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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.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Our Family Meal Plan for School Holidays Week 02/04 - £70

This week marks the beginning of the two week Easter school holidays for my 3 girls.  I will be looking after 3 extra children for a couple of days this week and also have friends calling in and we will be visiting other friends.  Of course I never visit anyone without taking baking, it's simply not done!

This weeks Meal Plan is slightly more expensive due to my 3 girls being at home, with some extra friends for a couple of days, and they always seem to eat more in the holidays than during term time.  As usual I shall be baking all our own bread and baked treats. 

Our garden is springing into life so we have some spinach, salad greens and fresh herbs to supplement our groceries from the supermarket.  I've got seedlings in pots on windowsills throughout the house which I shall pot on once the weather properly warms up and they are big enough to stand the temperature fluctuations and predators outside.  I'm sure the chooks next door will be getting their fair share of treats from our garden in the form of predators attacking our plants, Mwahahahaha!

Anyway, our Family Meal Plan for this week cost £70.57 from Asda when I ordered online tonight (30/03).  As usual I used MySupermarket to compare the cost of the equivalent basket of groceries and they would've cost £81.25 at Sainsbury's and £82.47 at Tesco.

Dinners


Ham, Chips and Mixed Vegetables - Monday

I'll be roasting a large gammon joint and we'll have some for dinner and the rest will be used in various recipes for lunches throughout the week. I will, as always, make my own oven baked chips and cook some frozen mixed vegetables to have on the side.


One Pot Mince in a Hurry - Tuesday

450g beef mince
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 pepper, deseeded and diced (any colour will do)
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 Tbsp oil
2 tsp Vegemite (or Marmite)
1 Tbsp flour
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
375ml water
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Cook the onion, pepper, celery and beef mince in the oil in a large saucepan for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and the mince has browned. Break up the mince with a spoon as it browns.

Mix together the Vegemite, flour, tins of tomatoes and water and pour it all over mince. Stir in the sweet potato, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sweet potato is almost cooked. Add the frozen mixed vegetables and stir to mix them through. Cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste then serve with a homemade wholemeal roll to soak up the sauce.


Sausages, Mixed Vegetables and Mash - Wednesday

This is one of the few things my husband can cook without fail. LOL I'm in London on Wednesday and I'm not sure I will be home to cook dinner.  Therefore we are having something fairly straight forward and easy to prepare, just grilled sausages, cooked mixed vegetables and mashed potato. You could make some gravy to have with it if you like but my family like some homemade tomato relish with the sausages for extra flavour.


Macaroni Cheese - Thursday

I make my own cheese sauce from a roux base and add sautéed onion, garlic, pepper and mushrooms for extra flavour. I sometimes add a handful or two of frozen mixed vegetables towards the end of the pasta cooking time to bulk out the meal and add more vegetables to what can sometimes be a slightly stodgy meal.


Vegetable Curry - Friday

500g sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 Tblsp oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 can of coconut milk
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
2 handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables

Put the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic and spices until the onion softens and the spices are fragrant.  Add the coconut milk and chopped sweet potato.  Bring everything to the boil and then lower the heat so the curry can simmer until the sweet potato is only just tender. Add a couple of handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables and simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the vegetables are heated through and the sauce has reduced. Serve with rice and homemade naan breads.


Sausage Casserole - Saturday

1 Tblsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
1 pepper, deseeded and diced (any colour will do)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 300g tin chilli beans
2 Tblsp tomato paste
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Cook the sausages in the oven.  I usually cook mine for about 20 minutes at 190C.  Put a large saucepan onto a medium heat add the oil, onion and garlic.  Cook for couple of minutes and then add the sliced celery and pepper.  Saute for another couple of minutes until the onion and pepper have softened.  Add the chopped tomatoes, chilli beans and tomato paste. Simmer for around 10 minutes, or until the celery is soft.  Cut the sausages into chunks and add them to the pan with the frozen mixed vegetables and heat for 5 - 10 minutes. Serve with rice or mashed potato. I’ll be serving mine with rice.


Meatballs in Tomato Sauce - Sunday

450g beef mince
1 large free range egg
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 large handful each fresh parsley and basil, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika

Tomato sauce:
1 onion, finely diced
1 pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
125ml beef stock
1 tsp of dried rosemary and basil or 2 tsp dried mixed herbs

Make the tomato sauce first. The longer it has to simmer, the better it will taste. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion, pepper and garlic together until onion has softened and is transparent. Add all of the remaining sauce ingredients and bring everything to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down so that the sauce can simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes until it thickens.

While sauce is simmering, thoroughly mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Once everything has been thoroughly combined take 1 Tblsp of mixture and shape into a meatball, continue until all the mixture has been used.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large frying-pan. Brown the meatballs all over and then put them into the sauce to cook for around 15 – 20 minutes until they are properly cooked through.

Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions add the frozen mixed vegetables for the last 5 minutes of pasta cooking time. Serve the meatballs and tomato sauce with spaghetti and mixed vegetables.


Half Term Week Lunches

Lunches will be crudités (cucumber, pepper, carrot and celery sticks) with hummus and a sandwich or the other recipes mentioned below. I’ve made sure we have plenty of fruit available so we can have an orange, apple or pear with lunch.


Homemade Hummus

2 x 425g cans cooked chickpeas
60ml lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 Tblsp tahini paste
1-2 Tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Drain the tinned chickpeas well and then rinse them twice in cold water.  Drain them well once again and then put chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic and tahini into a food processor (or put into a bowl if using a stick blender). Process briefly, add olive oil and seasoning to taste. Mix to a semi soft texture. Cover and keep in the fridge, it keeps for 2 – 3 days.

I usually serve crudités with the hummus as a side dish or a great tummy filler if we are out and about.


Mini Frittatas


Savoury Bread Cases

These tasty morsels are great for kids parties as well as lunches and packed lunches. You can vary the fillings according to your needs and tastes. Tuna or salmon and cream cheese works well. You can serve them hot or cold. I’ve made them using fruit bread and chocolate spread topped with fresh fruit or filled with berry compote with a dollop of mascarpone on the top.

