Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's in my Lunchbox -Week 2

Keeping in theme of the cheap and easy lunches, I really want to get maximum use out of my new lunch box and minimum use out of my wallet. I even managed to keep it under $10!

Mini Savoury Muffins, Pumpkin Seeds, Raisins, Dried Apricots and Pot Stickers
Pot stickers are a pet favourite of mine -they're easy to make, can be tailored to one's tastes and very easy to store. I have yet to find someone that doesn't love them. Pot stickers look like dumplings because they are. Except they are pan fried on the base and steamed on the top instead of being just steamed or boiled. I am constantly told that food that is fried or baked is not good for me. But I don't listen -it's yummy!

2 Beaten eggs and cover with 2 cups of sifted flour
Mix to form a dough. Add water if needed.
I had never made dumpling pastry before so my mother kindly offered to give me a quick tutorial. To my surprise, it wasn't as hard as I had originally thought. Just really time consuming. Traditionally, dumpling pastry is just made of flour and water. While this is perfectly adequate, my mother discovered the addition of egg gives the pastry a lovely smooth and shiny appearance when cooked, much like store bought pastry.

Pork mince, carrot, celery, black mushrooms and a splash of spicy Teriyaki sauce for taste
Like sushi, you can put almost anything in your dumpling filling. Just make sure that everything is chopped up reeeeal fine -I just put my ingredients in a blender and pulsed. If your ingredients are too large, they may pierce the pastry when you go to wrap it or may not cook all the way through during the cooking stage. And no one wants to see that! I used 1/4 celery which cost me $1.20 (for a half), $2.50 for 200g of pork mince, $0.40 for 1 carrot and everything else was already in my pantry. That's $4.10 total. It shouldn't cost you too much more to collect the other ingredients.

Divide the dough into two, roll into log and cut into 2cm thick pieces
Flatten, and use a rolling pin to create a circle about 2mm thick
The most time consuming part of dumpling pastry making is creating each individual circle. It's a time consuming and tedious task but, be assured, it is very rewarding. For a step by step guide for assembling the dumplings, go to my previous post and then come back for the cooking part.

Add enough water to cover half the height of the dumplings once the bottoms are browned
The best thing about pot stickers is the storage. You can freeze your dumplings once they are assembled and pull them out at a later date for cooking -like I'm doing here. This way, you can make a whole week's worth of dumplings, freeze and cook a few at a time so they stay crunchy on the base when you get around to eating them!

Cover immediately to steam
Once all the water has evaporate leave them a little bit longer and they should be ready
You know what? You don't have to limit pot stickers for lunch -have them for dinner. I did, and it was great! Also, you don't have to limit the amount you make -they are pretty great for afternoon and midnight snacks so go ahead and freeze a whole month's worth!

Self Raising Flour, Egg, Sundried Tomatoes, Milk, Cheese, Bacon, Salt

What's a lunch without a snack? What's Pot Stickers without savoury muffins?

Your normal muffin mix with sundried tomatoes, bacon, cheese and black pepper
I'm sure you don't need an introduction to the wonderful combo that is bacon, cheese and sundried tomatoes but I do want to push is the invention of silicon bake ware. Namely, silicon mini muffin molds. How did I ever cope without them?
These are, actually, a godsend. No longer do I have to oil the pan or scratch the sides with a knife as I carefully try to pry the muffins away -now a simple pop does the trick! I think I got this for $10 at The Warehouse near my house but I hear the $2 shop also has them in stock (up to you if you want to risk it). Just remember kids, read the package for maximum temperature limits!

One of the best inventions ever
I already had most of the ingredients in my kitchen so the only additional costs were: Bacon (3 slices) -$2.36, Sundried Tomatoes (6 pieces) -$2.00 which brings the total of this week's lunch to less than $10 again. The snacks in the snack compartments were also already in my pantry so I didn't include them. Yay for a well stocked pantry!

Tip for shopping cheap: Always check the deli, butcher or seafood counter at your local supermarket before opting to buy prepackaged goods. The items are usually cheaper and the lovely people behind the counter will measure out amounts for you. This ensures you're not buying more than you need (aka the leftovers don't end up in the bin).

Pot Stickers (fed me for a week of lunches and a few dinners as well)

Dough Ingredients:

2 Large Eggs
2 Cups Flour
Water to form dough

Filling Ingredients (you can tailor this to your own tastes): 

300g pork mince
1/4 stalk of celery 
1 carrot
Handful black mushrooms (remember to soak if you're using dried ones)
1/8 cup of Kikkoman's spicy teriyaki  sauce (or to taste)
White pepper to taste

1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat.
2. Sift the flour over the top.
3. Add water, if needed, to form the dough.
4. Cover and allow to sit for about an hour. 

While the dough is resting, make the filling
5. Finely chop the celery, carrot and black mushrooms.
6. Use your fingers to mix the veggies with the pork mince.
7. Add the sauce and pepper and continue to mix with your hands until well combined.

Back to the Dough
8. Divide the dough into two and roll each out into a log of about 3cm in diameter.
9. Cut each log through the cross section into 2cm thick circles (see image above)
10. Flatten and, using a rolling pin, roll it out until it is about 2mm thick

Assembly (click here to see pictures of me assembling dumplings)

11. Fill each wrapper with a heaping teaspoon of the pork filling. Be sure not to overfill or to spread the filling too close to the edge of the wrapper.
12. Gently lift the edges of the wrapper over the filling and crimp the edges of the wrapper and pinch together to seal. 

Now you may freeze them or read on to cook

13. Heat a wok or nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil.
14. Add 10 – 12 pot stickers, and cook for a minute or two, until the bottom is browned.
15. Add enough water so the bottom half of the pot stickers are submerged, cover and steam until the liquid has been absorbed (about 5 minutes)
16. Remove and cook the rest.

I like to use a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil as a dipping sauce.

Yummy Savoury Muffins (makes 18 minis)


1.5 cups self raising flour (or regular flour and one teaspoon of baking powder)
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
Lots of grated cheese
8 Sundried Tomatoes (chopped)
2 Slices of middle bacon
Black pepper to taste


1. Mix, together, the dry ingredients.
2. Add the cheese, sundried tomatoes and bacon.
3. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
4. Mix wet and dry ingredients together but don't over mix. Your mixture should be quite stiff.
5. Spoon mixture into a greased muffin tin (or a silicon one if you're lucky) and bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or golden brown.
6. Try not to consume them all before the end of the week.

So there you go guys and dolls, I have managed to feed myself for another week for under $10. I know I have a lot, already, in my pantry but there is no reason an ordinary kitchen shouldn't have flour and eggs. So go forth, and create pot stickers and savoury muffins. Have a pot sticker and savoury muffin party!

All recipes are on Petitchef


  1. Omg yuuuuuuum. I have always wondered how to make those! Your blog is amazing!

  2. My daughter has the same double layer lunch box (the top is Hello Kitty)!
    Well done for making your own lunch, economical and healthier! I wish all students were like you?

    In regard to your comment:

    just think that writing a cookbook is totally different from blogging.



  3. Yum! Your potstickers look delicious. I'm sure they're not unhealthy - I think deep-fried stuff is the stuff that's not unhealthy...