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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Change 4 Life Supermeals


Change4Life Supermeals is a nation-wide campaign to help us all plan affordable healthier meals, with recipes created by TV chef Ainsley Harriott, which was launched in January. 

Change4Life’s Supermeals campaign distributed 100,000 copies of a brand new cookbook which contains a month’s worth of popular, healthy recipes all for under £5.

I will be including some of the recipes in our Family Meal Plan this coming week.  There is a Change4Life You Tube Channel which has videos of all the recipes as well as a great website that supports the campaign where you can find all the recipes and formulate your own meal plan complete with shopping list.  You can pick which meals you would like to make for the week and the website puts them all into a PDF document for you to download, which also includes all the recipes and a handy shopping list.  Kids (or adults) can even make their own cookbook.

There's even a tool to help you make sure that your family gets their 5 a day by analysing your meal plan and adding up all the servings of fruit and vegetables contained within it.  There are also loads of tips and tricks to get us all to eat healthier meals and also portion guides which not only help if you're watching your weight, but also cuts down on food waste.

Here's one of the tasty recipes from the Supermeals campaign:



Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Peas

350g dried pasta shapes
175g frozen peas
175g cooked chicken chopped into cubes
1 tbsp horseradish
1 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch salt

Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Stir once and cook for 10-12 minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet, until the pasta is cooked but still slightly firm in the middle.

About 2 or 3 minutes before the pasta is done, add the peas to the pan.  Drain the mixture in a colander, then return to the pan. Add the chicken, horseradish mixture and parsley.

Stir well to combine and season with pepper. Put the pan over a gentle heat until everything is just warmed through, then serve in bowls.

Photo courtesy of Change4Life

You can also check out Change4Life on Twitter and Facebook.

Great with a cuppa Chocolate Slice

I love making this as a treat to have with a cuppa, especially if I have friends around.  It makes a great addition to a hamper of homemade treats should you want to make one as a gift for someone special.  You can buy a cheap packet of biscuits or use some that you have made that are past their best or been bashed about in the biscuit tin.  Ginger biscuits give an interesting flavour too, for a change.

225g dark chocolate
115g butter
1 tin (397g) sweetened condensed milk
1 packet (250g) plain sweet biscuits, crushed into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins or sultanas
200g white chocolate

Put the dark chocolate, butter and condensed milk into a large saucepan and gently heat until everything has melted and combined.  Add the crushed biscuits, dried apricots and raisins then mix well.  Pour into a 20 cm x 30 cm slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper.

Chill in the fridge until firm. Once the slice has set, gently melt the white chcolate and spread it all over the top of the slice. Chill in the fridge once again and mark into squares when the white chocolate is firm but not hard.  Slice in to squares and then store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Morrisons M Savers range - Save money on your shopping!

I recently attended an event organised by Morrisons to launch their new MSavers range.  For those of you unfamiliar with Morrisons, it's the UK's fourth largest food retailer with 476 stores and their business is mainly food and groceries - bascially the weekly shop.  Unlike some other supermarket chains, they source and process most of the fresh food that they sell though their own manufacturing facilities.  They also only sell 100% British fresh beef, lamb, pork and poultry.

It was a fab event, we were able to chat to representatives from Morrisons, a chef who works at their Head Office creating delicious recipes for customers to try and also Sarah Willingham, a very lovely and glamourous money saving guru who has 4 children under 5 - so she knows what it's like to be a busy Mum. 

We were able to get stuck in and cook some of the great recipes that Morrisons have devised to help families eat well and save money at the same time.  There's no excuse not to be able to create simple meals that are tasty, nutritious and kind on the wallet.  Find the recipes and more information about the M Savers range at www.morrisons.co.uk/msavers.


We all got to make one recipe each and then taste them all, they were delicious!
 
Here's one of the recipes that was cooked, and taste tested, at the event:
 
Spagetti and Meatballs - Cost of 4 large portions £2.32
 
This dish was delicious and would feed at least 5 people generously! It fed 5 bloggers generously and we are a rather hungry bunch LOL
 
400g of minced beef (from an 800g pack) £1.20
350g onions 30p
100g fresh breadcrumbs 10p
5g dried mixed herbs 19p
1 tin tomatoes 38p
1 pack spaghetti 350g for 15p

Finely dice the onion and fry half in a pan with a little oil until soft. Add 3g of the dried herbs and set aside to cool.

In a separate pan, fry the remaining onion and dried herbs in a little oil for five minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for five minutes.

Mix the cooled onion with the minced beef and breadcrumbs and form into small balls. Fry the meatballs in a pan over a moderate heat until browned all over. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for five minutes.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, drain well and serve topped with the meatballs in tomato sauce.

Photo courtesy of Morrisons

Sarah Willingham, money saving guru who attended the event, has some top tips for people shopping with their food spend in mind, her top tips are:

• Make sure you always go armed with a shopping list. Don’t be tempted to buy things 'on offer' that you simply won't use or don't need.

• Don't forget to look up and down when browsing the aisles so you can get a clear picture of all product options – don’t just go for the nearest product at eye level.

• Never go shopping on an empty stomach! Sounds obvious but many of us do and you end up buying more, or purchasing things that you don’t need.

• Be aware of the supermarket layout: offers are often to be had at the end of the aisles, but sometimes you can seek out bargains elsewhere. And don’t be tempted by impulse buys at the checkout!

So pop along to Morrisons and check out the MSavers range and the fab recipe cards instore.  You can also find Morrisons on Facebook.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Our Family Meal Plan for this week 27/02 - £60

I’m a rather weary Meal Planner this week. Yes dear readers, there are times when even I get rather tired of the seemingly relentless task of cooking for our family. I am sure every domestic god or goddess and clever culinary cutie (not that I am either of these) has times when they just can’t be bothered.

It took me a couple of days to sort out this meal plan when it usually takes me either an afternoon or an evening. Motivation, patience, energy and creativity were all in very short supply so please bear with me if this plan is not particularly exciting or as frugal as usual.

In spite of being rather jaded this week, I will not only be baking our own bread, I shall be baking English Muffins and Bagels. Nothing like extra work and baking challenges to get my Meal Planning and cooking mojo back. Yeah right! LOL

This weeks Meal Plan is slightly less expensive despite the fact we’re having friends around for Saturday lunch and also on a Friday after school I look after 3 delightful girls (who are friends with my girls) and have also allowed for extra baking and snacks then too.

The cost of the 44 items on this weeks Shopping List was £60.09 at Asda when I ordered online yesterday (Friday 24/02).  As always I used My Supermarket to compare the cost of my shop and it would've cost £66.69 at Tesco and £75.27 at Sainsbury's.

Dinners

Bean and Veg Burgers with Wedges – Meatfree Monday

This recipe is from the Morrisons M-Savers event that I attended in London last Tuesday. I shall be blogging about the event, and more of the recipes, later on in the week.