Sliced bread
Oil (for greasing miffin tins)

Grease muffin tins with a little cooking oil. Roll slices of bread slightly to flatten them a little and then line the muffin cases with the bread slices. Bake at 190C for 10 minutes until crisp and lightly golden. Fill with hot filling and serve.

Ham and Sweetcorn Corn Filling

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pepper, finely diced
2 tsp oil
1 (310 g) can creamy sweet corn
2 thick slices of ham
1 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and pepper until the onion has softened and is transparent. Add the tin of creamy sweetcorn. Chop ham into small cubes and add to the frying pan with the fresh parsley. Heat until bubbling. Fill bread cases and serve.

Ham, Cheese and Tomato or Vegemite Cheese and Tomato Toasted Sandwiches


Calzone

You can use whatever filling you like with these versatile bread parcels, just make sure the filling isn't too wet. Leftover Bolognese or casserole/stew from dinner also works well if the sauce is nice and thick. They're great for using up leftover cooked vegetables too, just mix with some diluted tomato paste, a crushed clove of garlic and some grated cheese. I usually double or treble this mixture depending on how many hungry mouths there are to feed.

7g sachet instant dried yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (optional)
2 1/2 Tblsp olive oil
250g thinly-sliced ham (optional)
1 onion, finely diced
1 pepper, finely diced (any colour will do)
100g cheddar cheese, grated
1 small bunch spinach or chard, shredded
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp salt

Combine yeast, salt, sugar and warm water in a bowl or in your mixer. Sift in the flour, then add the dried mixed herbs and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix everything together to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with greased clingfilm. Set the dough aside in a warm place until it doubles in size.

I do the mixing, kneading and proving in my stand mixer. Its loads quicker and I can get on with other things whilst it does the job for me.

Preheat your oven to 220°C. Brush a large baking tray with the remaining oil. Knock the dough back and then knead it gently on a lightly floured surface. I just give it a quick pulse on a low speed in my stand mixer. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Knead each piece into a ball and then roll out each ball into a 5 inch (12cm diameter) circle.

Put some of the filling over half of each circle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Brush the edge with water. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling and firmly press the edges together to seal each round. I normally crimp these with a fork around the edge to secure the seal.

Put the calzone on the oiled baking tray. Brush the tops with egg which gives them a nice glazed top. Bake the calzone for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve hot or cold.


Breakfasts

Breakfasts will be cereal with sliced banana, eggy bread, boiled eggs and soldiers or a bacon buttie as a treat. We might have crumpets or pancakes on the weekend but during the week breakfasts will hopefully be fairly simple so we can get on with our day, especially if we have an outing planned.


Treats and Snacks


Chocolate Peppermint Slice

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups light soft brown sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut (optional)
3 cups cornflakes or crushed Weetabix
250g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Peppermint Icing
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 Tblsp butter, melted
Hot water
Peppermint extract, to taste

Chocolate Icing
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 Tblsp cocoa powder
1 Tblsp butter, melted
Hot water

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, coconut (if you are using it) and cornflakes or Weetabix, and make a well in the centre.

Stir the melted butter and vanilla extract into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Press the mixture into a lined 33cm x 23cm slice tin. I use a potato masher to make sure it’s well pressed down and even.

Bake at 180°C for 25 minutes. Cool 15 - 20 minutes before icing the base with peppermint icing. Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes until the icing has set.

Carefully spread over the chocolate icing and allow to set. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

To make the peppermint icing:

Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and enough hot water to make a thick icing. Flavour with peppermint extract.

To make the chocolate icing:

Sift icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and enough hot water to make a thick icing.


Ginger Cake

100 grams butter
½ cup light brown sugar
1 large free range egg, beaten
½ cup golden syrup
½ cup milk
1½ cups plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat well to thoroughly combine. Gradually mix in the golden syrup and milk.

Sift the flour, mixed spice, ginger and baking soda together and carefully fold them into the butter mixture. Spoon into a 20 cm square cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper or well greased.

Bake at 180C for 35 minutes or until the ginger cake springs back when lightly pressed in the centre. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool completely.


Easy Tea Cake/Bread

This is a fab recipe if you feel like cake but have run out of eggs. It keeps well in a tin and is great warm straight from the oven with custard. Not that I'm admitting to anything.

1 cup sultanas or raisins
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
25g butter
1 cup hot strong tea (without milk)
1 cup light soft brown sugar, firmly packed
2 or 2 1/4 cups self raising flour

Measure the sultanas, mixed spice, cinnamon and butter in to a medium sized bowl. Pour hot recently made tea over them and leave them to stand until the mixture is cold. It may look as attractive as a mud pie the kids make in the garden, but rest assured it smells much better than that, and will taste fab when it's cooked.

When the mixture is cold, add the brown sugar and self raising flour. If you use 2 cups of flour the tea bread will be more cake-like, whereas if you use 2 1/4 cups of flour the tea bread will be more bread like. Mix gently until just combined, don't overmix or the tea bread will be tough.

Line a 20cm cake tin, or a 23cm x 12cm loaf tin with baking paper and pour the mixture evenly in to it. Bake at 180C for 35-45 minutes in the cake tin, or 1 hour in the loaf tin, until a skewer pushed in to the middle comes out clean.

When cold store in an airtight container. It's best left for 24 hours, wrapped in clingfilm, before cutting and eating it but that hardly ever happens in our house.


Scones

200g self raising flour
50g butter
125ml milk

Preheat oven to 220C or gas mark 7.

Sieve the flour into the mixing bowl. Rub the butter in to the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir in any extra ingredients such as raisins/dates or cheese/herbs, if you want to. Gradually stir in the milk to form a soft dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 2cm thick.

Cut the dough into rounds or squares and put onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Collect any dough trimmings together, roll them out and cut them out again.You should be able to make around 10 scones from this recipe.

Brush the scones with a little milk and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the scones have risen and turned golden.


Anzac Biscuits

My girls love these biscuits and I've been making them since I was a child. My 8yo can whip up a batch by herself, although I do watch her carefully around the hot oven. They are great with a cuppa and a good energy boosting snack in lunchboxes or after school for both adults and children.

