A conversation, a calendar & a great bottom-of-the-barrel recipe

So yesterday, I don’t remember how the conversation turned to the $5 left in my wallet, but nevertheless it did and my husband turned to me and said, “Are we really that bad off right now?”

I was kind of hoping he’d ask and not the least bit surprised, so I was pleased that it gave me a chance to explain to him that no, it’s not that, I’m just trying to be strict with the money because otherwise a little extra here and a little leeway there turns into this big snowball effect and I end up not managing our money wisely.

Delicious FrittataWe spoke a bit more, about ways to save, his first inkling being to take a part-time job on the weekends, and I tried to reiterate that that isn’t the point — the point is to do better with what we have, to continue spending time together as a family and to communicate more about these issues. I want him to feel included. I appreciate his input. I can’t take all the responsibility by myself sometimes, nor do I want to.

It was refreshing and reassuring, and tomorrow being the start of the month makes the timing all the more essential.

One of the examples I gave him about saving not having to be sacrificing was this want I had for a dry-erase calendar (with room for notes) to hang on the fridge. I have about three calendars going at all times, which may not be very efficient, but I don’t like to mix work and play, and I don’t really think tacking my bills up on the fridge with magnets will do the trick either. So this one had to be for things like errands I need to run when, cleaning chores I need to do by day/week, reminders to hit the ATM on Thursdays for the nanny, etc. There’s one style on there I particularly like, so I printed one out for August and hit the ground running. Change doesn’t have to feel like sacrifice, I told the husband. You can’t get nervous or tense just because we ran out of puffs for the baby and he’s turning his nose up at bananas but we have no strawberries right now. He’s not starving! We’re fine! We just need to stop overspending, and perhaps a little of my enthusiasm can rub off on him so that we’re both enjoying finding creative ways to save AND spend more time together, appreciating what we have instead of feeling the lack of something we don’t.

By the same token, I was determined to show the family that our meager fridge remnants didn’t mean a sad, sorry dinner! With half a dozen eggs, two sweet potatoes and some thyme from my pathetic salmon cakes, I made a delicious frittata, which we enjoyed with some organic local Lacinato kale chips and a glass of red wine. Although for some reason the baby didn’t even want to try the sweet potatoes, we enjoyed it thoroughly and there’s even a quarter left over for lunch today. I have plans for tomorrow already in terms of picking up what I need at a discount (allergy medicine and coffee, for one), and altogether these advances make me feel like things are looking up.

Happy Sunday! Hope your weekend wraps up nicely.

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A Review of the Cuisinart Toaster Oven

When you’re looking for a nice attractive toaster oven you can’t do much better than a Cuisinart toaster oven. They have a whole line up of attractive, technologically superior, solid toaster ovens. Many of them have a convection option and can fit a whole 12-inch pizza in them.

Most of the current Cuisinart toaster ovens are stainless steel though some of them are made from different materials and colors, like the standard black and white. You’ll also find the interior surfaces of the ovens have a non-stick coating for easy cleanup.

Cuisinart toaster oven reviewThe best Cuisinart toaster oven out there is the TOB-195. It’s more expensive than some of their other models but the price is well worth the amazing features you get. The TOB-195 has an exact heat feature that maintains a precise temperature in the oven at all times.

The TOB-195 provides high level user interface and extremely flexible options for cooking and warming food. This includes things like baking foods or making pizza, toasting bread, and using the convection setting. In simple terms, it utilizes the latest technology with features that are very easy to use.

Furthermore, you will be able to toast 4 to 6 slices of bread at one time alongside a bagel if you want to. This feature also includes defrost settings and a timer for the oven. And the controls are really nifty. A lot of small kitchen appliances are come with controls like them these days but I still think they’re very futuristic.

When it comes to the user interface, the controls are very easy to notice and function. In these times, an oven that comes with an LCD display is necessary. A lot of similar products that are affordable can have a manual user interface but it is highly disadvantageous especially given the technology that’s out these days.

This Cuisinart convection toaster oven is just top of the line. Using the convection feature really speeds up cooking. I can fit a whole chicken in it and when I put it in convection mode a chicken will cook in just more than a half hour. It’s awesome. I sometimes will put in two Cornish game hens and they cook up even faster.

Another thing we use our Cuisinart toaster oven for is brownies. You can easily fit a 9×9 pan in it and it heats up so much faster than our regular oven that it just makes sense to use it for anything that will fit in it. My husband has a great brownie recipe and she uses our toaster oven to make them all the time. Probably too much. I could stand to lose a few pounds. While this is a great appliance, I like to use my Gourmia air fryer whenever I can.


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Potato, Cauliflower & Chickpea Tagine with Olives & Preserved Lemon

Potato, Cauliflower & Chickpea Tagine with Olives & Preserved Lemon  

November is always a hectic time of year for us – travelling, shopping, family events, loads of cooking and of course eating. We spent a week farm-sitting for my Aunt and Uncle with no Internet access or mobile phone reception. It was bliss but needless to say, when we returned to the real world, there were hundreds of emails and other technology-reliant tasks needing our attention. I have finally caught up and I’m super excited to start the New Year with this sensation tagine recipe.

Tagine dishes can be quite nice if cooked properly.I bought my tagine from a second hand store a few months ago, and I totally love it! I was a little hesitant to use it at first, learning that many tagines from overseas countries are prepared with lead based paints. Luckily, mine was made in Portugal and I have confirmed that it is completely safe to cook with – phew!

Before using your tagine for the first time it must be seasoned. To do this, submerge it in milk for at least one hour, then rinse, dry and rub the inside of the base and lid with olive oil. Put the tagine into a cold oven, set the temperature to 150°c and leave it for two hours. Remove the tagine from the oven and leave to cool. When it is completely cool, wash in warm soapy water – your tagine is now ready to use.

Back in early December, I attempted to make preserved lemons for the first time. I am happy to say they were a success and are the inspiration for this recipe. You can serve this dish with rice or couscous, and it is absolutely delicious when topped with a big dollop of Greek yoghurt and fresh parsley.

Potato, Cauliflower & Chickpea Tagine with Olives & Preserved Lemons

Ingredients (2 Servings)

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled & crushed
  • ½ kilo new baby potatoes, washed (skin on) and cut in half
  • ½ a head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 420gm tin diced tomatoes
  • 420gm tin chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ cup green olives
  • ½ a preserved lemon, sliced (pith removed)
  • ½ cup dates
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh parsley to garnish

If you are new to tagine cooking, heed my warning. Do not place your tagine directly onto a hotplate. It will crack and you will end up with a big mess all over your stovetop. Tagines are meant to be cooked over a slow flame, and I don’t have a gas cooktop so I just use our camp cooker or the grill side of the BBQ.

Place your tagine onto an open flame on a low to medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add spices and potatoes and toss the potatoes gently until they are evenly coated. Add the tomatoes and place the lid onto the tagine, cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lid of the tagine (use a tea towel so as not to burn yourself) and add cauliflower, chickpeas, olives, preserved lemon and dates. Replace the lid and cook for a further 4-5 minutes.

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