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Utterly Scrummy Snippets

Tuesday 24 July 2012
Welch's Grape Juices

I was sent a huge package of 16 cartons of Welch's Grape Juices to try which was a mixture of cartons containing 100% Pure White Grape Juice, 100% Pure Rose Grape Juice and 100% Pure Purple Grape Juice.  I gave some to friends, froze some in the cartons, made loads of ice lollies and put some in the fridge.  The 100% Pure Rosé Grape Juice was our favourite and is made up of a blend of White and Red Grapes which was very refreshing and a fab compromise if the Purple Grape Juice is too strong for you, as was the case with my 3 daughters.  Welsh's Grape Juices are fab for lovely summer days, makes a brilliant alternative to wine (if you are not drinking for whatever reason) and the juices also make delicious mocktails.  You can find mocktail recipes and find out more about the health benefits of drinking grape juice here.  All juices are available from leading supermarkets for RRP £2.59.

LOL Drinks

LOL Drinks are a lightly carbonated fruit juice drink made from 75% fruit juice and 25% carbonated water.  A can of LOL contains enough fruit juice to be counted as one of  your ‘five a day’.  LOL contains no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no preservatives, no artificial colours and no caffeine.

LOL is available in three flavours:

RAZZ BRI – Apple and Raspberry Juice Drink

O RANJ – Apple and Orange Juice Drink

B CURRENT – Apple and Blackcurrant Juice Drink

Available in most supermarkets in 250ml cans for 99p.

Maggi So Juicy

Product photo: Sticky BBQ for Chicken

The So Juicy range from Maggi is a packet of spice mix with a roasting bag for your coated items to be cooked in.  Simply put meat, fish or vegetables into the roasting bag, add the spices, seal then bake.  What could be simpler?  There are a range of So Juicy packs to suit beef, chicken and pork.  The chicken I coated with the mix was indeed juicy and flavoursome.  t was a big hit with my family too.  I would use this occasionally if we wanted a low mess, quick to prepare, flavoursome meal. Including a roasting bag in the pack is a great idea as it cuts down on mess and makes it easier to cook meat in the same oven as a vegetarian meal whilst keeping them separate.

Our Family Meal Plan For Week Of 23/07/12

Monday 23 July 2012
It is the first week of the long Summer School Holidays this week and Summer weather is meant to finally arrive with temperatures in the mid to high 20s this week.  I am taking my daughters to, and helping out at, a local holiday club so dinners and lunches will need to be low faff. 

Breakfasts will be either cereal or toast with fresh fruit for afters.  We will have homemade fruit bread or wholemeal bread for toast and will probably have poached eggs or soldiers a couple of times this week too.

Lunches will mainly be salads and sandwiches or Mince and Vegetable Calzone with crudites and a baked treat with yoghurt and fruit for an afternoon snack once we are home from the holiday club.

Dinners will be the ones in this Meal Plan.  Baking will be Scones, Peanut Butter Cookies and Banana Cake, Sponge Traybakes and Anzac Biscuits.

I haven't included a shopping list as usual this week as a flare up of a medical condition has left me exhausted and feeling generally bleugh. 

I hope that the first week of the school holidays goes well for you all and I shall hopefully be back to writing a comprehensive and proper Meal Plan next week.

Six Ways With Sponge Traybake

Sunday 22 July 2012
This recipe uses a bung it all in and beat it together method that makes it really quick to make and idea for when you need a large cake at short notice. You can either bake it as a large rectangle before icing the top and slicing it, or cut it in half and put one half on top of the other with buttercream in the middle and on the top.

Put the following into a stand mixer or beat with an electric beater for 2 minutes:

175g really soft butter or baking spread
225g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
175g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
3 Tblsp/45ml milk

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a traybake tin approximately 12 x 9 inches or 20 x 22cm.

Pour the mixture in to the prepared tin or foil tray and level the top.

Bake the sponge for about 25 - 30 minutes until the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin slightly and springs back in the centre if you press it lightly with your fingertips.
Leave the sponge to cool in the tin and then ice as you like.  I usually use 225g of icing sugar and add enough water to make a pourable icing. 

Flavour variations:

Chocolate Sponge

Mix 3 Tblp of cocoa with 3 Tblsp of water and add this to the mixture instead of the milk. If the mixture seems a bit too thick then add 1 Tblsp milk. Make the recipe as above.