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
125g butter
1 Tblsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tblsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line 2 baking trays with non stick baking paper.

Put the flour, pinch of salt, sugar, and rolled oats into a bowl and mix them together thoroughly. Make a well in the dry ingredients.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan. Once the butter has melted and is well combined with the golden syrup, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water then quickly add to the melted butter mixture. Pour it all into the well you made in the dry ingredients. Mix everything together until well combined.

Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and put onto the prepared trays, leave room for the biscuits to spread. Flatten them with a floured fork.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits have flattened out and have become a reddish-brown colour.

Carefully transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool. They will crisp up as they cool. Once the biscuits are cold, store them in an airtight container.


Shopping  List

43 items cost £70.57 purchased online from Asda on 30/03/2012.

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Cornflakes (750g) 46p
1x ASDA Smartprice Porridge Oats (1Kg) 75p
1x ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g) 39p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 98p
2x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.20
2x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) £1.04
1x ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x Silver Spoon Soft Light Brown Sugar (1Kg) £1.88
1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 30p
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
1x ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10

Frozen
3x ASDA Chosen by You Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £3.54

Tins, Jars and Cooking
4x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) £1.24
1x ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g) 54p
2x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g) 84p
2x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) £1.40
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p
1x King Fisher Reduced Fat Coconut Milk (400ml) £1.00

Dairy and Eggs
6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x Kerrygold Spreadable Butter (500g) £2.00
4x The Happy Egg Co. Free Range Large Eggs (6) £4.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA English Medium Cheddar (400g) £2.00 any 2 FOR £4.00
1x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.00 any 2 FOR £4.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
2x ASDA Smartprice Pears £1.46
15 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £1.50
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
15 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) £1.17
10 ASDA Onions by Weight (100g) 70p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
10 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) £1.99
8 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) £1.02
2x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.60
1x ASDA Celery 78p
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 30p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.50
1x ASDA Oranges Extra Juicy (10) £2.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
15 ASDA Smartprice Gammon Joint by Weight (100g) £5.67
1x ASDA Chosen by You Sausages (20 per pack - 1.14Kg) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00
1x ASDA Unsmoked Back Bacon Thick Cut (12 per pack - 530g) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00
1x ASDA British Beef Steak Mince (900g) £3.33 any 3 FOR £10.00

Ready Meals
1x Macedonian Tahini Sesame Paste (300g) £1.98

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Two Greedy Italians DVD Giveaway! - Now Closed



This Giveaway has now closed.

A new 2 DVD set of  "Two Greedy Italians" Series 1 will be released on Monday 2nd of April, it also contains 4 recipe cards from the series.  You will probably recognise Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo as mentors of Jamie Oliver who have appeared throughout his various TV series.  You can pre-order it right now on Amazon.

However, should you want to win a copy, I have one to giveaway.  The 2 DVD set contains four 1hr episodes of culinary adventures and delicious Italian recipes.  I have watched a review copy and it is definitely a must see for those into Italian food who also enjoy a good laugh.

Series 2 of "Two Greedy Italians" will be shown on BBC2 in April.

So here's how to enter:

To enter the giveaway to win this fabulous DVD, you will need to leave a comment telling me what your favourite Italian food is and either a twitter name or email address so I can contact you if you are the lucky winner.

For an extra entry tweet this post using the button at the bottom of the post and leave a comment telling me you have done so.

Terms and Conditions, please read these carefully:

This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 who live in the UK and have a mainland UK mailing address.

Entries close at 10pm on Friday 6th April 2012. The winner will be contacted by Monday 9th April 2012.

The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on this blog.

The winner will be contacted via e-mail and/or Twitter, if there is no response within 3 days another winner shall be drawn using Random.org.

There is one prize of a "Two Greedy Italians" DVD.

Best of luck to you all!

Billington’s Easter Carrot Cupcakes

This Easter Billington’s have been working with Bea from Bea’s of Bloomsbury and have created a delicious recipe for Billington’s Easter Carrot Cupcakes.

The cupcakes are topped with a gorgeous cream cheese icing and a yellow marshmallow chick and are full of quality ingredients including cinnamon, desiccated coconut and pineapple, as well as Billington’s Unrefined Light Muscovado Sugar.  Using this natural, unrefined sugar makes all the difference to home baking. The recipe makes 26 cakes and they are perfect for family get togethers over the Easter break.

Billingtons have  kindly given me permission to publish the recipe, and here it is:


Billington’s Easter Carrot Cupcakes

375g Billington’s Light Brown Muscovado Sugar

360g Vegetable oil

1 tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla essence

5 Medium  free range eggs

375g Allinson plain flour

2 tsps Baking powder

1 tsp Sodium bicarbonate

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground nutmeg

1 tsp Salt

430g Grated carrot

120g Coarsely chopped pecans

75g Desiccated coconut

75g Canned pineapple, pressed and drained thoroughly

Equipment:

3 x 12 Cup American sized muffin tins

26 paper muffin cases

Golden Cream Cheese Icing:

150g Cream cheese

150g Softened, unsalted butter

220g Billington’s Golden Icing Sugar

1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey vanilla essence

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 175C

2. In a big bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, sodium bicarbonate, spices and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk Billington’s Light Brown Muscovado Sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla essence, until combined.

4. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and beat well.

5. Add carrots, pecans, coconut and pineapple, and stir until combined.

6. Line 12 cup American sized muffin tins with paper cases. Fill each cupcake line 3/4 of the way with the batter.

7. Bake 22-25 minutes, rotating trays at the 18-minute mark if you have an uneven oven. Test the cupcake with a wooden skewer, if it comes out clean with no wet batter, remove from oven - otherwise let cook for another 5 minutes.

8. Let cupcakes cool in tin for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool an additional 30 minutes, then frost.

Golden Cream Cheese Icing:

1. Beat cream cheese and butter well until smooth with an electric mixer.

2. Add Billington’s Golden Icing Sugar into 4 parts until well combined.

3. Stir in the vanilla essence.



**This is a sponsored post**

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Fresh From The Oven March Round-Up - Croissants

The challenge this month was Criossants, set by the lovely Karen who blogs at Lavender and Lovage

Thank you to all those who took part in the challenge, it's always exciting to see all the baked creations each month.

