Category Archives: Saving Time

4 Ingredients

The only thing that Julie from the movie Julie and Julia and I share is a name. I have never lived in New York City (although I certainly would if opportunity afforded it), I am not a newly wed (we’re clocking 13 years over in this corner), and perhaps most critically, I do not enjoy cooking.

I just don’t understand how people love to cook. It’s sort of how I just can’t understand how people love to go running. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to be able to cook and run, it’s just that I find myself facing a lot of failure when I do so. I have tried to acquire both skills and countless occasions.

And I will continue to try. Unlike the ‘movie Julie’, I don’t find cooking to be a way of releasing stress after work. Instead, I find it to be a stress-inducer. This stress is beyond the fact that, for a parent, cooking dinner is often just another chore on a very long list.

For me, cooking = failure, even public ridicule. I’m not even kidding — my parents love to tell a tale of how when my mom asked me to put spaghetti sauce in the pot, I took the sauce and dumped in the wrong pot. Yep, I dumped it in the boiling water. Hardy, har, har.

But, like I said, I’m going to keep trying at this cooking thing. I know I’ll never be a Julia Child, but at least I could pitch-in on this often tedious family chore.

My first step? It’s a cookbook called 4 Ingredients. Hey! Don’t laugh — it’s the number one cookbook in Australia. I picked it up while I was living in Sydney last year and hadn’t really even touched it except for a salad recipe that I used on a girlfriends’ getaway to hide my utter incompetence in the kitchen.

The whole premise of the book is that all its recipes involve only four ingredients, and they’re not weird ingredients that you’d have to hunt down at a specialty food store.

Tonight, I looked in the fridge and we had chicken breasts. Alrighty then … I looked into the “chicken” section of 4 Ingredients and found some possibilities. “Hon,” I said,  “if you want to take Stella to Jiu Jitsu, I’ll do dinner tonight.”

There was a long pause. Then he said, “uh, okay, sure.”

I picked a recipe called “Curry Mayonnaise Chicken.” (By “curry,” they’re referring to British curry, as opposed to Indian curry. It’s not spicy; it’s perfect family fare.) I thought hubby would like this, being Australian and having tastes that veer towards the other side of the pond.

This is it:
1.  6 chicken legs
2.  1/3 cup mayonnaise
3.  3 tsp. curry powder
4.  2 slices wholemeal bread, grated into breadcrumbs
Combine mayonnaise and curry, coat legs with the mixture. Roll in breadcrumbs and bake in a 180 C for 45 minutes or until tender.

Everything was going smoothly until I realized that the timer for the chicken was just about to beep and I hadn’t even starting boiling the potatoes (potatoes and salad were my side dishes). I opened the oven to see how well-done the chicken was. It looked kind of pink.

“Hmmm,” I thought, ” poisoning the family will sure go down in the family ridicule books.” Not good. So I checked the recipe again. It was 180 Celsius notFahrenheit! I was cooking on Fahrenheit, so Mr. Chicken needed a lot more time.

Long story short — no one got poisoned, family was suitably impressed, and hubby has now declared a “Mommy cooks one night a week” event.

So, did they actually like the meal?

Hubby gave it an 8/10. Stella gave it a 9/10. I gave it a 6/10 (I’m not a huge curry fan).

Edited to add: This post is now cross-posted on Blissfully Domestic, in the Blissful Delish section. You can see it here.


Filed under Books, Family, Fitness & Food, Living, Media, Saving Time, Tales

Dear Convenience Food Marketers

MacDear Junkfood Convenience Food Marketers,

In this economy, I feel it is my duty to provide you with some valuable feedback that can help you cut your costs. You see, I’ve noticed some changes to your packaging. Lately it includes copy intended to market to someone looking for a healthy meal.

Consider the following two standard favourites: Kraft Dinner Original and Chef Boyardee Ravioli.