Chocolate Icing

Melt 75g butter and stir in 50g of cocoa until well combined. Add 225g of icing sugar and 2 Tblsp/30ml milk. Beat well and then spread over the cake. Leave to set.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Add the zest of 2 lemons to the cake ingredients. When the cake is cooked and just out of the oven mix the juice of the 2 lemons with 200g of caster sugar and pour it over the hot cake.

Fruit Cake

Add 200g of currants to the other ingredients and beat together as normal. Half way through the cooking time take the cake out of the oven, sprinkle 2 Tblsp of demerara sugar over the top of the cake, then put back into the oven for the rest of the cooking time.
Jubilee or Berry Sponge
Fruit Sponge Pudding

Six Ways With Simmered Mince

This is my basic simmered mince recipe that I can transform into loads of different meals and can feed us well for several dinners and a lunch or two. It makes 1kg of mince stretch a long way and is great if you are counting pennies or are starting to use Meal Plans to cut your household spending.

3 Tbsp oil
3 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
3 celery sticks, finely sliced
2 peppers, chopped into smallish chunks
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 kg beef mince
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
3 beef stock cubes dissolved in 1 litre of boiling water

Heat half of the oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, carrot, celery and pepper. Sweat until softened. Put into your slow cooker. If you're not using a slow cooker, just take the pan off the heat and set it aside.

Brown the mince in a large pan over a medium heat, about a third at a time. Fry until there are no pink bits left. Don't brown all the mince at once or you will crowd the pan and it will take longer to brown. Put the browned mince in your slow cooker. If you aren't using a slow cooker, add the vegetables you sweated off earlier to the mince at this point.

Add the tinned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and stock to the mince and vegetable mixture, either in your slow cooker or in a large saucepan on the hob, mix until well combined.

Either simmer uncovered on the hob for one hour until the volume of liquid has reduced slightly and the sauce has thickened or cook in your slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. You can thicken the sauce with a little cornflour mixed with cold water then stirred into the sauce.

You can now turn the Simmered Mince into many other meals:

Cottage Pie

Spoon about a third of the above mince mixture into a baking dish, top with about 750g mashed potato and bake at 190C/375F/Gas 5 for 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden-brown on top. Serve with mixed vegetables or peas.

cottage pie English food British cuisine comfort food beef mince dinner

Mince on Toast

The ultimate in low faff comfort food for dinner!  Serve the simmered mince on top of thick slices of toast.  I use homemade wholemeal bread cut into thick slices.  You could serve the mince with crusty bread rolls on the side instead of toast.

Chilli Con Carne

Use 1/3 of the simmered mince mixture and stir a tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce, or a tin of kidney beans and enough chilli powder to suit your taste, into a third of the mince mixture and warm through. Serve with rice or tortillas topped with little soured cream.

Spaghetti Bolognese

1 pack bacon lardons or 4 rashers finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
300ml red wine
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
300ml boiling water
1/3 batch of simmered mince (recipe above)
500g dried spaghetti

Heat a saucepan and add the lardons, let the fat run out and then sauté the garlic for a couple of minutes. Drain off as much oil as you can and then add the red wine. Boil the wine until it has reduced to about 2 Tblsp of liquid and then add the tinned tomatoes, braised mince and stock.

Simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until the mince has thickened to Bolognese sauce consistency. Whilst the mince is thickening, cook your spaghetti according to the instructions on the pack. Check the mince mixture for seasoning then serve over cooked spaghetti. Top with grated parmesan if you want.

Pasta Bake

Make the Spaghetti Bolognese recipe as above then mix with cooked pasta and put into an oven proof dish.  Top with grated cheese and put under the grill until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Mince and Lentil Hotpot

Use 1/3 of the Simmered Mince, as per the recipe above, and add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and corn along with a drained tin of lentils and simmer until the frozen vegetables are cooked everything has been well heated through.

Six Ways With Roasted Vegetables

Saturday 21 July 2012
I really like a basic recipe that you can adapt to make loads of different dishes.  If you've some vegetables that need using up, or just fancy a lovely vegetarian dinner, here are some ideas to try using 4-6 cups of vegetables that have been roasted. 

You can use vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beetroot, peppers, courgettes, aubergine, onions, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, etc. 

Garlic and Herb Roasted Vegetables

1 Tblsp olive oil
1 tsp each of crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper and dried mixed herbs

Honey and Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

1 Tblsp each of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey

Slice the vegetables into chunks that are all about the same size, this helps them cook evenly in the same amount of time.  Put the prepared vegetables into an ovenproof roasting dish.  Mix the ingredients from whichever flavour option you prefer through the vegetables to coat them.