Delicio8

Mimi's Kingdom

Signor Biscotti

Little Loaf

© Carrot and Beetroot Soup with Croissants
Lavender and Lime

Curious Cuisiniere




My Custard Pie

Sweet Samsations


The host of next months Challenge will be Kate from The Little Loaf.  Please visit her blog on 1st April to find out what the April Challenge will be.

Claire from Purely Food will be compiling the April Round-up.  For details of how to participate and rules of the Challenge please see the Fresh From the Oven page on her blog.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Eric Lanlard Best Banana Cake Recipe

I am a huge fan of the lovely Eric Lanlard.  He's a French Master Patissiere who is once again is gracing our TV screens with his Channel 4 series "Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard".  The series is broadcast each weekday on Channel 4 around lunchtime, but you can catch up on 4OD.  Each episode features two of Eric's easy to follow recipes and a bake off between three members of the public who are enthusiastic baker and want to show off their baking skills to Eric and the nation.  The winner of the bake off then gets to create a delicious dish with Eric in a Masterclass session.





The series is sponsored by BakingMad.com who offered me the ingredients to bake one of the recipes from the series.  After much deliberation, I decided to bake the Best Banana Cake recipe.  I also have my own recipe for a rather nice banana cake and I wanted to compare the two.

Here's Eric's recipe:

Banana cake

125g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150ml whole milk
3 medium very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp poppy seeds
75g golden sultanas

For the topping:
150g butter
300g golden icing sugar
Handful of banana chips

Preheat the oven 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 25 x 11cm loaf tin with a little butter.

Using an electric hand whisk, cream the the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, beating until pale and fluffy. Add one of the eggs and beat in well, then add the second and continue to beat well. Sieve in half the flour with the baking powder and mix well. Then mix in the milk and the remaining four.

Fold the mashed bananas into the mixture along with the vanilla extract, poppy seeds and golden sultanas. Then tip the mixture into the loaf tin and level to the top with a spatula.

Bake in the preheated oven for around 1 hour until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean and not sticky. Cover the top with foil if it starts to brown too quickly. Allow to cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes before turning out.

For the topping, cream the butter until soft then sieve in the icing sugar and whisk using an electric hand whisk, mixing together until creamy and fluffy. Spread over the cooled cake, decorate with the banana chips and dust with icing sugar.


So how did I get on?

The recipe is really straight forward and the result was a delicious, moist and decadent banana cake.  I left out the sultanas and poppy seeds as my hubby was chief taste tester and he strongly suggested that he would much prefer to taste the cake without the extras.  I also didn't faff about with the banana chips on top of the cake either. 

Here's the delicious cake:


After making my family wait until the cake was cool and had been iced, we enthusiastically devoured a slice each.  We all agreed that Eric's recipe, using dark muscovado sugar, was rich and flavoursome and a great teatime treat.  All of my family said that as an occasional change from my banana cake it would be most welcome, although it was a little bit rich for my eldest daughters taste.  I would probably alternate baking Eric's version and my version when I'm baking for lunchboxes or afternoon tea.  The only criticism was that there wasn't really enough of the cake for seconds, perhaps I shall make two cakes next time. LOL

Asda Extra Special Hamper Winner

Thank you to all of you who entered this giveaway. 

The winner, drawn by Random.org was comment number 49:


The 49th comment was:


Congratulations Erica! I'm sure you will enjoy your hamper.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Our Family Meal Plan Week of 26/03 - £62

Apologies that our Meal Plan for this week is a couple of days late.  We've had poorly children, my middle daughters birthday (complete with cake and party to sort out), and a really busy week in terms of events and work for both my husband and myself.

OK, enough excuses, on with the Meal Plan!  Breakfasts this week will be cereal or toast with spread and a banana for afters.  Lunches will be cheese and chutney swirls, Egg and Potato Salad or Vegetable Fritters with a piece of fruit, celery and carrot sticks, and a small baked treat.  Adults will have leftovers from dinner, if there are any, along with a piece of fruit, celery and carrot sticks, and a small baked treat.  This is to avoid food wastage and keep costs down.

I'll be making all our own bread, apart from the tortillas used on Wednesday night for the Bean Burritos.  I am in London on Wednesday and won't have time to make them so I'm using bought ones. 

As usual I used My Supermarket to compare the price of the items on the Meal Plan and as usual Asda was the cheapest supermarket.  The total cost of all 48 items needed for this week was £62.49.  The same items would've cost £74.39 at Tesco and £76.53 at Sainsbury's.

Dinners

Vegetable Filo Tart – Meatfree Monday

6 cups seasonal vegetables cut into ½ inch dice, preferably including the following:
300g pumpkin, peeled
1 aubergine, diced
1 pepper, any colour will do
3 courgettes
200g mushrooms, quartered
1 whole head garlic
4 Tblsp olive oil
9 sheets filo pastry
1-2 Tblsp tomato paste
200g feta cheese, crumbled

Put the prepared vegetables in a roasting dish, slice the top off the garlic head and put it in the pan with the vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and roast for around 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Put the vegetables in a bowl and set aside to cool. Meanwhile prepare the pastry.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry on the bench, brush sparingly with oil and put another sheet on top, brush that sheet with oil and finish with a third sheet of pastry. Grease an ovenproof dish big enough to hold all the cooked vegetables and line it with the filo pastry.

Crumble the feta cheese into the cooled vegetables. Squeeze the roasted garlic forcing the pulp from the skin and mix this into the vegetables with the tomato paste. Put the vegetable mixture in to the filo lined dish.

Lay out the remaining pastry sheets and brush each sparingly with oil. Cut each piece in half and crumple them up, putting them on top of the tart to cover the vegetables. Bake at 180°C for 10 - 15 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve with salad or mixed vegetables.


