Dinners last week - week starting 7 March 2016

In addition to still feeling I needed to add some variety to the type of meals I'm eating, I had a bit of time up my sleeve this week so this week I actually tried 3 new recipes - which I adapted for one and have written about here.

As I mentioned in this week's meal plan I was really inspired by several of the recipes in the latest Coles magazine (who would have thought!), I was also desperate to try this recipe, which I saw in The Sunday Telegraph's Body + Soul liftout  and finally I was keen to see what it was like to make rice paper rolls.

I also found some new flavours and went mad for corn. Corn is still in season and the local farmer's market was selling organic corn for a dollar each, so it was too good an opportunity to miss. 

I fell in love with Mint and used it for quite a few meals.  I love mint, but rarely buy it because I find, cooking for one makes it hard to get through a lot of herbs in a week and it becomes very expensive. 

However, I'm newly converted to Mint! It's freshness is great for summer dishes.

For a few of the new recipes I tried I added extra vegetables. I would rather incorporate these into one meal vs create a whole lot of sides when I'm just cooking for myself. (I'm always mindful that cooking for one means one person washing up - and I'll do anything to minimise this part of the process.)

Weekly Stats

  • Total number of serves of vegetables - 17
  • % of desired intake-  %
  • Number of different types of fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains eaten - 10

Some thoughts about my meals this week

  • Mint is my new 'go-to' herb - delicious
  • Really excited to have some new, easy, quick, healthy recipes added to my week night repertoire
  • Flatbread for one - my miracle discovery! Unexpectedly easy - and it means that if you are so inclined you can make your own pizza base. You know exactly what is in it, and there is less waste.
  • Somehow I seem to be going down in the number of serves of vegetables I am eating each week. Need to do something about that.
  • The thing I was most pleased about is that I cooked on of the recipes I tore out of the newspaper last Sunday ... as in actually cooked it ... I know CRAZY stuff! But I have soooo many torn out and bookmarked recipes and just seem to keep collecting more vs cooking them, so trying them within the one week really was an achievement!
  • Overall it was a totally delicious week of new things and fabulous flavours


Pulled pork with tomato salsa on a bed of grated zucchini, carrot and red cabbage

Functional vs fantastic, but a nonetheless healthy start to the week. The benefit of having pre-cooked food in the freezer.

One pan 3 serves vegetables |  15 minutes

Well what can I saya true Desperado Dinner to start the week!

This was a quite a good meal - but I have to say, thought it looks colourful and healthy, it didn't really work for me. For some reason that combination of vegetables didn't hit the spot. I think it's because of my life-long aversion to grated carrot!


Shredded chicken with tomato salsa, zucchini, corn from the cob and quinoa

A surprisingly delicious meal cobbled together from leftover vegetables

One pan|  3 serves vegetables | 15minutes | Salsa from the freezer

You can see from the picture of the sad half bits of vegetables and leftover quinoa that this really was a desperado meal!

I was trying to use up leftovers, plus really couldn't think of anything to cook.  Thank goodness for frozen salsa!  I unfroze some of this, poached half a chicken breast - and voila dinner - quick, nutritious and ready in just 10 minutes or so. Surprisingly this combination of flavours really worked and it turned out to be a great meal.

If you don't have salsa to hand, e.g you are unlike me and didn't cook a vat of it for your birthday, such that you are still eating it 2 months later -  and you would like a tomato base - I would simply fry and onion and garlic in some olive oil, then add half a tin of tomatoes, let that simmer for 5 minutes and then add the poached chicken.

The main thing about his meal is that it shows that it is worth ferreting around your fridge there is usually something that can be made.

It also shows the value in having some sort of protein chicken, pork or beef pre-cooked in the freezer.  This wasn't the case for me tonight - so tonight's meal involved trekking to the supermarket before I could cook dinner.


Vietnamese rice paper rolls with chicken

Where have these been all my life?! Goodbye sandwiches. These are so fresh, delicious and bursting with flavour.

One pan |  4 serves vegetables | 15 minutes (includes poaching chicken)

I've always thought ricepaper rolls would be incredibly difficult, but after a recent dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant where we literally made rice paper rolls ourselves at the table, I realised they are incredibly simple and decided to give them a try.

This of course involved hours of researching recipes, mainly trying to find a recipe for the dipping sauce- and ideally one that didn't contain sugar.  In the end I did choose a recipe that had sugar as part of what I was looking forward to was that sweet / sour taste.

Other than that I didn't really follow the recipe. Vietnamese rolls are a great way of using up what you have in the fridge.

For me the part I loved was the freshness of including mint and the sweet / sour dipping sauce - both flavours I don't normally use in cooking.

I've subsequently cooked them a few times so see here for other examples of fillings and a link to an article showing a step by step guide how to roll them.



Vietnamese rice paper rolls with pulled pork and walnuts

One pan|  2 serves vegetables | 10minutes (assuming pork pre-cooked)

Well if you know me at all by now - you know that once I like something I REALLY like it. That moderation is not something I do well, vs overkill is something I excel at. So since I LOVED the Vietnamese rolls I just had to have them again tonight!  You are probably shaking your head in wonder though and thinking it doesn't seem very appropriate- who has ever seen walnuts in rice paper rolls!

I agree - BUT, to me that's what desperado cooking is all about. Making the most of what you do a have available and creating meals that enthuse you - and tonight I felt like walnuts!


Crispy skinned salmon with cauliflower cous cous

Looks like a restaurant quality meal, but it's easy enough to become a weeknight go-to meal

One pan|  2 serves vegetables | 25 minutes

Tonight I adapted this recipe by Curtis Stone from Coles' March magazine. The combination of greens and pinks from the cranberries made it look so appealing.

It turned out to be an incredibly easy meal and totally delicious. I made a few changes, e.g. substituted spinach for rocket, but it's great. Definitely one to add to the repertoire. A good thing to cook now, it's still summery, so fresh / salad-type meals are appealing,  - salad type but cauliflowers are coming into season so they are well priced and look fantastic.

Only problem is I caved to the price benefit of a whole cauliflower - so I feel I'm back on the cauliflower merry-go-round, trying to think of meals that will allow me to eat an entire cauliflower in just over a week - without ruining my taste for it.

The recipe adapted to my taste and with quantities for one person can be found along with step by step pictures and notes here.



Homemade soft, raw tacos with pulled pork, corn and avocado

Favourite meal of the year so far!

One pan|  3 serves vegetables |

Making my own raw, soft 'taco shell's was the best thing I have tried in ages and my favourite meal so far this year.

It won't be to everyone's cup of tea and more likely something to try on the weekend, because although it is not complicated , it does require an hour in the oven.

Whilst I just love, love, love the soft flour-y texture of shop-bought mexican wraps my focus on whole food these last few weeks and trying to minimise white flour means however I am avoiding them.

As evidenced by the ricepaper roll frenzy, I seem to be going all in on 'wrapping' food lately - so the concept of tacos or tortilla's was really appealing, so this recipe came along at just the right time.

Making the Tacos




Vietnamese rolls - again!

Using up leftover vegetables

One pan|  3 serves vegetables | 10 minutes (assuming pork pre-cooked)

This was a real Sunday night meal - not really bothered, not too much in the fridge and leftovers I want to make sure were used. The beauty of my new found love affair with rice paper rolls - is it turns this rather mundane description of a meal into something magical and delicious.

And so whilst red cabbage isn't exactly traditional or a vegetable you see featured in rice paper rolls very often (ever?) - it's allows me to use it up - and best of all makes it look pretty (!) - and to my mind, appealing and delicious!