Cook the vegetables in a preheated oven at 180°C until they are cooked and tender.  Small chunks should take approximately 30 minutes, larger chunks will take longer. 

Oven roasted vegetables vegetarian vegan meal base chargrilled vegetables

Roasted Vegetable, Ham and Pasta Bake:  Add cooked pasta shapes and diced ham to the cooked roast vegetables.  Mix with homemade cheese sauce and put into an ovenproof dish.  Top with breadcrumbs mixed with grated cheese and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes.

Frittata:  Add frozen peas or other mixed vegetables to the roasted vegetables in an ovenproof dish.  Add enough beaten egg to coat the vegetables and sprinkle over some grated cheese.  Bake at 180°C for around 45 minutes or until the egg has totally set.

Lemon and Herb Couscous With Roasted Vegetables and Haloumi: Prepare 1 cup couscous following packet directions but use stock vegetable stock and freshly squeezed lemon juice as the liquid.  Just before serving stir through 1 Tblsp of finely chopped fresh herbs. Top with roasted vegetables and slices of grilled Haloumi.

Roasted Vegetable and Tomato Pasta: Heat 1 Tblsp of  olive oil in a saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of chopped garlic and one finely diced onion then cook for a couple of minutes until the onion has softened. Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and 1 or 2 teaspoons of mixed dried herbs then simmer for around 10 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.  Toss the sauce through cooked pasta and roasted vegetables.  Grate over some Parmesan just before serving.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza: Spread a pizza base with tomato paste or pasta sauce. Top with small chunks of roasted vegetables and top with grated mozzarella or other suitable cheese. Bake at 200°C for 10-15 minutes.

Quesadillas: Layer the chopped roast vegetables between tortillas, add some grated cheese and some tinned chilli beans.  Peheat a non-stick frying pan or sandwich press.  Cook the quesadillas one at a time in the frying pan. Cook on one side for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn with a spatula and cook the other side for another 2 or 3 minutes, or until the fillings are hot and the cheese has melted. Repeat with the other quesadillas.  Cut into wedges then serve.

Six Ways With Scones

Thursday 19 July 2012
Scones are my ultimate go to snack solution when unexpected visitors turn up or the kids are hungry in the school holidays or after school.  They are cheap, easy to make and incredibly versatile - basically everything you need a snack to be.

This scone recipe is great for kids to make too, especially those with short attention spans, because it uses melted butter so there is no need to rub the butter into the flour.  It also makes the recipe super quick to make, a bonus when you are in a hurry to feed hungry children or unexpected guests.

Plain scones

This recipe makes 10-12 scones

2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 Tblsp sugar, or more to taste
30-50g butter
Approximately ¾ cup (180ml) of milk, or more as needed

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir in the sugar.  Melt the butter and then add enough milk to make up 250ml/1cup.

Tip the milk and butter mixture into the dry ingredients stir to combine.  You will have a soft and slightly sticky dough.  You may need add a little more milk, if you do then add it a teaspoonful at a time.

Turn the scone dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together and pat it out to form a rectangle of dough about ¾ - 1 inch thick.

Using a floured cutter or knife, cut out even sized scones and put them close together on the tray.  Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes until the scones are well risen and golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

plain scones school holiday baking scones afternoon tea easy baking

Fruit Scones: Make the basic scone dough and add either fresh or dried fruit.  Blueberry or rasperry scones are particularly delicious topped with cream.  I usually add sultanas or raisins and chopped pieces of dried apricot to liven up plain scones.  Top with butter or jam and cream if you would like an afternoon tea treat.

raisin scones fruit scones school holiday baking easy afternoon tea

Sweet Scones Swirls: On a floured surface, roll Basic scones dough into a 20x30cm rectangle and spread with jam or alternatively with butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar and small chunks of diced apple or pear. Roll up like a Swiss roll and cut in 12 slices. Arrange cut side up onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.  Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve as is or warm with custard for dessert.