Glazed Chicken Drumsticks - Tuesday

8 chicken drumsticks
3 Tblsp runny honey
1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and crushed or grated
1 Tblsp mango chutney
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
¼ tsp hot curry powder

Mix together the honey, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, ginger, chutney, orange rind and juice and curry powder in a bowl, if the mango chutney is chunky, chop the chunks very finely. Using a sharp knife, make 2 cuts each side of each drumstick. Put the chicken in a single layer in a flat dish. Spoon over the glaze, turn the drumsticks over to coat them well, cover and chill until needed.

Preheat your oven to 200C and cook the drumsticks for 30 minutes or until cooked through. You can baste them with the glaze once or twice during the cooking process. I usually serve this with rice and mixed vegetables.


Bean Burritos - Wednesday

8 tortillas/flat breads
2 tins chilli beans
3 fresh tomatoes, sliced
diced cucumber
lettuce leaves
small pot of low fat sour cream
1 cup (120g) grated cheese

Heat chilli beans in a pot whilst tortillas are warming in the oven. Put chilli beans onto tortillas and top with tomato, cucumber, lettuce, a little sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese. Fold up and serve.


Sausage Onepot – Thursday and Friday

2 onions, peeled and diced
2 peppers, diced
10 good quality pork sausages
4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 x 410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 x 420g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat and cook for 5-10 minutes, until soft, adding the garlic for the last minute or two.

Remove the skin from the sausages and shape the mixture into 20 balls. Add to the onion in the pan. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the balls are golden brown and piping hot and no pink colour remains.

Stir in the tomatoes and beans, and cook for 5 – 10 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice and mixed vegetables.


Vegetable Pasta Bake – Saturday (M Savers Recipe)

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.


Photo courtesy of Morrisons

Roast Chicken and Vegetables - Sunday

500g carrots, peeled and cut into batons
500g parsnips, peeled and cut into batons
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1kg pack chicken thighs
1 x 410g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
400g long grain rice

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/ 170ºC fan/ gas 5.

Place the carrots, parsnips, onion and chicken in a medium roasting tin. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the mixed herbs and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and the chicken pieces are golden brown and piping hot, and the juices run clear. Turn once or twice during cooking.

Add the chick peas to the tin and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice following pack instructions. Drain and serve with the vegetables and chicken.


Lunches

Potato and Egg Salad

6 hard-boiled eggs
4 potatoes cut into chunks and boiled
2 spring onions (green and white parts) sliced
handful of shredded lettuce leaves
3 tomatoes chopped into chunks or sliced
4 Tblsp mayonnaise

Chop the eggs and potatoes into bite sized pieces. Mix in the spring onion and mayonnaise and shredded lettuce. Serve with chopped tomato on the side. You could also add some carrot or celery sticks on the side if you want a more substantial meal.


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.


Cheese and Chutney Swirls

300g (2 cups) self-raising flour, and extra for dusting
50g butter, finely chopped
180ml (3/4 cup) milk
80ml (1/3 cup) tomato chutney or pasta sauce
3/4 cup (90g) grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift flour into a bowl and rub in butter using your fingertips. Add the milk and mix everything to a soft dough. Knead the dough on floured surface until it's smooth. Roll out into a 25 x 30cm rectangle.

Spread the chutney (or pasta sauce) over the dough, sprinkle with ham and then cheese. Roll up starting from a long edge. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the roll into 12 slices. Place the spirals on trays and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Cool on a rack then wrap how you like and pack into lunchboxes or freeze for later.




Baking/Treats

Cornflake and Sultana Cookies

125g butter at room temperature, diced
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 Tblsp milk
1 1/2 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup sultanas

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two large flat baking trays with non-stick paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Add the milk and mix until dough just comes together. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cornflakes and sutanas, and mix until well combined.

Roll the mixture into balls, I usually use 1 Tblsp at a time. Put onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Allow room for the cookies to spread. Flatten the cookies slightly with a floured fork. Bake for 12-14 minutes until light golden. Remove from the oven and stand for 5 minutes on the baking trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Lemon Drizzle 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

48 items: £62.49

Packets and Cereals
1x ASDA Smartprice Cornflakes (750g) 46p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (1Kg) 98p
1x ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 60p
1x ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg) 40p
1x ASDA Smartprice Pasta Shapes (500g) 30p
1x Jus Rol Filo Pastry Sheets (270g) £1.80
1x ASDA East Bake Yeast (42g) 64p
1x ASDA Wholefoods Bread Brown Flour (1.5Kg) £1.10

Frozen
2x ASDA Chosen by You Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £2.36

Tins, Jars and Cooking
5x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) £1.65
2x ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g) £1.16
2x ASDA Chilli Beans (290g) £1.08
2x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g) 84p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mayonnaise (500ml) 48p
1x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 70p
2x ASDA Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g) 84p

Dairy and Eggs
1x ASDA Soured Cream (300ml) £1.00
4x ASDA British Whole Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £4.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Greek Feta Cheese (200g) £1.48
1x Kerrygold Spreadable Butter (500g) £2.00
1x ASDA Smartprice Mozzarella (125g) 44p
1x ASDA Chosen by You English Mature Cheddar (400g) £2.48 any 2 FOR £4.00
2x Suffolk Farm Large Free Range Eggs (6) £2.00 any 2 FOR £2.00

Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
1 ASDA Ginger by Weight (100g) 21.1p
1x ASDA Gala Apples (750g) £1.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
1x ASDA Conference Pears (800g) £1.00
4 ASDA Mushrooms by Weight (100g) £1.11
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
15 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) £1.17
10 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) £1.55
7 ASDA Red Onions by Weight (100g) 60.2p
1x ASDA Aubergine Loose £1.00
5 ASDA Parsnips by Weight (100g) 65p
2x ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
10 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) £1.99
4 ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (100g) 38.8p
1x ASDA Whole Cucumber 90p
2x ASDA Round Lettuce £1.14
1x ASDA Celery 50p
2x ASDA Garlic Loose 60p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.50
1x ASDA Spring Onions 67p
1x ASDA Mandarins (700g) £1.00 any 2 FOR £2.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g) £4.00
2x ASDA Chicken Drumsticks (1Kg) £7.00 any 2 FOR £7.00

Bakery
2x Mission Deli Mini Wraps - Wheat and White (6) £1.00

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Quick, Easy and Cheap Birthday Party Food Ideas

It can be tricky finding frugal food options for kids birthday party snacks.  There are bound to be fussy eaters, kids with food allergies or intolerances, and a list of likes and dislikes a mile long.  The food needs to be finger food, low faff and easy to prepare without costing a fortune.  Here are the recipes I use most often, and which cater for most needs, when my girls have birthday parties:


Caramel Popcorn

Popcorn is cheap and easy to make and this caramel coated popcorn always goes down well, with adults and kids alike.