The Kraft Dinner package is now sporting a substational bright green call-out box on the front which reads:

Sensible Solution:
Source of Calcium and Iron
Good Source of Protein

The Chef Boyardee packaging, for its part, has allocated an entire panel on its paper wrap to share the following information:

Thank Goodness for Chef Boyardee!
When you serve Chef Boyardee to your family, you give them more than great taste — you give them a wholesome, nutricious meal as well. Because Chef Boyardee is made with fresh beef and enriched pasta, it is a delicious combination of protein and carbs. And Chef Boyardee has no preservatives. Serve Chef Boyardee. The good, hot and hearty meal that your entire family loves.

But let’s be real my marketing friends — I’m not buying these foods for their health benefits. It’s because I’m being lazy. Or indulgent. Or both.

I am very aware that whenever I veer away from the perimeter of the grocery store and down the centre isles that I am entering into different territory. Territory in which a pasta can be magically created from florescent orange powder. Or where there is no need for an expiry date, even though the food inside contains meat.

However, this little “health” promo on your packaging caused me to take a closer look at the ingredients. Here’s what I found:

  • Kraft Dinner contains tartrazine. This additive is a synthetic dye used as a food colouring. Norway and Austria banned the use of tartrazine and other countries issued warnings after it was found to cause hyperactivity in some children. In addition to hyperactivity, research has also linked tartrazine to asthma, skin rashes, and migraines. While the United States and Canada have not banned this additive, it is now mandatory for it to be clearly labelled on a product’s ingredient list.
  • Chef Boyardee’s ingredient list includes the infamous “MSG,” or Monosodium Glutamate. Although you’ll find virtually every Chinese food take-out place defensively advertising “No MSG” in their foods, there is no real answer as to whether this ingredient is harmful or not. Countless research studies have shown only that it can cause a reaction in some people that is similar to an allergic reaction. But one thing is for sure: MSG is used to enhance the flavour of food. Why? So you’ll eat more of course! Just what us chubby first-world folks need. In addition, Chef Boyardee contains glucose-fructose, more than one type of salt and caramel. (I don’t know if caramel is actually bad for you but I thought it was so wierd that it was worth mentioning).

This brings me back to my starting point, which was how you could save yourself some money.

And here’s how: don’t bother hiring any more copywriters to develop “healthy messaging” on your packages! It is completely unnecessary. Perhaps even counter-intuitive.

If you must keep adapting your copy on your packages, here are my suggestions:

  • Feed this at dinner tonight and you won’t have to endure any whining or make idle threats related to dessert!
  • If you make this for dinner, you can get the kids into bed before “So You Think You Can Dance” starts!
  • This requires only one pot — that’s right, only one pot to clean!

I know, I know. You’ve likely spent thousands and thousands of dollars on market research that told you to include that health-conscious messaging. But trust me — don’t bother. It just makes you look silly.

A sometimes lazy and indulgent mother.

Note to Husband: Er, you’re actually reading my blog?? Okay, this post has absolutely no connection to the fact that you’ve been away. I’ve been cooking up all those frozen homemade casseroles you left me. Honest.


Filed under Family, Fitness & Food, Living, Observations, Saving Time, Shopping

Errands from the Desktop

I love the internet. Like, REALLY love it. It is such an amazing invention that you no longer even need to leave the house for pesky errands.

You know what I mean … you’ve had a jam-packed week, the weekend arrives, and the last thing you feel like doing is spending your precious free time hunting down that perfect birthday gift or fighting with crowds at the grocery store. Okay, I know there are some of you out there who actually enjoy shopping — this list is not for you.

For the rest of us, the alternative is “online shopping.” There is no sweeter word. Sit in your pj’s with a cup of tea before bed and click-click-click, all the errands are magically taken care of! 

Here’s my Errands from the Desktop list:

Gifts for new babies, girlfriends, and men who like art:

Gifts for kids’ birthday parties and other so-called “must-have’s”:

Gifts for men:


Makeup, Tylenol, Band-aids and whatnot:


Clothing for kids (I like to buy second-hand):

Travel (full packages):

Hotels, car rentals:


Hmmm … did I miss anything? Do share your favourites too!


Filed under Internet Love, Living, Media, Saving Time, Shopping, Travel