This is the second dish (part) of the Food life part 1 @ Newcastle series. When I first moved into Evatt House, I was faced with cooking noodles for everything with occasional frozen pizza from woollies. All this seemed pretty expensive and wouldn’t satisfy me! I’ve remembered that NUSA had veggies offering when I grabbed a snack. From the first week I sought them out, it was simple as paying $10 for a random box but I wasn’t disappointed with what I collected the next day. However, I got the dilemma of having most random variations of fruits and veggies every week to which it meant a lot of difficulty to look up recipes for. With no wife/girlfriend to easily cook for me every time, I decided to cook for myself. D:
However, since I generally find cooking a boring and lonely chore, I decided to cook a big meal which meant I only cook about twice a week. Re-heating leftovers in the microwave on other days.
Here's how I cook and barely avoid burning the kitchen down. I had been to a lot of events offering free food lately (Free pizza!) so I did not eat as much which delayed my cooking a lot. Hence, below is what I took from Week 10 and 11 boxes rather than one week.
Ingredients - Veggies
- 1 1/2 Zucchinis
- 2 Carrots
- 1/2 Broccoli
- 1/2 Green capsicum
- 2 1/2 Avocado
- 1/2 Bunch of Silverleaf Spinach
Cost $2.50 (Based on 50% of $10 fruit/veggie box, and using 50% of available vegetables even though I used a bit extra this week)
Ingredients - Extras
- 250 g Pasta. Staple food, $0.54/packet
- 1 tablespoon Peanut butter. For taste, $3/jar
- 3 Chicken sausages. Meat, $5/kg
- 3 Eggs. Meat, $2.29 for a box of 12 Extra large eggs
- Several drops Chilli. For taste, $10 Louisiana hot chilli
- A lot of Pepper. For taste, $2.39/jar
- Oil. For taste, not really needed if you have a non-stick pan but I added anyway, $13.61/1L Bertolli
- Stove (Gas, electric, wood, nuclear radiation, whatever)
- Rice cooker
- 30cm Large Non-stick pan (If you don't have one, seriously get one or use a lot of oil to prevent it sticking which means a lot of cleaning up if you don't have a kind partner!)
- A big knife for chopping (and scaring annoying people)
- Chopping board
- A big container to store the cooked food in (Try keeping those big containers)
- Blender (optional)
First phase - Meat/Pasta
First thing I did was to begin cooking the frozen chicken sausages on highest heat in the big saucepan until it can be easily cut into small pieces (takes a couple minutes).
- Optional: I filled the rice cooker with pasta, and add water to a level of one and half of the present pasta and put it in the microwave (15 minutes). I find that the pasta cooking on the stove takes an unpredictable time to cook and needs to be watched often. So I just put it in the microwave and ignore it until it sends annoying beeps.
- Optional 2: Add oil to the pan if it's a non-stick pan (If it's not a non-stick pan, expect a lot of time to clean it).
Second phase - Hard vegetables
The hard veggies which are; Zucchini, Carrots and Broccoli. You must first wash them first! If there's any dirty bits that can be washed, clean it until it looks clean. Carrots; people peel carrots to ensure it's clean, but I don't since I washed it thoroughly. Except for broccoli, chop off both ends of the carrots and zucchinis as butts aren't tasty (or so I hear). Next, cut up the hard vegetables, to as small as about 2.5cm sizes (or as big as you want, but it'll get harder to stir later). However, in this case, I use the blender because it would otherwise take a long time to cut up the vegetables into small pieces.
By the time the veggies are cut, the sausages can easily be cut up to small pieces (2.5cm again) on the chopping board. Do this a vengeance, chickens stole my ice cream when I was 3! Then re-add it to the pan along with the hard vegetables. All this should cook until the meat is done at least (grey/brown inside compared to red/pink) to as late as when the vegetables are starting to turn a little black. You must ensure the evil sausages are not pink after this stage.
Third phase - Medium vegetables
While it's cooking, we do the avocado and capsicum shown in picture (wash capsicum too!). I classify them as 'medium' vegetables, that if done at the same pace as hard vegetables, they'll burn and taste as horrible as burnt cake in the microwave (I did it once, nothing compares to the taste though).
To prepare the capsicum, cut out the stem from the top with a knife doing a circle cut. Slice the whole thing in half, take out the seeds and slice-cut the inside white walls. For avocado, the skin and the pit inside is not to be eaten (pit is apparently toxic to eat). The avocado was the most hardest vegetable I ever cut up, be warned. My only tips for avocado is to cut it in half and in as many pieces possible until the skin can easily be cut off.
Cut the capsicum and avocado up again into small pieces that can easily be stirred as shown. Again, I used the blender as I'm efficient! (and lazy). When the hard vegetables and sausages appear almost cooked, add the avocado/capsicum mix.
- Optional: I added the eggs for meat and flavour.
Fourth phase - Pansy stuff
I prepare the spinach with a wash and take out the bad ones. I cut from the bottom sides to clip the wings so to speak. I didn't bother blending it up but instead cut it as small as possible to add to cooking.
- Optional: The spinach, pasta, some sauces, etc can burn easily. So I suggest turning it down to low heat.
- Optional 2: My wonderful partner added pepper, chilli and peanut butter.
- Optional 3: I added pasta.
Final phase - Crossing the finish line
Well, not quite done yet, let it cook a bit until it makes your whole building envious and it tastes good. Then voila, it took about 30-45 minutes to cook many yummy dishes.
After phase - Storage
After eating, spoon the contents into the big container before placing it into the fridge. You have enough food for about 4-6 dinner dishes at least (If you're not as big as me, it's probably 6-8 for you, lucky).
Microwave phase - Nuking food
With lots of leftovers; when you return from class, you can retrieve the container to put leftovers on a plate. Just run it in the microwave for a good couple minutes until it's hot. During that time, you could go unpack and relax until it's done.
- Meals: 6
- Cost per meal on a plate: $0.95/meal
Other tips and tricks
- If there's time while it's cooking, try cleaning up a bit and amaze others.
- For soft-feeling vegetables like tomatoes, add it between medium and pansy vegetables. Some people like tomatoes well-cooked, some like it more raw, others just throw it at others. It's up to your preference really.
- Noone's perfect; you may not get it perfect the first time (if you do, I'd like to meet Mr/Miss perfect you!), but since you awesome people are in university, I believe you can adapt and adjust to perfecting to reach the perfect meal. For example, if you attempt to add garlic with sausages first, the burnt garlic taste may be bad so you could add it later with medium vegetables for example.
- There's many websites on how to handle and prepare fruit and vegetables, just type "prepare [vegetables]" into a search engine. For example "prepare avocado" can list useful results.
- Since university can be pretty lonely despite thousands, why not send an email or ask people if they wish to join you for dinner? Perhaps they would like to offer a dinner in kind. If that person doesn't know how, you could introduce them to this article or offer to teach them how!
- If you didn't have a non-stick pan and cooked anyway. You may have noticed stuff sticking to the pan. Put hot water in it and let the hot water soak up the dry sticky bits for about 30 minutes.