3-4 cups popcorn
125g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar

Put the popcorn onto a roasting dish lined with non-stick baking paper.

Put the butter and caster sugar in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to the boil.  Stop sitrring it and boil for 5-7 minutes until the mixture changes colour - it will go a light caramel colour. Gently swirl the pan to get an even colour, don't stir it.  Pour the caramel over the popcorn geting as much of an even coverage as you can.  Mix wth a wooden spoon if you have to.  Be careful, the caramel will burn if in contact with your skin at this point.

Allow to cool completely before you serve it. This can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container.



Fairy Bread

My girls birthday parties would not be complete without this kiwi classic. You can use other cutters to make different shapes, and slightly more masculine coloured sprinkles for a boys party.

1 loaf white sliced bread
butter, to spread
Pink and white hundreds and thousands, to decorate

Using a cookie cutter, cut shapes out of each slice of bread. Spread with butter and decorate with hundreds and thousands. I normally sprinkle the hundreds and thousands onto a plate and then gently press the bread shapes, buttered side down, into the sprinkles. You get a good even coverage of sprinkles without spreading them all over your kitchen.



Cheese Straw Shapes
These are great snacks for parties as they are so easy and you can vary the flavour, sprinkle seeds or herbs on the shapes as well, or instead of, cheese. You could use cookie cutters to make whatever shapes you like, cut them into strips and twist to make cheese straws, or add a star to the end of a strip and call it a wand (either wizard or fairy wand depending on the party).
4 sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry, or roll out a 500g block
1 free range egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 Tblsp milk
120g cheese, grated
75g cheese, finely grated (for sprinkling on top)

Preheat oven to 220°C. Grease and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Whisk the egg yolk and milk together in a small bowl.  Brush 1 pastry sheet with the egg mixture and sprinkle over about 60g of grated cheese.  Cover with another pastry sheet and gently roll over with a floured rolling pin to seal them together.  Repeat this process with the other 2 sheets of pastry and 60g of cheese so you end up with 2 sheets of double thickness pastry to cut shapes from.  Cover them with cling film and put them in the fridge for 30 minutes so they are easier to work with and cut shapes out of.

Using a cookie cutter or sharp knife, cut the pastry into the shapes that fit your party theme.  Brush the shapes with any leftover egg wash and then sprinkle with the finely grated cheese. 

Bake the pastry shapes in your preheated oven, for 10 minutes or until they have puffed up and are lovely and golden.


 
 
Sausage Rolls
 
500g good quality sausage meat  
2 Tblsp tomato paste
2 Tblsp brown sauce
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tsp English mustard powder
1 onion, grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 small eating apple, peeled and grated
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Use your hands to thoroughly combine the sausage meat, tomato paste, brown sauce, breadcrumbs, mustard powder, onion, carrot and apple in a bowl.

Cut each pastry sheet in half. Shape 1/2 cup of the sausage meat mixture into a sausage shape.  Put it along 1 long side of 1 pastry half.  Roll up the pastry to enclose the filling.  Pinch the pastry with your fingertips or crimp with a fork to seal the join.  Cut the long sausage roll into quarters.  Put the uncooked sausage rolls, seam side down, on to a prepared tray.  Leave some room for the pastry to spread during cooking.  Repeat the process with the remaining sausage meat mixture and pastry.  You can freeze them at this point.

If baking fresh, bake for 35 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  If your're baking them from frozen, bake for 45 minutes or until the sausage inners are cooked through.



Mini Frittatas

These are great for parties, picnics, packed lunch boxes and an easy standby when savoury options for bring a plate functions are needed. You can leave out the bacon if you want to make vegetarian frittatas, or use small chunks of precooked vegetarian sausages if you like. You can even use gluten free self raising flour instead of normal self raising flour.

Sometimes I add finely chopped peppers or courgettes and cook those with the onions, adding feta instead of cheddar cheese to vary the flavour. These are so easily adaptable and you can use whatever you have available in your fridge or cupboards.

1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 rashers bacon, fat and rind removed then roughly chopped (optional)
1 tsp oil
1/2 cup self-raising flour (or use gluten free self raising flour)
3 eggs
250ml milk
2 potatoes, cubed and cooked
410g can whole kernel corn
60g grated cheese
1 spring onion, chopped (or use fresh chives, parsley or coriander)
salt and pepper to season
cooking spray or a little oil on some kitchen towel

Preheat your oven to 220C.  Cook the onion and bacon in the oil until soft, and then set aside to cool.

Put the self raising flour in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and cooled onion and bacon. Season with salt and pepper then beat with well a fork to thoroughly combine everything. Pour this egg mixture into the bowl containing the flour and stir until everything has just combined. Add the cooked and cooled potatoes, drained can of corn, two-thirds of the grated cheese and the chopped spring onion or herbs.

Spray a 12-cup metal muffin tin thoroughly with cooking spray, or lightly grease with some oil on a kitchen towel, and spoon mixture into cups. A metal muffin tin will give the best results.

Top with remaining grated cheese and cook at 220C for 25-35 minutes. Let the frittatas cool for 5 minutes before turning out of the tin or cutting. Serve with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce, tomato relish or chutney and a side salad.



Easy Falafels

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 finger food at parties, a lunch in a wrap with salad, taken on a picnic or served as a weeknight dinner with couscous and salad leaves. The falafels are also freezable for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Great for make-ahead party food, lunchbox treats or emergency dinners.

2 (400g) tins of chick peas
1 large 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 180C/350F/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.


