Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Fourteen Day Meal Challenge

My mother used to complain just how difficult it was to put varied meals on the table that would satisfy the picky eaters in her family. I know just how she feels.

At the weekend I decided to do something new. I announced to my family, daughters in particular, that starting Saturday I was beginning the fourteen day meal challenge.

The challenge is simple enough. For fourteen days I am not allowed to repeat a meal. Each meal - we are talking dinner here - has to be different.

My family was happy with this, recognising that they might get some meals they do not like. There was only one veto from my daughters. I have to continue providing the traditional roast chook on Sunday nights.

Why such an extreme step? Well, partly because I was getting bored. It's very hard to stay motivated when cooking has to be squeezed in at the end of a day. The traditional meat and two vegetables or meat and salad is very easy.

It's especially hard just at present because of added daily travel time associated with changing work location, a move from a home office base to on-site working. While I have worked out the best standard routes down to the best lane change points, in so doing cutting driving time quite a bit, I have still lost an hour a day in additional travel time. So I needed something to keep me motivated.

Last night daughters and I (Denise is away on business) reviewed progress. Helen in particular is very keen on the whole thing because she likes not knowing what the meal will be. We had some difficulty in fact remembering as far back as Saturday, so we agreed that I should blog progress as a way of keeping a record.

Saturday, election day, was lasagna. Here David Anderson of View Italy fame will not be pleased to hear that I bought a large frozen one. But Saturday was crazy. Denise was working on the booths and then scrutineered in the evening. Helen and Clare also had a variety of things on that had to be fitted in.

Sunday roast chook as per tradition. This comes with stuffing and all trimmings. This time I varied it a little by buying a fully organic bird. I usually just buy free range because the price difference - around $10 - is just too much for us to afford fully organic fowls all the time.

It's interesting, my girls can pick the taste difference between corn fed, they don't like and we don't have, the ordinary mass produced fowl, and free range.

Monday I tried chicken breast marinated in lemon, oregano and then rubbed with pepper and salt and olive oil with Mediterranean style baked vegetables (egg plant, zucchini, capsicum in particular) using an idea pinched from Jamie Oliver. This was a great hit with Denise, less so with daughters. I got the taste right, but the girls don't like egg plant. This is actually odd, come to think if it, because they love Lebanese food.

Tuesday T bone stakes were on special, less than $3 each. So that provided the starting point, rubbed with pepper and salt just before cooking Florentine style. Here I reverted to three veg, but tried a variation by using "baby" potatoes - real chats are actually hard to get where I normally shop - with sour cream.

Last night was crazy. I left Ashfield a bit after 4.30 to pick Clare up from school at Waverley. Then to Bondi Junction for quick shopping before picking Helen up a bit after six from SCEGS Darlinghurst where she coaches some of the juniors in gym.

Then to Moore Park for Helen's netball training. They are just switching training days, so we waited to see if training was on that night. It was not, so then home getting here about 6.45, over two hours after leaving work.

At that point I had a beer and quickly checked emails, then started cooking, in this case rack of lamb together with the potato dish the girls really like, sliced potatoes in layers with pepper and salt, Parmesan cheese and cream cooked in the oven.

After eating I sat down with the girls to watch the Chasers War On Everything only to fall asleep in front of the TV. Those who read this blog will know that I get up very early, usually around 4am, because the two hours between then and six are really the only quiet time I have. But if I then have wine in the evening, something I like, I fade very quickly.

Food tonight I don't know. Thursday is the week's craziest day.

Clare has English coaching at Rose Bay. She gets herself there, but I pick her up a bit after five. Home so she can change, then to Little Bay for hockey training at 6.30. Clare is a goalie and has just tried out for the UNSW teams since she does not get all that much hockey at school.

I think that they were a bit sceptical initially at a seventeen year old trying out and certainly Clare found the shots a lot faster. But it appears that she is good enough - and this was one of the reasons she wanted to try out, to test herself - to make one of the senior grades in either the Eastern Suburbs or Metro competition. We will find out tonight. And they also have specialist goalie training, something that Clare really likes.

Anyway, back to the driving. Having dropped Clare off I then drive to Heffron, fortunately this is on the way home, to pick Helen up from the netball courts where she is coaching one of the junior teams. Then home. Clare then has to be picked up at eight, but Dee usually does this while I am cooking.

It is a crazy life style. Coming home in the car tonight Clare said that she was missing her sister, that she would like some time with Helen. The two are very close.

The problem is that Helen is doing university, coaching gym (paid) and doing her coaching certificate, coaching netball (unpaid), working at the pub just down the road and still pursuing an active social life. Then add in Clare's activities, and the two don't really coincide. The girls agreed that they would set a day aside in the upcoming school holidays to do things together. This has to be done in advance so that Helen can keep the day free.

I think that my working colleagues are a bit surprised at the way I obsess about time and organisation, but it's a natural outcome of the way we live.


Anonymous said...

Jim - store bought lasagna? C'mon!

Jim Belshaw said...

I knew that you would feel that way, David. Now one thing that i have to do is to track back through all your posts to find the instructions!

Anonymous said...

Just check the categories on the left side -> recipes. I also linked on my nametag.

Somehow cooking makes me happy and puts everything into perspective.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, David. Very helpful. I agree re cooking. I wish I could get the family to eat together at the table instead of in front of the TV. That would add to enjoyment.