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. 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 child 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, 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.