Savoury Puff Pastry Swirls

These are a delicious party food, lunchbox treat, picnic lunch or tummy filler for after school guests. They can be frozen so are a great standby to have lurking in your freezer. You can alter the fillings to suit your taste, budget or occasion so they are very versatile.  You could even make a sweet version using 2tsp of cinnamon 3 Tblsp of sugar sprinkled over the pastry or spread the pastry with chocolate spread or jam.

4 sheets frozen pre-rolled flaky puff pastry, thawed
2 Tblsp tomato sauce, chutney or relish
2 cups, or large handfuls, grated Mature Cheddar cheese
100g ham, finely chopped (optional)
1 pepper, very finely chopped (any colour will do)
1 onion, very finely chopped or grated
1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Filling suggestions: – vegemite/marmite and cheese, well drained sweetcorn, finely chopped mushroom, sliced bacon, salami or chorizo instead of the ham, red or green pesto and sliced olives.  The possibilities are endless! 

Join 2 sheets of pastry together by brushing the edges with water and crimping with a fork to make a very large rectangle. You need to make sure it's a good secure join. Do the same with the remaining two sheets of pastry. Brush the large rectangles you have created with tomato sauce or relish and then sprinkle with the cheese and lay over the ham. Sprinkle with the dried mixed herbs and any other fillings you would like to include.

Tightly roll the pastry up from the short sides, a bit like making a swiss roll or sushi and secure the edge so they won’t unroll. To get a good securely sealed edge, wet the edge of the pastry then, after you've rolled it up, use a fork to crimp the edge of the pastry to the rest of the roll. Wrap each of the rolls in clingfilm and chill them in the fridge for at least an hour, this makes them much easier to handle. The rolls can also be frozen at this stage for up to a month.

To cook the rolls, preheat your oven to 200C. Line two oven trays with non-stick baking paper.

Slice the rolls (this can also be done if they're still frozen, as long as your knife is sharp enough) into 1/2cm or 1/4 inch slices and lay them flat on the trays.  Don't forget to leave some room for them to spread. Bake the swirls for 10 – 15 minutes until they are nicely puffed up and golden. Take the trays out of the oven, turn the swirls over and bake them for another 5 minutes to make sure they are evenly brown and there are no soggy bottoms *snigger*. Cool them on a wire rack and serve them warm or leave to cool and put in lunchboxes or take them on a picnic.

You can make a huge variety of filling combinations using the basic pinwheel idea. However, if you are making a savoury version, it always pays to have one filling with a bit of oil or natural fat in it such as cheese, ham, bacon or chorizo because it helps the pastry stay crisp and keeps the filling moist without it going soggy.

The swirls can be cooked in advance and reheated to be served warm, but I find they are much better either eaten fresh or cooked from frozen when required.


Cheesy Vegetable Fritters

These are a great tummy filler and I make them often on the weekend for a quick and healthy lunch.

1 courgette, grated
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup fresh, tinned or frozen corn kernels
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain self-raising flour
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese
olive oil cooking spray

Grate the courgette and squeeze out as much moisture from it as you can using your hands. No need to faff about putting it in a tea towel or anything like that. Put a little olive oil or cooking spray into a large, non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the prepared courgette, carrot and corn to the pan and cook, whilst stirring it for 2 to 3 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Set aside to cool whilst you make the fritter batter.

Sift both flours into a large bowl. Tip andy of the wholemeal flour husks left in the sieve into bowl as well. Make a well in the flours and pour in the buttermilk and lightly beaten egg. Whisk the mixture gently to combine the flours and wet ingredients. Add the cooled vegetable mixture and cheese. Stir again to thoroughly mix.

Spray the frying pan with cooking spray or put add a little oil to the frying pan. Put it on a medium heat and spoon about 1 heaped tablespoon of mixture per fritter in to the pan. I normally cook 4 fritters at a time for 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn them over and cook for 2 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover them with foil or a tea towel to keep them warm. Repeat the process until all the mixture has been used. It normally makes around 16 fritters. I usually serve these with either a homemade or store bought mild tomato salsa or chutney.

You can freeze the cooked fritters. Just wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place in a large airtight freezer bag. Seal the bag well then label it with what's in it and the date. The fritters can be frozen for up to 3 months.

You can replace the corn kernels with 1 finely chopped small red capsicum or some frozen peas. You can also add some finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint leaves when adding vegetables to the batter mixture.


Other Snack Ideas
 
I always have crudites and dips available to counteract all the sugary foods that are usual party fare.  I make my own hummus and herby yoghurt dip, although you could buy them to save time.  Cherry tomatoes also go down well, especially if you can get ones in different colours such as yellow.
 
Fruit Kebabs are also a great standby.  Kids can make their own at the party or you can prepare them ahead of time.  I use drinking straws instead of skewers for younger children and always cut off the sharp ends.  You can also carve out some melon balls *snigger* which are a great way to get kids to eat some fruit.  Berries and grapes also go down well too as they are small and flavoursome.
 
Sandwiches cut into smaller portions or shapes with cookie cutters are a great savoury or sweet snack option that are cheap to make.  You can use homemade bread, or creatively shaped rolls, if you want to.  Sometimes I roll them up and cut them like swiss rolls, the sandwiches look like swirls which helps them look more appealing to kids.  

  Drinks
 
Sparkling water is a great alternative to fizzy drinks or sugar laden squash.  You could mix some fruit juice with the sparkling water for a personalised fizzy mocktail.  Smoothies are a great idea too. 

You can make ice cubes out of juice or sortbet and add them to plain water or juice to keep drinks cool. 

Try different combinations of juice for a fruit punch and water it down for younger children.  Adding ice to drinks also waters it down as the ice melts, should you need to be sneaky about it. LOL


Quick Berry Milkshake

I've been making this milkshakes like this for years.  You could use frozen mango chunks and sorbet instead of berries and icecream if you wanted to.  Try varying the flavour to suit your tastes, what is in season, and what you have in your fridge and freezer.
400g frozen mixed berries or 400g fresh berries
1 litre or 4 cups milk
5 large scoops of berry or vanilla flavoured frozen yoghurt or icecream

Put the berries in a blender with the milk and frozen yoghurt or icecream. Blend until smooth. How easy is that?! You can use a stick belnder if you don't have a normal blender. If the milkshake is too thick just add a little more milk and blend it again.