cinnamon scrolls scones easy baking school holiday baking with kids

Savoury Scone Swirls: On a floured surface, roll out a 20x30cm scone dough rectangle and spread with tomatoe paste, chutney or relish. Sprinkle with chopped ham, diced onion and pepper, grated cheese and a sprinkle of dried mixed herbs.  Roll up like a Swiss roll and cut in 12 slices. Arrange cut side up onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.  Top with a little extra grated cheese if you want.  Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

savoury pizza scones picnic food school holiday baking snack pizza scrolls
Fully loaded pizza scone swirls make an excellent picnic lunch
Pizza Base: Roll out the dough into one large 1/4 inch circle or rectangle or make several smaller pizza bases. Spread with tomato paste or pasta sauce and top with your favourite pizza toppings such as chopped peppers, ham or salami, sliced mushrooms, olives, aubergine, etc.  Top with grated cheese. Cook at 180°C for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your pizza.

fast pizza base easy pizza scone base school holiday baking lunch quick dinner savoury scone pizza

Savoury Scones: Add 1 tsp of dried mixed herbs to the scone dough along with some grated carrot and/or chopped peppers, ham or salami.  Top with grated cheese then bake as per the basic recipe.

cheese scones savoury scones picnic afternoon tea

Quick Herb Bread: Add 1/4 cup each of roughly chopped fresh flatleaf parsley and chives to the scone dough. Shape the scone dough into a 1 inch thick round and put on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.  Use a sharp knife to mark out 8 - 12 wedges into the top of the dough.  Bake at 200°C for 20-25 minutes, or until the bread is light golden and base sounds hollow when you tap it

quick bread no knead soda bread kids in the kitchen school holiday baking scone bread
Plain, herbed, fruited or spiced soda bread is SO quick and delicious!

Plum and Pear Sponge Pudding

Tuesday 17 July 2012
I absolutely cannot stand wasting food so try and make the most of what we have.  With that in mind I try to use up anything that is over-ripe, not quite ideal for eating on it's own or just needs using up.  There were some pears and plums in the fruit bowl that were past their best so I decided to make a sponge pudding, as you do.

I used my really easy sponge traybake recipe to top some chopped raw fruit.  I didn't even have to peel the plums and pears, just chopped around the stone and core then put the pieces of fruit in the bottom of the baking tray and smoothed sponge batter over the top.  The result was a delicious pudding with loads of lovely fruit that others may have thrown away.

Here's the recipe:

About 2 or 3 cups of chopped raw fruit, I used pears and plums but you could use apples, peaches, apricots, necatrines, cherries whatever you need to use up.

Put the fruit in the bottom of the traybake tin.  Then make the sponge to go over the top.  Put the following into a stand mixer or beat with an electric beater for 2 minutes:

175g really soft butter or baking spread
225g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
175g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
3 Tblsp/45ml milk

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a traybake tin approximately 12 x 9 inches or 20 x 22cm.
Spread the sponge batter over the chopped fruit and level the top.
Bake the sponge for about 25 - 30 minutes until the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin slightly and springs back in the centre if you press it lightly with your fingertips.
Leave the sponge to cool in the tin slightly before you serve it.  We had ours with vanilla icecream but you could serve it with thick yoghurt, cream or on it's own.  It is also fab for morning tea the next day, not that I am admitting to anything!

Rhubarb and Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

Sunday 15 July 2012

I've made various versions of this cake over the last few days.  This is the third time I have made it, and after giving the previous two cakes away, we are devouring this one with great enthusiasm.  My 3 girls had two pieces in quick succession and my husband had three pieces before pausing then eating a fourth. 

We have had a glut of rhubarb and raspberries in our back garden and I decided to put them to good use as a filling for this cake.  I have used just rhubarb as a filling, which works well, but decided to add the raspberries as an extra flavour boost.

For the rhubarb filling:

Put 700g rhubarb, trimmed and washed then cut into 1cm chunks into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with 2 Tblsp caster sugar. Bake at 180C for around half an hour or until the rhubarb is tender.

For the cake:

160g caster sugar
200g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large free range eggs
375g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
260g natural yoghurt, I used Total Greek
4 Tblsp/60ml milk
1 or 2 handfuls of fresh raspberries
3 tsp demerara sugar

Preheat your oven to 180C. Grease and line a square cake tin with non-stick baking paper, mine is 23cm square.

Using a stand mixer or electric beater, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until they are pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time with 1 Tblsp of flour, beating well after each addition until all the eggs have been added and the mixture is well combined.

Stir in the rest of the flour, ground cinnamon, yoghurt and milk. When the cake mixture is ready to be baked, spoon half of the mixture over the base of your prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Spoon over the rhubarb filling, sprinkle over some raspberries and leave a little border so that the filling doesn't spill out of the cake.

