungry.
In saying that, two things happen in our house and I would say most people would have to agree.
Firstly, the leftovers are taken the next day for lunch. My other half will take the leftovers for his workday lunch. This uses our leftovers and prevents temptation when the Chuck Truck arrives and ultimately saves some money. Although, there does come a limit to how many days he is willing to eat the same thing. I dislike eating the same thing two times in a row and have a diversion to eating them so it’s left to Mr. M.
Secondly and more commonly, the leftovers are wrapped in clingwrap, stored in the fridge until they are unrecognisable and then thrown away when we need to create fridge space.
It seems most of us have a conscience when it comes to throwing away perfectly good food. We wouldn’t even contemplate emptying purses and wallets into the rubbish bin but yet by throwing away excess food, this is what we are doing.
I can hear you asking, “Why don’t you simply cook less?” This is well and true but meat items such as whole chickens and legs of lamb cannot be segmented when you want a lovely roast dinner. The goal is to make use of these leftovers in a creative way to not only save time and money but also to create variety and interest. This makes for a quicker and easier dinner the next night without having to eat roast meat sandwiches for the next week.
We regularly have meat remaining when we do a roast. Chicken is turned into Risotto, Pasta, Soup or Wraps. Lamb is turned into fantastic Yiros or Shepherds Pie and our Roast Pork or always turned into succulent Pork Sliders or refried for Vietnamese Meat Rolls. Bolognaise sauce can be used for Mexican Tacos with the inclusion of kidney beans and topped with Guacamole and cheese or used for a Parmagiana sauce on Schnitzel. Leftover rice is always used the very next day as Fried Rice. Cold cooked rice is the only way to make successful fried rice and I will deliberately cook extra for the next nights dinner.
So next time you have leftovers, think how can you use them again and save time and money.