Weekend Cooking: Cooking in a Madhouse


I have four children who are 8, 9, 11 and 17 years old. One will eat almost anything, or at least give it a try. One won’t eat red meat, two won’t eat fish, another two start gagging when forced to eat pasta, one refuses chicken and getting them all to knowingly eat vegetables is an endless war with every single one of them (my husband included).

As such, planning dinner seven nights a week is a bit of a nightmare, and not made any easier as I also have to take into account after school/evening schedules which include gymnastics classes, basketball and football training, scouts and cub meetings, etc, etc. Monday and Thursday nights in particular are mayhem and the only way to make sure everyone eats is to prepare meals in advance, either on the weekend or the morning of, or stick with something simple like omelettes that can be prepped, cooked and eaten in a half hour. Most often I make pasta bakes – beef or chicken – which 4 out of the 6 of us are happy to eat and can be served and reheated easily in single serves through the evening as needed. I’ll also make a huge batch of my Faux Fried Rice recipe once a month which can then be served with whatever protein is handy, such as cooked and sliced sausages, cooked chicken pieces picked up from the local deli or stir fried beef tossed in a honey soy sauce, over a couple of nights on a week when I know we are going to be especially busy .

I’m always looking for new ideas though and when I spotted Jo Pratt’s Madhouse Cookbook I was hoping to find new recipes to add to my collection. The prep and cooking time for the recipes Pratt lists in the Monday-Friday Survival/The Need for Speed section are great – generally less than 30 minutes each. I’m already familiar with the simpler recipes such as Chicken, Cheese and Corn Quesa-d-easies, Crumbed Chicken Breasts and Fish Stick Tortillas. Unfortunately few of the other recipes would suit my fussy children, there is little hope of them even sampling Lemon Linguine with Walnuts, Spinach and Blue Cheese and it’s even less likely they would try a Pepper and Feta Fritatta. Several of the recipes require quite strong tasting ingredients like chilli, olives and marscapone cheese which also wouldn’t appeal to my children’s unsophisticated palette and there are half a dozen recipes or so based on salmon, which at $28/kg is not in my grocery budget.

I did pick up a few tips though. I really like the idea of making up a Savoury Crumb mix that can be stored in the freezer and used as needed for coating fish or chicken, or to add to meatballs, for example. I usually make a standard mix of breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and mixed dried Italian herbs as needed, and though its simple to do, having some ready at all times would be convenient.

Similarly Pratt suggests making a Vegetable Starter mix, called soffrito. Essentially, use a food processor to finely chop a mix of vegetables such as onions, carrot, capsicum (bell peppers), celery, garlic and mushrooms. Fry gently in a bit of oil til soft. Cool, divide and then store for up to 3 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. You can then toss the mix into soups, pasta sauces, casseroles etc as needed.

There are quite a few delicious sweet recipes included, such as Sticky Toffee and Banana Pudding, though I rarely serve dessert at home.Β  But I do really like Pratt’s Mix and Match Fruit Crumble recipes which can be sprinkled over icecream, yoghurt, custard or stewed fruits. The Madhouse Cookbook also includes a selection of recipes for entertaining at home that are quick to prepare including appetisers, mains, desserts and drinks.

If your childΒ  is an adventurous eater and you are a busy mother looking for some interesting recipes to try without spending hours slaving over the stove, then the Madhouse Cookbook may well be the perfect resource for you, but really I think most of the recipes would be more useful for a busy single person wanting to throw together a simple but elegant meal for one, or maybe two, after a hard days work.

This afternoon though I’ll be making up a batch of my Faux Fried Rice since we have various things scheduled over the next few nights and I’m happy to share it with you today. It’s a large family friendly batch, so you might want to reduce the amounts – this isn’t a sensitive recipe so just half the rice and the ingredients to taste. And if you were wondering, I call it Faux Fried Rice because the rice isn’t fried at all.

My Faux Fried Rice

Ready in about 20 minutes


  • 3-4 cups cooked long grain rice (I prefer white but you can use brown)
  • 300g diced or shredded bacon or ham
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 – 2 diced spring onion/scallion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups mixed frozen vegetables (I use a Golden Mix that includes peas, carrot, corn, celery and capsicum (bell pepper) – you can add whatever you like)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 cups of good quality soy sauce
  • Pepper to taste


  • Cook rice by preferred method (I use the absorption method in a microwave rice cooker – takes about 20 minutes)
  • While rice is cooking, in a large saucepan, fry bacon/ham til cooked through,Β  add garlic and then onion. Fry til onion is translucent
  • Push bacon mixture to the side of the saucepan and add beaten eggs, allow to set and then break up into strips.
  • Add mixed vegetables and stir into egg and bacon mixture til they begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
  • Add 1/2 to 1 cup soy sauce
  • Stir to coat, season to taste
  • Allow to simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
  • Place cooked rice in a large container with a lid, slowly pour in soy sauce and mix well with fork to coat rice. Don’t drown it!
  • Add bacon mixture to rice and mix through.
  • Serve hot, warm or cold with a protein of you choice – try leftover sliced beef or chicken sausages, cooked chicken pieces, or stir fried meat. It even makes a pretty good meal or afternoon snack on its own.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.