1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, finely diced
1 pepper, finely diced
1 tsp chilli powder
100g fresh breadcrumbs
about 500g potatoes, for the wedges

Sauté the onion and pepper in a little oil for a couple of minutes until it softens then leave to cool for a bit. Mash the kidney beans with a potato masher, leave it a little lumpy – not too smooth. Add the cooled sautéed pepper and onion along with the breadcrumbs to the kidney beans and mix everything together thoroughly. Shape into 5 burgers and fry in a little oil for a couple of minutes on each side, until they’re golden brown. Then put them in the oven at 180C for about 10 minutes until completely cooked through.

Wash the potatoes and cut them into wedges, not too thick. Put a little oil on your hands and rub the wedges so that they get lightly coated in the oil. To cook the wedges, bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180C.

Serve the burgers in buns with tomato, lettuce and mayo. I sometimes sprinkle a little paprika and/or chilli powder over the wedges to give them a little more flavour.

Photo courtesy of Morrisons

Baked Fish with White Beans - Tuesday

2 tsp olive oil
2 large leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
30ml water
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 handful each of frozen sweetcorn and peas
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 thick white fish fillets
1 lemon, washed and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 200°C. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Transfer to a shallow ovenproof baking dish.

Add the tin of tomatoes, drained tin of cannellini beans, frozen corn and peas to the baking dish. Stir to combine everything. Arrange the sprigs of thyme and fish fillets on top of the vegetables. Put the slices of lemon on top of the fish and sprinkle over some freshly ground pepper. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Remove the thyme sprigs before you serve the dish.



Mushroom and Bacon Risotto - Wednesday

1.5 litres vegetable stock
1 Tblsp olive oil
1onion, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 pepper, finely diced
300g mushrooms, sliced
200g bacon, rind removed and chopped finely
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Handful or 2 of frozen peas

Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it simmering until you need to use it.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the onion, pepper, garlic, mushrooms and bacon. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes until the onion and pepper has softened and the mushrooms and bacon are cooked. Add the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes to coat with oil.

Add some hot stock, about a cup at a time. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent the rice sticking to the pan as it absorbs the liquid. Continue adding more stock, stirring occasionally, until it has all been absorbed. After about 20 minutes or so the rice will be cooked and creamy. If not, add more stock and continue the stirring and heating process until the rice is cooked. Add a handful of frozen peas and cook for a couple of minutes to heat them through then serve the risotto.


Quick Fish Chowder - Thursday

1 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 pepper, diced
100g bacon, rind removed and finely diced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, washed and cut in 1cm cubes
1 carrot, scrubbed then finely diced
625ml cups milk
1 tsp garlic salt
1 handful frozen corn
500g fish fillets, cubed
1 Tblsp chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill
1 Tblsp cornflour
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook until they soften. Add the bacon, celery, potatoes and carrot to the pan and cook, stirring frequently to stop them browning, for about 5 minutes.

Add 500ml of milk and the garlic salt to the pan. Bring to a simmer and then simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potato is just tender. Add the fish,corn and dill.

Mix the remaining milk with the cornflour and add to the pot. Bring the chowder to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 7 - 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.

Season to taste with salt and pepper then ladle into large bowls. Serve with crusty bread rolls.




Meatloaf – Friday

This isn't one of those meatloaves that look and taste like a brick. It's moist and flavoursome, you can serve it hot or cold with salads or cooked vegetables, and it’s fab in packed lunches the next day. I cheat by using supermarket or butchers sausages that are already flavoured. You can get some great ones that are around 95% meat so not full of loads of undesirable ingredients to fill them out.

2 garlic cloves, crushed
450g beef mince
400g sausage meat (I use flavoured sausages with 95% meat)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

If you're not using flavoured sausages then add:
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 handful chopped fresh parsley

Topping
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 Tblsp light soft brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup tomato sauce/ketchup

Preheat oven to 190°C/170°C fan-forced. Grease a 7cm deep, 10cm x 22cm (base) loaf tin.

Put the garlic, mince, sausage meat, egg, onion, grated carrot and any herbs or flavourings you want to use, into a large bowl. Thoroughly combine everything using your hands to really squish it all together to that it's really well blended. Press the mixture firmly into the loaf tin and level the top. Combine the topping ingredients and then spread it evenly over the meatloaf. Cover with foil then bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes or until juices run clear when you test it with  skewer. I usually serve this with cooked mixed vegetables and mashed potato.


Nan’s Sausage Casserole - Saturday

400g good quality sausages
1 tsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely sliced
3 apples, peeled and diced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
250 ml beef stock
1 tsp cornflour

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Slice the sausages into 1 inch/ 2.5cm chunks. Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the onions, garlic and sausages. Mix the beef stock and cornflour together.

Put the browned sausages, onion, garlic, carrots, apples, tinned tomatoes and herbs in an ovenproof dish. Pour the stock over and mix everything together well. Cover the dish with a lid or kitchen foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. I usually serve this with mashed potato and cooked mixed vegetables.


Family Sized Mince Pie - Sunday

450 g beef mince
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
1 Tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tblsp mustard
2 Tblsp tomato paste
1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
300ml beef stock
Handful each of frozen peas and corn
1 sheet puff pastry

Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying-pan that has a lid. Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the vegetables and herbs and fry until they are just starting to soften.

Add the mince and brown it whilst breaking it up. Once the mince has browned and no pink patches remain, add the mustard, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and a few grinds of black pepper.

Add the beef stock and allow the mince to simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Add the frozen peas and corn and simmer for a further 5 minutes. You may need to add a little extra water. Stir the mince occasionally. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the pie filling into an ovenproof dish and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180 °C.

Lay the pastry over the pie filling, crimp the edges, and make little cuts with a sharp knife to let steam escape during cooking. Brush the pastry with a little milk to glaze it and then bake the pie for around 30–40 minutes until the pastry is golden. I usually serve this with mashed potatoes.


Lunches

Adults lunches will probably be leftovers, as usual.  Our 3 daughters are back on packed lunches and will be having falafels with yoghurt dip and crudites or vegetable fritters.  All lunches will have an apple and/or mandarin and either a cookie, muffin or tart for afters.

Falafels with Yoghurt Dip

I was given this recipe by one of the of the Mums at school and it's now a firm favourite in our house. The falafel can be eaten as a lunch in a wrap with salad, taken on a picnic or served as a weeknight dinner with couscous and salad leaves. The falafels can be frozen for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Great for make-ahead lunchbox treats or emergency dinners.

2 (400g) tins of chick peas
1 onion, very finely chopped or grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
4-6 Tblsp plain flour
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Put the chickpeas in a bowl with the very finely chopped onion, crushed garlic gloves, cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper. Use a potato masher or pestle and mortar to lightly mash the mixture until it begins to stick together. You can quickly pulse it in a food processor but don't be too over enthusiastic, you don't want a mushy puree.

Take walnut-sized blobs of mixture and and shape them into small flat rounds about 1/2 and inch thick. Roll the falafel in the flour ensuring they are well coated. Chill them for 15-30 minutes, this makes them much easier to work with. Heat some oil, about 1 inch deep, in a frying pan. When it's hot add a few falafels and cook over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, turning them frequently. Carefully take them out of the oil and drain well on kitchen paper.