Spoon over the remaining cake mixture and smooth the top. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar just before you bake the cake.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, without any crumbs sticking to it. Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

I have submitted this recipe to the SIMPLE AND IN SEASON recipe challenge devised by Ren over at Fabulicious Food and hosted this month by Fleur on her blog, Homemade by Fleur

Do take a look at the other recipes in the challenge for some fabulous seasonal cooking inspiration and delicious recipes.

Walnut and Coffee Fudge Slice (No Bake) - Alphabakes

Thursday 12 July 2012

I have entered this post into Alphabakes Challenge which is administered by The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, and this month is being hosted by Caroline Makes. The Challenge for this month is a to create a recipe or use an ingredient that starts with the letter W.

I make a chocolate fudge slice similar to this when I need a quick fix for a cake stall or coffee morning.  No-bake recipes like this are fab as the only bit of faff is the mixing and then you can leave it in the fridge to set.  How easy is that!  This recipe can be made glutenfree by using glutenfree biscuits for the base.  You could substitute the coffee with melted chocolate.  I've done step by step photos so that the school Cookery Club I help out with can use the recipe.

Here's what you will need:

For the base:

2 x 200g packs rich tea biscuits
1 tin (395g) sweetened condensed milk
180g butter
100ml espresso
100g chopped walnuts

For the icing:

400g full fat cream cheese
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
60ml espresso (cooled)
100g chopped walnuts

Crush the biscuits. We used the end of a rolling pin and crushed them in a bowl. You want a mixture of crumbs and lumps.

Melt the butter and condensed milk together in a saucepan until smooth, then mix in the espresso.

You should end up with a lovely smooth caramel coloured mixture.

Add the condensed milk mixture to the biscuits with the chopped walnuts and mix together until totally combined.

Press into a lined swiss roll tin and refrigerate until set.

To make the icing:

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and then add the icing sugar and cooled espresso. Spread icing over the base, refrigerate overnight, then cut into squares and serve.

My Favourite Cake Stall and Class Party Recipes

Tuesday 10 July 2012
These are the quick fix recipes I tend to use when I have a Cake Stall, Class Party or Coffee Morning to bake for.  They are really easy to make, taste fab and are fairly low cost too.

I have entered this post in the Tea Time Treats Challenge, the theme for this month is Cake Stall Cakes and Bakes.  The Tea Time Treats Challenge is hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked who take turns to host and round up each month.

Iced Chocolate Slice

This is really addictive and always disappears quickly when I make it for my family.  I make it when I need a quicker and cheaper alternative to my signature chocolate brownies.

Quick, slimline version for class parties:

100g softened butter, or use Stork instead
1 cup light soft brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large free range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup chocolate chips or sultanas

Chocolate Icing
1¼ cups icing sugar
1 ½ Tblsp cocoa
Enough water to make a spreadable icing, about 3 Tblsp.

Preheat your oven to 160C.  Line a 20cm x 30cm swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until well combined, then add the egg and beat it in thoroughly.  Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the wet ingredients.  Stir well to combine and then stir through the chocolate chips or sultanas.

Pour into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface.  Bake for 25 minutes. The top will be set but the slice will still be slightly soft.  Leave the slice in the tin to cool completely before you ice it.

If you don't want to ice the slice, dust it with icing sugar or drizzle it with a little melted chocolate.  Cut into squares then serve, or package for transporting to school or cake stall.

Thicker, more decadent choc hit version for Cake Stalls:

200g softened butter, or use Stork instead
2 cups light soft brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large free tange eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips, I use ½ cup milk choc chips and ½ cup dark choc chips

Preheat your oven to 160C. Line a 20cm x 30cm swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until well combined, then add the egg and beat it in thoroughly. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the wet ingredients. Stir well to combine and then stir through the chocolate chips.

Pour into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. The top will be set but the slice will still be slightly soft. Leave the slice in the tin to cool completely before you ice it.

I normally ice this version with some chocolate ganache, or use the same icing as the kids version.  If you don't want to ice the slice, dust it with icing sugar or drizzle it with a little melted chocolate.

Anzac Slice

This slice brings back memories from my childhood.  It was one of my Nan's standby quick bakes.  So easy, takes no time at all to make, great for last minute class parties or if you have hungry kids coming to visit after school.  You could add some sultanas or chopped dried apricots if you like.  It is not as stodgy as a flapjack and not as sweet either, great for packed lunches too.  I sometimes double the ingredients for a thicker, more substantial slice and bake it for 40 - 45 minutes. 