18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jama
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 04:28:04

    Thanks for sharing your recipe — I like fried rice, faux or otherwise :). I’ll have to look for this cookbook at the library — the Savory Crumb Mix and Mix and Match Fruit Crumble sound interesting.



  2. Carole from Carole's Chatter
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 05:41:32

    Oh my you are a star trying to meet all those needs – me, I’d just make what I liked and everyone else could eat it or go hungry or make themselves something. Easy for me to say though – no kids! Cheers



  3. joyweesemoll
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 05:59:43

    I may have to try that soffrito idea. That could help stream-line several dishes that are regulars in our house. My life suddenly seems very easy since I only have to please myself and my husband, and in 22 years of marriage we’ve pretty much worked out our taste compromises.



  4. Diane (@bookchickdi)
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 07:13:29

    You sound like you have your hands full. I like some of your suggestions- the faux fried rice and the savoury crumb mix- I may incorporate them into my rotation.



  5. booksaremyfavouriteandbest
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 10:05:28

    I have similar battles with my four kids – I have one that eats everything, one that is picky, one that isn’t thrilled by red meat and one that isn’t a fan of fish. Thankfully they all eat pasta!

    I recall day when I put dinner on the table and heard a few sighs when they saw what we were having. My eldest son said “Why can’t we just have something that we all like?” and I said “Sure, tell me what that is and I’ll make it.” Still waiting to hear what the magical dish is (!) but the exercise (as a dinner table discussion) was useful because the kids realised how difficult it is to please everyone.

    Most of my best quick, family recipes come from Donna Hay’s book ‘Off the Shelf’ and from Jamie Oliver’s ’30 Minute Meals’ (although I don’t make all the components of his meals usually!).



  6. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 15:27:29

    I love fried rice. Goodness, I thought my house was mad enough with 3 boys, one who only likes chicken and fish, one who loves red meat and the last who is very picky. It’s hard enough to cook for them. Too bad The Madhouse Cookbook didn’t work for you but it’s always great to learn new tips to make mealtime easier. I like soffrito too, often used in Hispanic cooking, which married to a Mexican, I do a lot of (also cause it’s easy). My SIL will make a batch of soffrito and freeze in ice cube trays so she can add easily to dishes or soups. I love the combination of flavors with peppers, onion, garlic and cilantro. Can’t go wrong. I hope you’ll stop by and add 3 posts to my Small Victories Sunday link open now. It’s my reading/cooking/blogging recap and plan for the week/



  7. Beth F
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 22:32:44

    Madhouse seems perfect for us –no kids or picky eaters in sight. You are a better woman than I am; I guess I need to feel lucky that all the kids in my life have been easygoing eaters.



  8. geckogirlreads
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 14:45:41

    I still don’t eat many vegies (you probably don’t want to know that!) but great way to eat cauliflower my mum makes cauliflower fritters (just basic thin batter) so good even cold. Also hide vegies from my dad by vitamizing them and adding it to pasta sauce (although I learnt to add it right to the end otherwise it makes the sauce really thick and always splashed/burns me)



  9. Marg
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 22:18:53

    I have enough trouble getting just one child to want the same thing as me let alone having to juggle so many requirements!



  10. Couscous & Consciousness
    Mar 11, 2014 @ 12:31:01

    Oh my gosh you deserve a medal or sainthood, or something. How are you not in an asylum? I totally have to admire your patience. I have to admit I’d be a bit like Carole – everyone would be eating what I like or nothing. Easy to tell that I am a selfish, childless person, isn’t it πŸ™‚ Your rice dish sounds great, by the way – that would certainly go down well around my place.



  11. stacybuckeye
    Mar 12, 2014 @ 03:42:04

    Wow! I thought I had it bad trying to cook for my gluten free, dairy free 3 year old! Most of the recipes sound too rich for my little’s guy’s picky ways, but I love your rice recipe. I’ll have to give it a try.



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