To use the falafels from frozen: Put them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and warm in the oven at 180°C/(350°F)/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.

Serve with a dip and crudités, in a wrap with salad leaves, or as a dinner/lunch with couscous salad.


Yoghurt Dip with Mint and Cucumber

150ml natural yoghurt
2 Tblsp mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon
1 small or 1/2 a large cucumber, thickly grated then drained on kitchen roll
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves
Pinch of salt

Put the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lime/lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together well with a fork. Add the drained cucumber, garlic and chopped fresh mint leaves. Mix together well and, if you think it needs it, add a pinch of salt.

Cover the dip with clingfilm and leave in it the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle before you serve it.

Vegetable Fritters

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup self-raising flour
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
400g can corn kernels, drained
1 carrot, scrubbed and grated
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, basil
oil to grease frying pan

Put the eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Sift flour into egg mixture, whisking well to remove any lumps.

Add chickpeas, vegetables and herbs. Mix until well combined.  Spray a large frying pan with oil and put onto a medium heat. Scoop ¼-cupfuls of batter into the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. Repeat with the remaining batter to make approximately 12 fritters. Serve hot or cold.


Vegetable Pasta Bake – Saturday Lunch

500g pasta
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 pepper, diced
1 courgette, diced
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
1x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 ball mozzarella cheese

Chop all the vegetables into a 1cm dice and sauté them in a little oil until they start to soften. Add the tin of tomatoes and dried mixed herbs. Let the sauce simmer whilst you cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

Drain the pasta and mix thoroughly with the sauce before putting into an ovenproof dish. Chop or rip the mozzarella into small pieces and scatter it all over the top of the pasta. Bake at 180C for about 15 – 20 minutes.


Breakfasts

Breakfasts will be toasted muffins or bagels with spread and a banana for afters or porridge with sultanas and chopped banana.  The muffins and bagels will be baked throughout the week and stored or frozen until needed.

English Muffins

25g butter
180ml boiling water
125ml milk
1 Tbsp instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
350-420g plain flour
1 tsp salt

Measure the butter into a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the butter, then add the cold milk. Sprinkle over the yeast and sugar then stir until the yeast has dissolved. Leave this mixture to stand in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until the surface bubbles. Add 350g of flour and 1 tsp of salt and beat to mix thoroughly. Leave to stand in a warm place until the dough mixture doubles in size. This should take about 30 minutes.

Stir the mixture until it returns to its original size, then turn the mixture onto a well floured board. Add just enough extra flour so you can work with the dough without it sticking. Keeping the dough very soft, adding as little flour as possible. Cut the dough into eight pieces and roll them into balls. Put each ball of dough onto it’s own piece of greased non-stick cooking paper or lightly oiled clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 15 20 minutes, until light and puffy.

Carefully put the muffins, paper side up and top side down, into a frying pan on a moderate heat and lift off the clingfilm or paper. Cook the muffins for about 2 minutes, then carefully turn over. Cook the second side for 5-7 minutes, turn again and cook for a further 5 minutes. This bit is a little faffy but makes sure the muffins have even sized cooked surfaces which makes them easier to toast later on.

Put the cooked muffins on to a rack to cool completely and then store them in the fridge or freeze them for later.

Before you eat the muffins, brown each side under the grill then split them and eat them hot with your favourite sweet or savoury topping. Alternatively, split the muffins, then brown them in a toaster.


Bagels

3 tsp instant yeast
310ml lukewarm water
2 Tbsp honey
1½ tsp salt
1 cup wholemeal bread flour
2 cups white bread flour

Measure the first five ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave for 15 minutes or longer in a warm place.

Stir in the white bread flour, then add extra flour or water if necessary, until you have a dough just firm enough to knead.

Knead the dough thoroughly, using the dough hook of an electric mixer or kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, until you have a soft dough which is smooth and springs back when pressed gently.

Turn the dough in 2-3 teaspoons of oil in bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for a minute or two then cut it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a snake 26cm-28cm long. Dampen the ends with water and press them together firmly, forming the classic bagel shape. Place the rings on individual squares of baking paper and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes.

During the proving time bring a large pan containing water 10cm deep to a simmer. Carefully lower 2 or 3 bagels at a time into the boiling water, then lift away the paper, and cook for 30-45 seconds per side, turning carefully once. Drain the bagels on kitchen towels then put them on a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper – make sure you leave some space for them to spread.

Brush as far down the sides of the bagels as you can with egg glaze (mix 1free range egg with 1Tbsp water and ½ tsp sugar) and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

Bake at 220C for 10 -12 minutes until they’re evenly browned. Cool on a rack and serve warm or toasted, within 24 hours of making them. You can freeze the bagels in an airtight container once they’re cold.

Cinnamon and Dried Fruit Bagels

Measure the bagel ingredients (from the plain bagel recipe) into a mixing bowl and add ½ cup packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon and mixed spice, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Mix and knead the same as the plain bagel recipe. Knead until smooth and then knead through the fruit.



Treats

Sweet Tarts

For the pastry:

225g plain flour
115g butter
1 tsp white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 – 2 Tblsp cold water

Sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and then use a knife to mix in the egg yolk. Add the water, a little at a time, stirring it together with a knife until the mixture comes together into and you can form a ball of dough with your hands.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. This allows the pastry to rest and makes it much easier to work with and roll out.

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Dust the work surface and rolling pin with plain flour and roll out the pastry to about the thickness of a £1 coin. Using a small round cutter, cut circles of pastry big enough to line the holes of a mini muffin tin.

Re-roll any trimmings and cut out more circles of pastry until it has all been used. Bake the mini tart cases for about 5 – 7 minutes until they are a pale golden colour. Fill with jam or lemon curd and bake for another 5 minutes or so.

Remove from the oven and leave them to cool in the tin for a few minutes before carefully removing them from the tin to finish cooling completely on a wire rack.


Energy Boost Muffins

2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup grated unpeeled apple
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line each hole of a 12 muffin tin with a paper case.

Stir all the ingredients together, until just combines. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and bake 15 – 20 minutes until well risen, and golden brown. Cool the muffins in the tin for 2 – 3 minutes in the muffin tins before gently transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.


Sultana and Oat Biscuits

1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
125g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups rolled oats
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 cup sultanas or raisins

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Beat the sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla together until creamy with a mixer or by hand. Mix in the rolled oats and flour. Gently mix in the sultanas or raisins.

Put teaspoonfuls of mixture on to the lined baking tray, leaving room between the biscuits for them to spread. Flatten the biscuits a little with a floured fork. Bake the biscuits for 20 – 25 minutes until they are golden brown. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack and store them in an airtight container.


