Turning Japanese

Posted April 12th, 2011 by Penny Wise

Eek I'm a bit behind, it's almost half way through $21 Challenge Month and I haven't done one yet. It's probably high time I did as I have no idea what's lurking in the pantry or freezer. I know for a fact though that I will be using up an awful lot of ingredients and turning them into meals as no ready made food item is safe in our house for more than a few hours. I'm actually really looking forward to getting stuck into the challenge as to be honest, when it comes to cooking I can churn out plenty a good meal but I'm not very adventurous. Noel's the one who is always trying out new recipes, or sticking his nose in a cook for book for ideas, then going off and experimenting with his own version. In comparison I'd much rather just get dinner out of the way and go and do something else. Fortunately if there's one thing I've learned during five years of $21 Challenges, it's that doing a challenge for a week really does bring back my love of cooking and make it more fun, so I'm looking forward to getting my groove back in the kitchen!

One of my favourite quotes from the $21 Challenge book comes from Denise B, who says the challenge is a chance to prove to yourself that you are capable of more than you realise. It's so true and I'm very glad about that because heaven knows we need to do something as our food bill continues to skyrocket! I'm not even moaning about the prices, it's the sheer quantity we go through - and we don't even buy junk food! 'Woah! That's a LOT of food', the checkout girl commented to Noel at the supermarket at the weekend. 'I know', he rolled his eyes. 'And most of it will be gone in three days!' He's not exaggerating either; the boys are always begging 'Mum can you please do the grocery shopping instead of Dad? He never gets enough food!' To which I tell them that if I bought any more food than Dad I would need a forklift to get round the supermarket rather than a trolley!

I guess they're growing boys - and good heavens are they growing. I've mentioned before that Liam is taller than his dad but it's gone beyond that. He towers over Noel now! Liam bless him is delighting in this 'power shift' and ribs his dad constantly. He has discovered sushi in a big way, which is great for him being gluten free. One of the things I love about Whangamata is that there is no McDonalds or KFC and the like. Instead, the cool place for the local kids to hang out is the sushi bar. Whilst it may not be as cheap as a pile of hot chips, it's healthy and really fills them up. Which is why we have started making masses of it at home to keep in the fridge as a 'ready to eat' snack and for lunchboxes. Well, Noel has - he's a dab hand at making it, while my sushi rolling skills are still sadly lacking! And, I have to admit I don't like sushi but I do enjoy seeing the boys stuff their faces with it and judging by the amount they are both growing it's obviously not doing them any harm. I also can't think of any overweight Japanese people either!

So I've decided that I am going to embrace Japanese food much more and make it a big part of what our household eats. So much of it is gluten free that it's great for the boys and is already proving so handy for lunch boxes. If you think about it, it really is the ideal SS food. Rice is so cheap and filling and you can throw just about anything in with the sauces to use up all the leftover scraps of meat and wilting vegies in the fridge. The only thing which has always put me off trying to cook authentic Japanese food before now is fear. Fear of not being about to find the ingredients I need (which let's face it I never will if I don't look!) Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of it turning out yuk. Fear of it being - eek - not Japanese enough?

But stuff it - if Julie Powell can cook her way through the entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I'm sure I can conjure up a few rice balls! And I know the perfect place to start, thanks to the wonderfully psychic Forum members! Apricot Kelly is worth her weight in gold for starting this thread and Rob echoes my thoughts totally in this thread. While I may have to spend a little to start off with to get some of the ingredients, I think it is going to save us a lot more on filling up our supermarket trolley in the long run!

When you're used to eating good food, you forget just how awful bad food is. Before we moved, McDonalds used to be a huge treat for our family if we went out together. But that was six months ago and we haven't had one since. Until the other night when I was in Auckland for the weekend. I'm not sure how many of you are Zumba fans but I LOVE Zumba! I'd do it every day if I could! Anyway, last Friday I had the awesome opportunity of going to a special Master Class with the creator of Zumba himself, Beto Perez, to raise money for those affected by the Christchurch earthquake. It was brilliant! For two hours we hip-hopped, salsa'd and generally wiggled our way around the Logan Campbell centre until we emerged exhausted, sweaty and starving. At this point there was only one thing on my mind - I wanted McDonalds and I wanted it NOW. Ten minutes later my wish was granted - but what a letdown! After six months of eating nothing but home made food from scratch, I couldn't believe the difference in taste. To add insult to injury, I dropped tomato sauce and mustard all down my brand new Zumba singlet! In comparison I could have bought enough freshly made Chinese takeaway food to sink a battleship for the same price. That'll teach me!

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