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  • shannanmanton

Cheap & Easy Cooking

I'm a person that likes to shop regularly for food and decide on what I'm making for dinner on the day. With grocery restrictions in place and the natural urge to stock up during this pandemic, my fridge and cupboards are full and I'm a bit stressed at the thought of having to make meals based on what I have rather than deciding what sounds good and going out to buy the ingredients. First world problem for sure, I'm lucky I even have a good stash of food right now, but I thought it would be worthwhile to note some quick, cheap or easy recipes that I like.

I'm a foodie who loves nothing more than to spend a whole weekend afternoon in the kitchen making meals from scratch (I have a cooking instagram if you are interested shannan_eats). But sometimes it needs to be NOT that.

Some of these recipes are healthy, some are carby and some are downright trashy but there's room for everything right now and some of us don't have much choice. Side note: I have followed various ways of eating (low carb, high carb, vegan) and have now settled on just eating what I like. Sometimes I make my own almond milk and granola, sometimes lunch is corn chips and chocolate. I judge no-one (and especially not parents, because jeez, kids can be fussy, mine included, and I am not embarrassed that there are many chicken nuggets in my freezer).

Roy Choi's LA Dirty Dogs

I love The Chef Show with Jon Favreaux and Roy Choi. On one episode, Roy made some amazing looking hotdogs so we recreated them and they were great. Bonus points because you can make a simpler hotdog for the kids. I don't have a recipe (I think it might be in one of Roy's cookbooks) but it's basically a hotdog with mayo, mustard, ketchup, sauteed onions and peppers, bacon and hot sauce. Makes something easy a bit more more special and delicious.

Chickpea Curry

Chickpeas are healthy, available, shelf stable and a good source of plant protein. I love them crisped in a pan with some spices on top of salads. Curry is a great way to use chick peas too. In this recipe, you can use real milk instead of coconut milk (although coconut milk is another great shelf staple and so good in curries). Try not to omit the lime though - it really balances it all out.

Burrito Bowls

This is less of a recipe and more of a general suggestion. Burrito bowls are a really quick and easy meal, especially if you are using leftover meat and veggies. Good protein options would include carnitas, seasoned cooked minced beef, rotisserie chicken, fish (leftover salmon is great), sliced steak, tofu, beans. Then you just build your bowl with rice, salsa, cheese, hot sauce and some veggies - tomatoes, corn, sauteed or raw peppers and onions, kale, spinach, lettuce and avocado. Sour cream is good too or a mix of sour cream, chilli or chipotle sauce, garlic, lime, salt and pepper as a dressing. Obviously, a burrito bowl can also become a burrito.

Grain Bowl/Buddha Bowls

I've made a few of these in my time - these are vegan/vegetarian staple. The template for a good grain bowl is a grain, a protein, veggies and a sauce (the grain could be rice, quinoa, millet, noodles, farro, barley). A lot of grain bowl recipes are vegan but go ahead and add meat & cheese if you like. Think of this as a burrito bowl but with more variety.

Here are some good recipe's I've made but really, anything goes here. It's a perfect way to use up leftovers. I love the recipes that load a bunch of veg on an oven tray and bake. Hands-off cooking is the best. Added bonus - bowl food is just made for couch eating.

Braised Lentils and Sausages

Sausages and lentils are cheap (well, here they are at least) and this meal is hearty, using things most of us have on hand.

Spicy Noodle Soup

I make soup like this often and just make it up as I go along - it will still be delicious if you have to skip a few things. I start by frying up some garlic, ginger, chopped chillies (or chilli paste from a jar), chopped green onions and mushrooms in a medium pot. Then I add stock - chicken or vegetable is good, if you can find a ramen or asian flavoured stock, even better - and some soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil and a tablespoon of miso paste if I have it. Then go in the noodles - I cook them in the broth or you can use vacuum-packed Asian noodles (ramen and udon are great) and just warm them through.

I sometimes lower the heat at the end and add a raw egg to poach (don't worry if it all falls apart, it's fine) or I soft-boil one separately. You can also add shredded leftover chicken, thinly sliced steak, leftover salmon or prawns and it will be amazing. Some spinach or bok choy is good too (I really try to add something green to everything I make). A teaspoon of rice wine vinegar or even lime juice after you serve the soup finishes it off perfectly. I also put sriracha or hot sauce on the table for everyone to help themselves. Slurping noodles is so satisfying.

If you want to make this more Thai-inspired, you could use a bought Thai curry paste at the beginning and add some coconut milk to the broth (and lemon juice to finish off). These are not authentic recipes at all but they are delicious, satisfying, cheap and use things I mostly always have.

Thai Beef and Fresh Vegetables

This is something else I make without a recipe, but I have used a Jamie Oliver recipe as well as the Joy The Baker one I've linked below. Fry up some minced beef until crispy with garlic, chilli and some Asian flavours (you don't need to add everything in the recipe, even some soy or hoisin sauce will do the trick). Serve with rice noodles (I like brown rice vermicelli) or rice, a soy-based sauce and some crunchy salad veggies and lime on the side of course. I often buy a bag of slaw that is mostly carrots, radish, brocolli and raw beetroot and use that along with some lettuce and sliced cucumbers.

Oven Baked Fajitas

I am a big fan of tray-bake dinners. Something I can put in the oven then go and take a shower when I get home from work. Feel free to skip all the spices and just sprinkle over a bought taco seasoning mix. Once everything is cooked, serve with tortillas, salsa, cheese, sour cream and avocado.

Easy Loaded Tex Mex Sweet Potato Fries

Cook some frozen oven fries and add some toppings. Yum


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