Apple and Sultana Scrolls


Lemon Drizzle Cake or Plain Sponge Loaf

This is one of my husbands favourites and about the only cake he'll eat that isn't chocolate cake LOL It is so quick and easy to whizz up in my mixer. I call it my 2, 2, 2, 3 lemon cake because that's how I remember the recipe. If you don't want to make a lemon drizzle cake, or don't have any lemons, then all is not lost! Just leave out the zest and don't make the drizzle. This loaf cake tastes fab plain, either dusted with icing sugar or with some buttercream icing. Give it a whirl!

200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
200g self raising flour
3 free range eggs
finely grated zest of 1 lemon, give it a good wash first to get rid of any wax/grease

Lemon Drizzle:

Juice of the zested lemon
about 50g of sugar, add 5g more if you used a rather large lemon

Preheat your oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Line a loaf tin with non stick baking paper or one of the precut liners you can buy. My loaf tin is 22cm x 11cm.

I usually have my Kenwood Mixer on minimum speed then on 1 speed at the most. You don't want to beat the mixture too roughly.

Cream the butter and sugar then add the lemon zest and give it a beat for another minute. Add the eggs one at a time with about 1/3 of the flour each time, beat for a bout 1 minute or so for each egg and flour addition.

Scrape down the sides of the mixer and beat for another 30 seconds or so. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about 40 minutes. Test the cake with a skewer inserted into the centre. If the skewer comes out clean then the cake is cooked. If not, I turn the oven heat down 10C and put it back in for 5 minutes before checking again with a skewer.

Once the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and make the lemon drizzle.

Mix the lemon juice and sugar together until they are well combined but don't dissolve the sugar. Prick the cake all over with the cake tester skewer and slowly spoon over the lemon drizzle.

Leave to cool in the in for about 30 minutes then cool on a wire rack, right side up of course.


Shopping List

43 items cost £60.09 from Asda on 24/02/12.

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 99p
1x ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 60p
2x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Arborio Risotto Rice (500g) 99p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 30p
1x ASDA Ready Rolled Puff Pastry (375g) £1.25
1x ASDA Wholefoods Bread Brown Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10

Tins, Jars and Cooking
4x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 33p
1x ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g) 58p
1x ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g) 18p
1x ASDA Good for you! Mayonnaise (250ml) 48p
5x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 70p

Dairy and Eggs
4x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £1.18 any 2 FOR £2.00
2x ASDA Smartprice Salted Butter (250g) £1.19
1x ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g) 55p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mozzarella (125g) 44p
1x ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15) £2.00 was £2.50

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
1x ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) 10p
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) 6.8p
20 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 8p
5 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) 19p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.29
7 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 7.6p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.35 any 2 FOR £2.00
5 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) 19.9p
1x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.00
1x ASDA Round Lettuce 57p
1x ASDA Celery 89p
1x ASDA Trimmed Leeks (500g) £1.00
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 30p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.57
1x ASDA Spring Onions 70p
1x ASDA Mandarins (700g) £1.25 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Unwaxed Lemons (5) £1.37 any 2 FOR £2.00

Frozen
1x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (907g) 94p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peas (1Kg) 93p
1x ASDA Pollock Fillets (1Kg) £4.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x ASDA Extra Special Pork and Leek Sausages (6 per pack - 454g) £2.68 any 2 FOR £4.00
2x ASDA Smartprice Smoked Back Bacon (312g) £1.63
1x ASDA British Beef Mince (900g) £3.75

Friday, 24 February 2012

Feeding your family in the car

**This is a guest post**

Travelling in the car with children can be a nightmare, but there is little doubt that having hungry children makes the whole situation much worse. If you get a chance to stop on the way to eat then that’s great, but getting them to eat a healthy meal on the move is a challenge most parents dread.

If you don’t want to end up with hyperactive children, tomato sauce smeared all over the interior of the car, or two week old cheese under the car mats, take a look at our list of tips.

Food ideas

Dips, sauces or anything that can be smeared is generally a no-no, unless you are willing to clean your car interior afterwards. Try and go for ‘finger food’, such as sausages, chicken sticks, chunks of cheese, sticks of carrot or celery – anything that doesn’t need a knife and fork and that isn’t messy. This doesn’t need to be unhealthy, processed food which will only make them hyperactive or ill – a little basic preparation can result in some scrumptious home-made finger food that you’ll all enjoy.

Crackers and oatcakes make a great alternative to crisps, and several places sell them individually wrapped in crisp-type packets. Plain old digestives are also relatively low in sugar and can be used as a treat alternative to chocolate – but provide a plastic plate to catch any crumbs!

Fruit can be great to pick at along the way, and you can cut it up and stick it in a plastic box in advance to avoid any mess. Apple slices, clementine segments and grapes are all healthy, tasty and relatively mess-free.

If you haven’t got time to prepare a fruit salad, dried fruit can be a good alternative. Raisins, banana slices and dried apricots are all sweet, tasty and far healthier than sweets. Put some in resealable bags for a great sweet alternative.

Avoid sugary drinks and go for flavoured water or squash if they dislike plain water. Putting it in a sports bottle with a non-drip lid helps to avoid any soggy accidents.

Many yoghurts and fromage frais now come in ‘pouches’ – perfect for eating on the go! This avoids the need for a spoon, saving on mess and keeping the yoghurt cooler for longer.

If you can get them to sleep then this is surely a godsend, so warm drinks can be handy. Packing hot milk or Horlicks in a thermos is a good option. A tip is to pour it out into a toddler bottle before handing it over. This may seem insulting to your older child, but the handles can make it easier to hold (although you want it to be warm – not hot) and the spout stops any spillage.

Their favourite cereal, without milk, can make for a fun snack. Put some into a Tupperware box before you leave – but reserve it as a special treat, as you don’t want the sugar to make them hyperactive!

Remember:

Don’t feed them large amounts in one go, but ration food out over the course of the journey. This prevents overeating and feeling sick, and also avoids ending up with hyperactive children. It also helps to break up the monotony of the journey.

Travel sickness can be a real pain and many children suffer from it. To avoid this try to steer clear of fatty or spicy foods, and stick to something relatively dry and plain. If you can, avoid feeding them at all until you get there, or just give them enough to keep them going.

Keeping your family fed whilst on the road can make for a smoother journey, and so can having the right car insurance cover.


**This is a guest post by Sainsbury's Finance**

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Foodcycle - A fun and tasty way to cut food waste

Did you know that . . . .

An estimated 400,000 tonnes of surplus food can be reclaimed each year from the food retailer industry to be made into healthy and nutritious meals. 

There are 4 million people affected by food poverty in the UK. BAPEN estimates that malnutrition costs the NHS £13 billion each and every year.

How does FoodCycle help?

FoodCycle raises awareness of food waste and food poverty by empowering local communities to set up groups of volunteers that collect surplus produce locally and prepare nutritious meals in unused professional kitchen spaces. These delicious meals are then served to those in need in the community.  The food is offered to anyone and everyone who comes along, a £2 donation is welcome from those who can afford it, which is incredibly good value for a 3 course lunch.

There happens to be a FoodCycle in Cambridge so of course I went along one Saturday morning to help out. 

