Tag Archives: 20 minute meal

I love my freezer (and typing, it seems!).

Phew, it’s been a crazy few weeks. I went on a cruise holiday, then developed both a sinus infection and a chest infection at the same damn time within a few days of getting home, which totally wiped me out for a fortnight. I’ve been back at work since last week, and figured an update was necessary.

So, cruise ships then. They are to vegans as garlic and crosses are to vampires. While there is an entire lack of photographic evidence, it’s entirely possible to eat well and be vegan on a cruise, despite their “catering for vegetarians, but not vegans”.

While I may have had a both a good choice of cruise company (Royal Caribbean) and a little repetition in my meals, I ate like a king while on board and was not once made to feel like an awkward guest.


We went buffet style every morning. My plate largely involved a trip to the huge fruit salad bar, plus fried potatoes and mushrooms from the grill, then a sweep over to the bread baskets for fresh rolls and margarine. No soy milk, unfortunately, so orange juice and herbal tea for me.


When on board, we went back to the buffet for lunch, and I had loads of options. Huge salad bar, including multiple kinds of salad leaves, lots of different vegetables and awesome toppings like sunflower seeds and walnuts and dried fruits, with an assortment of dressings – though I stuck with my “boring” favourite of balsamic vinegar for the most part. I usually went with a vaguely small portion of pasta and tomato sauce of the day after that, often with some sauerkraut on the side as they had dishes of it for hot dog toppings and I took advantage of it being accidentally vegan! I could have asked for a pizza to be made up without cheese, but I didn’t bother as I couldn’t have eaten a whole one by myself!


Formal dining room for dinner, except one night when we hit up Johnny Rockets upstairs and I got to have my first vegan boca burger, which was good, but not as good as my usual Fry’s burger. Still, I’m glad I have now tried one and can move on with my life (unlike my obsession with getting my mitts on some Veganaise and Justin’s PB cups). Service in the formal dining room was amaaaazing. There was always a vegan starter and the mains included a vegetarian special which changed each evening, and was pretty much all vegan without the condiments. I had homemade soy meatballs in lentil chilli, tacos (minus the sour cream), an amazing spinach salad…if by some chance the main veggie option wasn’t vegan, their “classic” menu always had a pasta dish with tomato sauce. The only thing lacking was dessert, which was very heavy on the dairy and eggs. I asked on my first night if they had anything vegan and they made me up a fabulous fruit platter, which I had most nights.

Downsides….you’d want to like veggies and fruit, as you’ll eat a lot of them. Probably for the best though – I didn’t put on any weight during my trip, which is possibly a record for me.

Repetition does happen, especially on the pasta front, but I ate really well for the week. I’d really have liked a non-fruit dessert on even one evening (that wasn’t just cookies in my bunk that I brought on board myself). If you can do strawberries, and you can do strawberry souffle, then you can dunk a few in some dark chocolate without too much hassle.

Whole grains. With the exception of the (non-vegan) soda-type bread, there were none. Pasta was white, bread was white, rice was white. I’m used to brown rice and pasta and not much white bread these days, so my stomach got a little unhappy towards the end of the week.

If you’re not ok with filling your salad plate within ten feet of cheese pizza or a carvery station, then this might not be for you. Personally, meat doesn’t make me feel ill (with the exception of really disgusting things like veal or foie gras) so I can just look past it and get to the good stuff.

Another note – it’s best to avoid looking at other people’s plates. The sheer gluttony is astounding. I’m not talking about a second slice of pizza here…I’m talking about people eating 3 double cheeseburgers with sides for lunch, then getting seconds. Yes, it’s personal choice, but I just don’t get it….eating oneself to death just seems like an awful waste.


The day after getting home, some vegetable-and-bean overload was required, along with some cake, in as short and low effort a manner as possible 🙂

2013-10-08 18.06.49Giant cauliflower from the organic farm down the road. Best bargain I’ve ever had!

Apply rice of choice to rice cooker, or to pot.

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Chop (some!) cauli into small, bite sized florets (makes for fast cooking!) and sprinkle with salt, turmeric and whole cumin seed and dribble over a little olive oil, if that’s your thing. Stick in oven.

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Take that tub of leftover chana masala out of the freezer, run under the cold tap….

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…then upend into saucepan over the lowest heat possible. Once it begins to loosen up, have at it with a butter knife to break it into smaller chunks. Once it has defrosted, turn up the heat and warm through, watching for rogue ice cubes.

Stick all of the above unceremoniously on plate, with some chutney if you have it, wish that the lighting was better, then shrug and devour.

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Remember that your cat missed you too as he purrs like a steam engine.

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Then have some cake and tea on the sofa…

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…before cursing when you remember both the giant pile of washing and the  block of tofu in a tub of water in the fridge that you meant to chuck out before you left and will now be demanding voting rights. (It’s Isa’s pumpkin muffin from VWAV, turned into a cupcake, with cream cheese frosting).

Nothing’s ever perfect!



Pantry pasta sauce

I’m a big fan of making everything food-wise from scratch as far as possible. My mother is regularly over-awed by this, but really, there’s not much to it once you get a bit of practice in. Multitasking is also a good skill.

This pasta sauce is not my most used recipe, but it is really useful. It involves nothing more than ingredients from the pantry, which makes it very handy in the few days before payday, or when getting home from a few days away to an empty fridge and an emptier belly. It’s quick as well. Put on a pot of water to boil, get your dried pasta of choice out of the press along with a few other ingredients – including two of my five favourites from yesterday’s post.

First, some herbs and spices.


Moving anti-clockwise from the yellow pile…

One teaspoon marigold boullion powder

One teaspoon dried garlic granules

Half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

One teaspoon granulated sugar (this is just supermarket golden granulated, and is unrefined so no bone char)

One teaspoon dried onion granules

(middle) One teaspoon dried oregano.

If you’re using the low salt version of the boullion, I’d also add a pinch of salt.


Take a tin of chopped tomatoes and pour into a saucepan. Swish a couple of tablespoons of water around in the can to get the last of the tomatoey goodness out. Add all of the seasonings above.

The sugar is a trick of my grandmothers, and is a great idea for any recipe involving tinned tomatoes, as it helps neutralise any over acidity or metallic aftertaste, as well as bringing out the flavour of the tomatoes.

Give everything a stir (it will look rather unattractive) then turn on the heat. Bring the heat up until the first couple of bubbles pop on the surface, then lower the flame. Tomatoes are much better off at a low simmer – bringing them to the boil does not-very-nice things to the taste of the final sauce. Give it another stir; the seasonings should all be melting in nicely.

After five minutes, your pot of water should be at a rolling boil. Add salt and your pasta.

About 3 minutes before the pasta is cooked (check packet directions), turn off the heat under the sauce, give a final stir and break out the stick blender.


Give it a quick whoosh (“whoosh” being a technical term, of course), leaving chunks if that’s your bag. Don’t be tempted to use the highest setting. Hot tomato sauce can spatter a lot, and that stuff will burn your skin and stain your clothing. Stir well and then taste. Adjust seasoning, then clap a lid on it to keep warm.

Drain pasta, apply sauce, nom.


This is my finished sauce, which is cooling down in a very unsexy lock n lock tub, and will be turned into part of a lasagne for tomorrow night. If just pouring over pasta, I’d say this is enough sauce for 3-4 people, unless you like your pasta swimming in sauce.

Homemade dinner on the table in under 20 minutes, under two euro. Take that, Jamie!