Pur into glasses and serve either on it's own or top each glass with an extra scoop of frozen yoghurt or icecream if you like. You could put a strawberry on the rim of each glass for an edible decoration.

The fabulous Cass from Frugal Family wrote a Guest Post for me about how to keep costs down when organising birthday parties, you can read it here.

What are your top tips and ideas when organising food for kids parties? 


Friday, 23 March 2012

Talking Turkey - Turkey Pasta Bake

This is my entry for the for the BritMums Lean on Turkey competition, sponsored by http://www.leanonturkey.co.uk/



I've said before on my blog that we don't really eat turkey.  Hubby doesn't like it and my girls aren't that fussed with it either.  I reckon it's because they haven't tried the right turkey recipe yet ;o)

So with that in mind, I decided to substitute turkey for our usual meat of choice in a pasta bake.  They devoured it then happily asked for seconds.  Once they were full and contented I told them that what they had just eated was in fact Turkey Pasta Bake instead of their usual version. Mwahahahaha! They were all rather shocked, as you can imagine, but are keen to have it on the menu again and also try other turkey recipes.

If you want to try out some other fab turkey recipes check out Lean on Turkey which is all about inspiring families to use more fresh turkey in their weekly meals. As well as being great value, fresh turkey is really simple to cook with, high in protein, low in saturated fat and a good source of natural vitamins and minerals

In truly adventurous Utterly Scrummy style I involved them in cooking this recipe the second time that we cooked it for dinner.  My 11yo was a great help in the kitchen, my 9yo took some of the photos and also helped in the kitchen and my 5yo grated the cheese and helped locate all the ingredients in the fridge.
Here's how it went:

Turkey Pasta Bake
You could use a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes intead of the passata or a large jar of pasta sauce, just leave out the dried herbs and garlic if you are using a jar of sauce.  I thought about adding some breadcrumbs on top of the cheese sauce for a crunchy topping, I shall try it next time I make this recipe and let you know how it tastes.

300g dried pasta (any shape will do)
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 pepper, diced (any colour will do)
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500g turkey mince
1 Tblsp tomato paste
700ml passata (I used 500ml passata and 1 tin of chopped tomatoes this time)
2 tsp dried mixed herbs

Cheese Sauce
50g butter
2 Tblsp plain flour
600ml milk
100g grated mature cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water.  Drain the pasta well and then add it to the sauce you are about to make. 

Chop the celery, pepper, onion and carrot fairly small otherwise it will take forever to soften.


Whilst the pasta is boiling, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and pepper.  I cheated and used 3 cubes of crushed garlic from the freezer rather than faffing about crushing fresh garlic.


Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the carrot and celery have softened.  Add the turkey mince and then brown it, breaking it up as it cooks.


This part of the recipe took about 7 minutes for my 11yo to do. We tried to time things as we did them but it was a bit haphazard with 3 of us in a tiny kitchen.


Stir in the tomato paste, passata and dried mixed herbs.


Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes or until it thickens.  Stir the sauce occasionally so that it doesn't catch on the bottom of the saucepan.  Once the pasta has cooked, drain it well and then take the turkey and tomato sauce off the heat.  Mix the pasta through the sauce so the pasta doesn't get all soggy while you make the cheese sauce.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced.  Make the cheese sauce while the oven is preheating.   Grate the cheese, or get an assistant to help you.  My 5yo loves grating cheese (or carrots, onions, virtually anything edible in fact LOL).


Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once the butter is bubbling add the flour.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or so.  This helps your cheese sauce not to taste floury.


Gradually stir in the milk, whisking all the time so that the sauce doesn't become lumpy.  You should end up with a smooth sauce.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes until the sauce boils and thickens. 


Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the cheese.  Let the sauce cool for a few minutes.  


Put the pasta and turkey mixture into the oven proof dish and level the top.


Pour the cheese sauce over the top of the mince and pasta mixture.  Cover the dish with kitchen foil.  Bake at 180C for 15 minutes, then take off the foil and bake the dish for another 10 minutes or so until the top is lightly golden.  Take the pasta bake out of the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes and cool slightly then serve with either salad or mixed vegetables.


 
**This is a sponsored post**

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Hotel Chocolat Easter Hamper Giveaway - Now Closed

This Giveaway has now closed.

Hotel Chocolat are the place to go for delicious chocolate treats at any time of year, not just at Easter.  The quality is superb and the chocolates taste divine!  I am a HUGE fan of their range and it's the first place that I run to when an extra special chocolate gift is needed.  However, their Easter range is outstanding and I recommend their goodies without hesitation.

I was lucky enough to be sent The Essential Easter Hamper from Hotel Chocolat and they have let me also giveaway one to you, my lovely readers!  OMGness, the chocolate is fabulous! The treats in this hamper are suitable for the whole family and all tastes are catered for whether they like dark or milk chocolate. 

The beautifully presented hamper contains the following:

8 Dark Tiddly Chicks

Quackers & Eggs (85g)

8 Milk Praline Egglets

4 hollow 40% Milk Chocolate Eggs

A Rocky Road 100g slab


To enter the giveaway to win this fabulous hamper, you will need to leave a comment telling me what your favourite Hotel Chocolat Easter Gift is and either a twitter name or email address so I can contact you if you are the lucky winner.

For an extra entry tweet this post using the button at the bottom of the post and leave a comment telling me you have done so.

Terms and Conditions, please read these carefully:

This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 who live in the UK and have a mainland UK mailing address.

Entries close at 10pm on Monday 2nd April 2012. The winner will be contacted on Tuesday 3rd April 2012.

The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on this blog.

The winner will be contacted via e-mail and/or Twitter, if there is no response within 3 days another winner shall be drawn using Random.org.

There is one prize of a Hotel Chocolat Essential Easter Hamper.

I am running this competition on behalf of Hotel Chocolat who will be responsible for sending the prize to the lucky winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Hotel Chocolat reserve the right to substitute the prize, wholly or in part, for one of a similar type or value if the prize detailed above is unavailable.

Best of luck to you all!