EVERY Saturday at 12.30pm Cambridge FoodCycle serves a tasty 3 course lunch made from reclaimed food surplus at St Pauls Church in Cambridge. The meals are cooked with love by volunteers for people affected by food poverty, and anyone who cares about food waste, who want to come along for a delicious and cheap lunch.

I had such a fab time!  There were 3 huge tables of food for us to prepare and cook.  Caz the leader of the cooking team said that they cannot always take all the food available to them as there is only so much they can carry and cook.  Food is collected on a Friday evening from a local supermarket and other suppliers (thanks Neil) and prepared and cooked the next morning.  There was SO much food that would normally go to waste! This was food from one day of the week, and there was loads more that they couldn't utilise, I can only imagine the massive amount of food from the rest of the week that is normally wasted  as there is seemingly no way for it to be utilised.

It is scandalous that there are people in food poverty and yet there is decent food that is thrown away.  What a huge waste of resources!  I was completely gobsmacked at the amount of delicious food the team was able to produce from the donated food.

Here are some of the dishes that were prepared and served:

Starter: Caramelised Onion and Brussel Sprout Soup

Main Course
The main course was Pasta in a creamy Courgette, Pepper and Mushroom Sauce with Carrots and Parsnips roasted in Clementine Juice and a Root Vegetable Bake with Greens Sauteed in Butter and with Garlic.

Banana Cake

Roasted Clementines drizzled with Golden Syrup
There was also an enormous bowl of Cherry Tomato, Pepper and Lettuce Salad, enough for at least 60 people to have as a Main Course and an Apple and Plum Crumble that was prepared as well as a vast quantity of fresh Fruit Salad.  All from food that would normally be thrown away!

I cannot recommend volunteering for your local FoodCycle highly enough.  It was such a fab experience! Now don't panic if your culinary skills aren't the best.  It's a very supportive team and if you can chop and peel, that's half the battle won LOL There's one team that does the cooking and a second team to help serve, clear away and wash the dishes afterwards.  It's very well organised and relies on volunteers to help with each stage of the process.


If you live near Cambridge and want to help out at St Pauls on a Saturday morning then you can find Cambridge FoodCycle on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Choose Free Range Eggs on Pancake Day and Every Day!

I'm a great fan of chooks.  They are so cute and they lay delicious eggs for us to eat and bake with, what's not to like?! We had a pet rooster and hen in NZ, they were loads of fun and we loved them a lot.

I always buy free range eggs.  I know that they are sometimes more expensive but I prefer to buy free range eggs knowing that the hens laying eggs for us to eat have a happy life doing what chooks like to do, pottering and flapping about, scratching away at the ground and exploring, just being generally lovely and chook-like. LOL

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day.  Most people will be buying eggs for their pancakes and the RSPCA, and I, are encouraging you to look for eggs labelled Freedom Food, Free Range, Organic or Barn.  I'm personally not a fan of Barn eggs, but they're cage free so better than caged, but I personally prefer free range.

This is really important because some eggs still come from hens kept in cages which don't allow hens to move around freely or carry out all their natural behaviours properly.

Barren ‘conventional’ battery cages have been banned in the EU but so-called ‘enriched’ battery cages are still allowed.


Enriched battery cages give hens a nesting, scratching and perching area and a little more usable space, but shockingly this still amounts to little more than an A4 sheet of paper sized space per bird.  That is an awfully small amount of space, barely enough to turn around let alone flap their wings a bit.


This is why the RSPCA and I think it’s so important to check that you’re buying cage-free eggs.  Yes I am harping and nagging, but it's something I feel passionate about. I'm very fond of chooks!

And consumers need to  be on their guard.  It’s not just boxes of eggs that might be from caged hens, oh no, they’re also used as an ingredient in products such as pancake batter mixes, ready-made pancakes, cake mixes, mayonnaise, ready made cakes and quiches. It’s important to read the ingredients list on ready-made products to check any eggs used in are is cage-free.

It's not that hard to buy premade foods that contain Free Range Eggs instead of caged eggs.  All Marks and Spencer products, all Waitrose, Co-Op and Sainsbury's own brand products, Tesco ‘Finest’ range, Asda ‘Extra Special’ range and Morrisons 'The Best' range all contain only Free Range eggs.

Apparently, Free Range Eggs are starting to outsell caged eggs for the first time.  This is great news.  It means people are voting with their wallets to buy eggs laid by hens who are kept under better conditions.  If consumers continue shopping wisely and choosing not to buy caged eggs then they will eventually disappear due to lack of demand.  That would be a brilliant result!

If you would like more information about the RSPCA’s campaign and how to spot cage-free versus Free Range eggs check out their website.  The RSPCA have also produced a poster, as illustrated below to help interpret and decipher labelling to make sure you're buying non-caged eggs.  If you would like one of your own click here.





Friday, 17 February 2012

Our Family Meal Plan for this week 20/02 - £50

I've got a busy week ahead this week. My cake decorating course starts back on Monday so for the next 5 Mondays I will need a low faff dinner because I’ll be knackered. I’m in London on Tuesday evening at an event so hubby will need something that can be reheated as he doesn’t usually cook and his skills in the kitchen are pretty minimal.

I’m also in London again on Wednesday and may or may not be home in time to cook dinner. That’s 3 nights this week where we will need low faff meals. I’ve also decided that our girls will have school dinners this week so have reduced the Shopping List accordingly to cover the cost of school dinners.

The cost of the 36 items on this weeks Shopping List was £49.92 at Asda when I ordered online today (Friday 17/03).  As always I used My Supermarket to compare the cost of my shop and it would've cost £64.50 at Sainsburys and £65.55 at Tesco

As usual I will be baking all of our bread, rolls, bagels, etc.  Even though I will be out of the house 3 days in a row I can still bake what we need and freeze it for later in the week.


Dinners

Slow Cooker Beef Casserole – Monday and Tuesday

This is a fab, low faff warming stew that is cooked in a slow cooker. It makes enough to serve us 5 generously for 2 nights. Great for nights when I need a dinner that is guaranteed to be eaten without fuss. This casserole is perfect for that. It tastes even better the second night. Sometimes I freeze the other portion but more often than not I just serve it the next night with different vegetables on the side. You can add other chopped root vegetables to the casseroles if you want, such as potatoes, parsnip. pumpkin, sweet potato, etc.

1kg beef braising/stewing steak cut into chunks

1 tsp ground ginger

1 onion, sliced

2 sticks of celery, finely sliced

2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

2 x 400g cans of kidney beans, drained and well rinsed

2 peppers, roughly diced (any colour will do)

3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks

2 bay leaves

2 Tblsp brown sugar

2 Tblsp red wine vinegar

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

If you have time, brown the meat in a non-stick pan, use a little oil if necessary.

Put the beef and everything else in the slow cooker. Stir well and cook for 7-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the casserole needs thickening, stir 2 Tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with 2 Tbsp water into it. Serve with mash and greens or mixed vegetables.




Hotdogs and Salad – Wednesday

Cook 5 good quality pork sausages and serve each sausage in a wholemeal bun topped with homemade tomato salsa accompanied by a side salad.

Vegetable Bake - Thursday

3 cups seasonal vegetables (I used finely chopped onion, pepper and mushrooms, grated carrot and courgette)
1 handful grated tasty cheese
4 eggs
150ml milk
½ cup self raising flour or ½ cup plain flour and ½ tsp baking powder
freshly ground black pepper

If you don’t have self raising flour, use standard flour with ½ tsp of baking powder added. Cut a selection of vegetables in to small chunks or grate them. Put them in a well greased or lined 20 x 25cm baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables.

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together then sprinkle in the self raising flour. Mix well to make sure there are no lumps. Pour the beaten egg over the vegetables. Bake at 200C for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the egg has set. Serve with your favourite chutney or relish and a side salad.


Homemade Pizza - Friday

2 cups wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 tablespoons butter

125ml milk

2 Tblsp tomato paste mixed with 4 Tblsp water

2 cups toppings (we usually use onion, pepper, courgette, mushrooms and sometimes sweetcorn)

1 handful grated cheese

Sieve flour and baking powder. Rub butter into the flour until the mixture is like coarse breadcrumbs.

Add the milk and mix until a stiff dough forms (add more flour or milk if necessary). Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly.

Roll out into a circle or rectangle transfer to a greased oven tray.

Scatter over your choice of toppings. Sprinkle over some grated cheese.

Cook at 200ºC for 20 minutes.



Sausages, Potato Wedges and Mixed Vegetables - Saturday

1kg potatoes,cut into wedges
6 pork sausages
400g frozen mixed vegetables

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 6. Spread the wedge out on a non-stick baking tray, in a single layer. Drizzle the potato wedges with some olive oil and season. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until brown and crisp.

Put the sausages in a baking dish and cook in the oven for last 20 minutes of wedges cooking time. Served with cooked mixed vegetables.


Slow Cooker Vege Stew - Sunday

2 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pepper, diced
1 Tblsp oil
2 tsp cumin
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
500ml tomato passata
2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled and finely sliced
1 small sweet potato, cut into small dice
2 tsp dried oregano
250ml red wine
500ml vegetable stock

Soften the onions, pepper and garlic in a little oil then stir in the cumin and cook for about a minute until fragrant. Put in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients. Stir well. Cook on low for 3 hours. Season to taste before serving with crusty bread.


Lunches and Treats

With no kids lunches to make this week adult lunches will be Savoury Swirls with a couple of pieces of fruit and some vege sticks. Low faff, tasty and moderately healthy too.

Versatile Savoury Scone Swirls

Hokey Pokey Biscuits

These are a kiwi classic! Great biscuit tin fillers that always go down well. Perfect for lunchbox treats, coffee mornings and when friends come around for a cuppa.

125g butter
½ cup sugar
1 Tblsp golden syrup
1 Tblsp milk
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan stirring constantly. Heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is nearly boiling.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.

Sift the flour and the baking soda together and add them to the cooled mixture. Stir the ingredients well to make sure they are thoroughly combined.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and put them on an oven tray lined with non-stick baking paper, then flatten the balls gently with a floured fork.

Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Cool on the trays and then once they have cooled completely, store in an airtight container.



Paul Hollywood’s Iced Fingers



Store Cupboard Soup - Saturday

This is a really useful recipe when your cupboards and fridge are nearly bare and money is tight. I can usually find all the ingredients to make it in my pantry or they can be bought really cheaply from the supermarket. It's a filling lunch or dinner that is really easy to prepare and can be on the table within 15 minutes.

½ Tbsp oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
1 tin (425g) beans, drained (e.g. mixed beans, butter beans, haricot beans or chickpeas)
1 large tin (400g) sweetcorn, drained or 2 handfuls frozen mixed vegetables
4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)
1 pepper, diced (red, orange or yellow)

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and sweat the onions until soft and transparent. Add the diced pepper and mushrooms and cook gently until softened.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, drained tin of mixed beans and sweetcorn or a couple of handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables. Cook for another 5 - 10 minutes until everything is well heated through then serve.

I usually serve this with bread rolls or baked potatoes. You could also serve this over thick wholemeal toast, cooked rice, cooked pasta or baked sweet potatoes/potatoes.

Salmon Patties - Sunday

500g baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 courgette, grated
1 carrot, grated
425g can salmon in spring water, drained
olive oil spray
salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 220 C. Put  the prepared potatoes into a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until soft then drain and mash.

Add the grated courgette and carrot, drained salmon and salt and pepper to the mashed potato and mix until well combined.  Form into small patties, spray with oil and bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Serve with salad.

Any leftover patties can be bagged up and frozen for later use. They also taste great on sandwiches with tomato chutney.
Breakfasts

Weekday breakfasts will be cereal with milk and chopped banana or toast with spread and a banana.

Fruit Bread – Weekend Breakfasts

2 tsp mixed spice
3 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp instant dried yeast
1/4 cup sugar
375ml (1 1/2 cups) warm water
2 cups of mixed dried fruit
1 Tblsp milk
1 Tblsp each cinnamon and sugar mixed together

Sift mixed spice and 3 cups flour into a bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar. Make a well in the centre. Add water then mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Add remaining flour. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. I use my stand mixer to knead my bread if I'm not in the mood to knead it by hand.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. I leave my dough in the stand mixer, with the plastic shield on it the dough proves quite happily. Grease a 6cm-deep, 9cm x 19cm loaf tin.

Using your fist, punch the dough down. Knead until smooth. I just knead the dough a little in my stand mixer. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Gradually knead in the dried fruit. Again, I just use my stand mixer. Shape then put in to the prepared loaf tin. Cover with lightly greased cling film and set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes or until the dough rises to the top of the tin.

Meanwhile, your preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Once the dough has risen, brush the top of it with milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 170°C/150°C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and hollow when tapped on top. Stand in tin for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve with butter and jam.



Shopping List

Cost of 36 items = £49.92 from Asda online, ordered on 17/02.

Packets and Cereals
2x ASDA Wheat Bisks (24x18g) £1.00 was £1.24
2x ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 60p
1x ASDA Wholemeal Plain Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA East Bake Yeast (42g) 64p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £1.57
5x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 42p
2x ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g) 18p
1x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g) 37p
2x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 70p
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p
1x ASDA Mexican Style Bean Mix in Water (400g) 53p
1x ASDA Passata (500g) 38p

Frozen
1x ASDA Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £1.18

Dairy and Eggs
1x ASDA Fresh Whipping Cream (300ml) £1.08
4x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £1.18 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Smartprice Salted Butter (250g) £1.19
1x The Lake District Cheese Co. Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00 was £3.98
1x ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15) £2.00 was £2.50

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Fruit (500g) 64p
1x ASDA Conference Pears (800g) £1.00 was £1.60
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) 6.8p
10 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 8p
5 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) 16p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.29
7 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 7.6p
2 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) 12.8p
1x ASDA Celery 83p
1x ASDA Cherry Tomatoes (400g) £1.00
1x ASDA Baking Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.75
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.57
1x ASDA Great Stuff Satsumas (500g) £1.00 was £1.30

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g) £2.68 any 2 FOR £4.00
2x ASDA British Beef Stewing Steak (571g) £4.00 any 2 FOR £7.00

Drinks
1x La Comida Red Wine (250ml) £1.47 any 3 FOR £4.00

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Carrot and Coriander Soup - Sort of

We have been the house of lurgy this week and sore throats are making eating an uncomfortable process.  Therefore I decided to make soup for lunch today.  My 3 girls are at that delightful stage where they are feeling a little better but not well enough to go out and do things.  You know the stage where they delight in torturing each other and find new and inventive ways to wind each other up? Yup, that stage! GRRRRRR!

So as an antidote to all the whinging and bickering I got them to help make the soup.  They could exercise their frustrations on vegetables instead of each other. LOL

The recipe for Carrot and Coriander Soup in our Meal Plan this week was as follows:

1 large onion, diced
1 large sweet potato or potato
500g carrots
1 Tblsp ground coriander
400ml milk
1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in 400ml boiling water
1 Tblsp vegetable oil
Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Peel and chop the sweet potato and carrots into smallish chunks. Saute the onion in the oil for a couple of minutes until it’s softened. Add the ground coriander and stir for 1 more minute. Put the carrots and sweet potatoes into the saucepan and add the stock and milk.

Bring everything to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. When the vegetables are tender blend the soup with a stick blender until smooth and then serve with homemade bread rolls.

So how/what did we do?

I substituted the onion for a couple of leeks, added a parsnip but kept the rest of the recipe the same.  My 12yo was in charge of stirring the soup as she admits she likes stirring (ain't that the truth!).  I blended the soup and the end with my trusty stick blender, because I LOVE power tools, especially in the kitchen LOL

Sauteing the vegetables and adding the ground coriander

Simmering the soup

Blending the soup, I love power tools LOL

Our delicious soup!
 Apologies for the quality of the photos, I took them on my phone whilst we were cooking.  The soup freezes well too and, because we made plenty, I will be giving some to a couple of people in our street who will appreciate a free, wholesome meal.

Top Tips for Thrifty Cooking

Love your leftovers

Make leftover rice into rice patties. Combine the leftover rice with fresh herbs, a little grated cheese and an egg to bind everything together. Shape into patties and cook in a moderate pan, or in the oven. I serve these with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce or some relish/chutney and a salad.

You can also use leftover rice in Fried Rice dishes, in fact it is preferable to use leftover rice as it holds its shape better. Steam some frozen mixed vegetables and stir fry with leftover rice and meat until everything is piping hot, add a dash of soy sauce and you’ve got dinner in no time.

Leftover cooked pasta or noodles can be made into a frittata the same as leftover potatoes and other vegetables. To make a frittata, combine pasta/noodles with eggs and add herbs and some leftover roast or deli meat. You can make Mini Frittatas for lunchboxes or a large one for lunch or dinner. Simply mix everything together and then cook in an ovenproof frying pan over a low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes, then transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200°C/ fan 180°C/ gas 6.until it has cooked through and is set. Serve with tasty relish and a big salad.

All those packets of leftover dried pasta that are different shapes can be broken up so they are more or less the same size, cook it and serve with loads of pasta sauce or put it in a minestrone soup.

Use up leftover hard cheese and stale bread by whizzing up in a blender or food processor to make cheesy crumbs. This makes a tasty topping for cottage pies, fish pies or other savoury bakes – as well as a delicious coating for fish or homemade chicken nuggets.

Leftover cooked potato can be used in frittatas, to make homemade gnocchi, fishcakes or bubble & squeak. To make bubble and squeak, fry finely chopped onion and garlic in a pan, add some finely chopped chilli if you like, leftover sausages or a little bacon, add chopped or mashed potatoes and any other leftover vegetables you have, and fresh spinach if you fancy some greens. Cook until it forms a golden crust on the bottom, then serve sliced into wedges with ketchup, chilli sauce or brown sauce and a salad.

You can use leftover meat sauces, casseroles and tomato-based pasta sauces as fillings for pastry parcels, calzone, crepes, and as a delicious topping for baked potatoes.

Leftover sausages can be cut into chunks and added to bean stew, risotto or pasta sauce. Use as a pizza topping, in bubble & squeak, or make mini toads in the hole using muffin tins.

Leftover cooked meat can be added to soups, a risotto, pasta sauce; used as a pizza topping or even as a quiche filling. You can also use cooked meat in quick pasta dishes or pasta bakes.

Leftover cooked vegetables are really versatile. You can add them to pasta sauces, use them as quiche fillings, pizza toppings, or use them to make fritters, a frittata, omelettes or risotto;

Leftover cooked pulses or beans are a great way to bulk out soups or casseroles to make them go further. Whizz them up with spices to make a dip or sandwich spread; or add to a salad for added protein.

For more recipes, ideas and suggestions about how to Love Your Leftovers go to the Love Food Hate Waste website.  It's fab! You can also show your support for them by dowloading code for a sidebar button linking to their site, like I have. 

Make the most of what you buy

Buy a bigger packet of mince, if it is cheaper, and either make a huge batch of simmered mince to use many ways or package the raw mince into small packs and make several dinners out of it such as, meatballs, burger patties, Bolognese sauce, stir fries and many others. Bulk out meatballs and burger patties using breadcrumbs or cooked rice.

Instead of buying chicken breasts for one meal, buy a whole chicken and spread it over several meals. Serve roast chicken with vegetables for the first dinner, then use leftover cooked chicken to make a chicken stir fry, wraps, creamy chicken pasta or chicken and leek pie with either mash or pastry topping. You can also use some leftover cooked chicken with stock (homemade or from stock cubes) to make a delicious soup. Bring the stock to the boil and add finely chopped chilli, ginger, garlic, a dash of soy sauce and either a can of sweetcorn or some frozen mixed vegetables. Then add leftover chicken, heat through before serving in bowls topped with some chopped fresh coriander.

Make sure food is stored correctly and that you keep an eye on what needs using up first, this should cut down on wastage. If you are freezing leftovers, or cooking in bulk to use later, make you package meals properly and that they are clearly dated and labelled, you want to avoid unidentified frozen object issues.

My Must Have Food Staples

In the pantry:

Rice

Use in a risotto or oven-baked pilaf, serve as a side dish with curry, meatballs, chilli, or stew. You can also use rice to make rice pudding.

Pulses and legumes, including baked beans

Pulses and legumes are in the class of vegetables that includes beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. Curries, dhals and stews made with lentils are cheap and healthy. You can also use lentils or beans to bulk out meat dishes and casseroles. Chickpeas can be used to make falafels or hummus, and are great in salads too. Baked beans are a cheap and filling meal on their own or on toast, as a filling for toasted sandwiches or a topping for baked potatoes.

Dried Pasta

Great for quick dinners and lunches, you can add a tin of tomatoes, tin of fish and some fresh herbs to cooked pasta for a super quick dinner. Who doesn’t like Spaghetti Bolognese (meat or vegetable) or Macaroni Cheese? Pasta salads are a great lunchbox filler or weekend lunch and you can flavour them whichever way you like.

Tinned fish

You can use tinned fish as a sandwich filler, in salads, to make fish cakes or fast pasta dishes when you need a quick and low faff dinner, or for fish pie if you need a cheap and filling dinner.

Tinned Tomatoes

There are so many dishes that can be whipped up using tinned tomatoes. You can make soups, pasta sauce, add to stews for extra flavour, mix with herbs and heat to use as a topping for baked potatoes or homemade pizza, the list is almost endless.

Porridge Oats

You can use oats for much more than just porridge and flapjacks. Oats can be added to Bolognese to bulk it out as the oats take on the flavour of the Bolognese and soften so you can’t tell they are in there. Oats can of course be used for fruit crumble toppings or soaked in milk and used to bulk out a meatloaf or meatballs.

Flour and Yeast

If you don’t bake regularly then only buy a small amount of flour as it can go off. I always have cornflour available to bake shortbread and also use as a thickening agent for casseroles. Plain flour can be used to bake cakes, biscuits, scones bread, and make homemade gnocchi. If you have plain flour but need self raising flour, just add 2 tsp of baking powder per cup of plain flour.

Herbs and spices

I always have salt, black pepper, mixed herbs, curry powder, cumin, coriander, chilli flakes/powder, paprika, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, and mixed spice.

In the freezer:

Frozen Mixed Vegetables

These are cheap and so useful to have on hand as a side dish or an easy way to add vegetables to casseroles, pasta bakes, omelettes, frittatas, add to cheese sauce to make vegetable parcels (using puff pastry) or liven up macaroni cheese.

Frozen Berries

I freeze berries that I forage in the summer to use in the winter and you can also buy frozen berries fairly cheaply on offer in the supermarket. I use frozen berries to make smoothies, instant ice-cream (add frozen berries to a little yoghurt and whizz up for an instant dessert), fruit compote to have with crepes, pancakes or to fill puff pastry squares and make turnovers. Add frozen berries when you are cooking porridge to liven it up and add an extra vitamin boost.

Puff Pastry

This is super versatile for both sweet and savoury dishes. You can use puff pastry to top a casserole to transform it into a pie, make leftover casserole into pasties, make vegetable parcels, fruit turnovers, savoury pinwheels for lunchbox snacks, and even a cheats pizza base.


In the fridge:

Eggs

You can use eggs in so many ways besides boiled, poached or fried. Frittatas and omelettes are a brilliant for quick meals and can also make the most of leftovers. Eggs are also used in baking, to make pasta, and of course in homemade custard.

Cheese

Cheese is of course useful as a topping for pasta bakes, pies, tarts and quiches, added to savoury baking and of course is a vital ingredient in Macaroni Cheese. It’s also great as a lunchbox sandwich filling with relish or chutney, in toasted sandwiches or as a topping for baked potatoes.

Milk

Of course milk is useful to drink, make porridge and have with cereal, but it’s also useful when making mash, in baking and to make custard.

Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

If you eat produce that is in season produce it should be cheapest, freshest and tastiest. Combine fresh vegetables with the staples listed above to make soup, curries, frittata, pizza, pasta bakes, quiches, tarts, stews, etc. Use vegetables to make meals go further and increase the ratio of vegetables to meat.

Fresh fruit is the perfect snack and lunchbox staple. You can also use fruit to make smoothies, compote, crumbles, turnovers, and sorbet.

There are also loads of fab money saving ideas in the Thrifty Families Blogging Carnival which is a collaboration between Becky from Baby Budgeting, Jen from The Madhouse and A Thrifty Mum, and Cass from Frugal Family. Jen and Cass also blog at Frugalicious Food.  Pop over to their blogs and check them out.


What are your top tips for thrifty cooking and what ingredients do you always have on hand for a quick meal? Leave a comment and let me know, we can all help each other save money and waste less food.

ActionAid - What they do and how you can help



A little while ago I attended the ActionAid UK Bloggers Tea Party Event.  ActionAid is one of the UK’s largest international development charities helping poor children, families and communities in over 40 of the world’s poorest countries.  I attended the event because I wanted to raise awareness about the fabulous work they do and also encourage those of us who can spare a few pennies to sponsor a child or hold a fundraising event to benefit those in other countries who are much less fortunate than us.

My children get tired of me banging on about how privileged we are, despite not having a lavish lifestyle.  I want to explore ways that I can educate them about how rich and full their lives are compared with others around the world.  There is a brilliant Schools Section on the ActionAid website which will help me to do just that, and I have been nagging everyone who will listen lobbying my daughters school to use the resources as well. 

At the Tea Party I listened to the talks and chatted to other bloggers whilst trying not to cry at the desperate conditions people deal with every day of their lives.  I know there is a point where people get hardened to these images and don't give because they think most of the money is spent on admin and maybe not on those to need it.  We’re much more likely to support a charity if we see where the money is going, and the real individuals it is benefiting.

We listened to a talk by Lynn and Spencer, a couple who don’t blog at all, who sponsor a 13 year old boy called Malafani in Lesotho. They had visited his village in Lesotho and were amazed by the welcome they received from those with so little and how basic facilities actually were.  The villagers offered them a feast and villagers came from miles around to meet Lynn and Spencer.  Their slide show and commentary of the trip they made personalised the whole process of child sponsorship.  Lynn and Spencer also made a 20 minute film which they showed to the primary school class that their daughter teaches.  The village school that Malafani attends is at the top of an enormous hill, it snows there in winter too.  We were shown how far the children have to travel up the steep incline to their school and it is a real hike!  The school, which is only one tiny room,  caters for 90 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  Even though the people in the village had very little, they were being helped to improve facilities using money donated by Lynn and Spencer, along with other ActionAid sponsors, to make their lives better.  ActionAid doesn't decide how the village should spend the money it receives, each village has a meeting and they prioritise their own needs - such as moving a school from the top of a mountain to the bottom. 

If you sponsor a child with ActionAid, the money doesn’t just go to that child, it goes to that child’s community. You receive pictures and letters from that child which show the genuine benefits that your money and ActionAid’s hard work bring to that community.  The "it just goes into a corporate black hole" cop out doesn't stack up when you can see water supplies being established by building wells that will allow gardens to be sewn and harvested, schools to be built and supplied with materials, and the community that you are contributing to improving before your eyes.
 
So what can you do?! You can sponsor a child, get in touch with ActionAid on Twitter, Facebook or via their website.  You could hold a fundraising event, perhaps a morning or afternoon tea, to benefit ActionAid or lobby your childs school to sponsor a school or child elsewhere in the world through ActionAid.

Sadia child sponsorship
Photo courtesy of ActionAid