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut
½ cup flour
½ cup light soft brown sugar, firmly packed
125g butter, melted (or use melted Stork instead)

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line a 20cm  x 30cm swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper.

Mix the oats, coconut, flour and sugar together in a large bowl.  Pour in the melted butter and mix well until completely combined. 

Turn the mixture out into the prepared tin and press flat with a potato masher or the back of a spoon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the slice turns golden and has set.

Remove from oven, cool a few minutes, then with a sharp knife cut into squares.  Leave the slice to cool completely in the in and then cut it into squares.  Store in an airtight container.

Our Family Meal Plan Week of 09/07/12 - £51

Sunday 8 July 2012
I did not blog a Meal Plan last week, I was too poorly.  We used meals that I had precooked for when we need emergency dinners and leftovers which were in the freezer.  The freezer stash of meals were much needed and I was so glad I had them there.  It meant that dinners were easily prepared and I could get hubby to sort dinner for me.  My girls had school dinners as I had neither the urge or the energy to prepare packed lunches.

I am still poorly this week, but am on the mend at last, hurrah!  Consequently I'm back to blogging our Meal Plan.  My girls will be having school dinners this week as I won't have the energy to make/bake packed lunches.  Weekend lunches will be Macaroni Cheese and Twice Baked Potatoes.  Breakfasts will be cereal and milk or toast with a piece of fruit for afters.  There's  plenty of fruit in our shopping, as always, for snacking on and to supplement school dinners.

As usual I have compared prices of the groceries required for our Meal Plan using My Supermarket.  The cost of the items for our Meal Plan was £51.78 purchased from Asda on 08/07/2012, if I had shopped at Sainsbury's my trolley of items would've cost £56.48 and if I shopped at Tesco I would've paid £62.04 for my items.

Here are our dinners for this week:

Salmon Filo Parcels

2 spring onions
200g tin salmon in spring water
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup grated cheese
cooking oil spray
6 sheets filo pastry

Finely chop the spring onions. Drain the tin of salmon and roughly flake it.  Mix the spring onion, salmon, mixed vegetables and grated cheese together. Preheat your oven to 200C.

Lightly spray a tray with oil. Cut the layers of large sheets of pastry in half to form 2 rectangles.  Put a large dollop of the salmon mixture into the middle of each rectangle.  Fold in the four edges, using a little water to roughly seal the parcels.

Put the parcels on the tray and lightly spray them with a little oil spray to help them crisp up in the oven.  Cook for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. I usually serve them with a salad.

Mince in Lettuce Cups

1 Tblsp oil
500g lean beef mince
2cm piece fresh ginger, chopped or 2 tsp prepared ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, chopped
2 Tblsp soy sauce
2 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce
4 cups mixed stir fry vegetables
1 head iceberg lettuce
4 cups cooked rice, to serve

Heat the oil over a moderately high heat in a non-stick pan.  Add the mince and cook it with the ginger , breaking it up as it cooks, until the mince is evenly browned.   Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. 

Add the spring onions and sauces then cook for a few minutes.  Add the stir fry vegetables and cook for 3-4 minutes or so.  You want the vegetables to still be a little crunchy.

Break up the lettuce into leaves.  Serve the mince in large lettuce leaves accompanied by cooked rice.  

Vege Pasta Bake

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 pepper, any colour
1 tsp oil
2 carrots, grated
2 courgettes, grated
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tblsp tomato paste
1 1/2 Tblsp pesto
4 Tblsp red lentils
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
2 cups pasta

For the sauce:
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp plain flour
500ml milk
75g grated cheese

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan pan or frying pan and sauté the onion, garlic, pepper and celery.  When the vegetables are beginning to soften, add the grated carrot and courgette then cook until the carrot is soft.

Mix in the tomatoes, stock, tomato paste, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, pesto and lentils.  Simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are beginning to swell and become tender (they’ll continue cooking in the oven) and the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

Make the cheese sauce.  Heat the oil in a saucepan, then use a whisk to mix the flour into the oil. Cook for a couple of minutes before gradually whisking in the milk. 

When all the milk has been added, use a wooden spoon to stir the sauce over a gentle heat until it thickens, don’t let it boil.  When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon, season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

To assemble the dish, put the well-drained, cooked pasta into the bottom of a heatproof casserole or serving dish. Spoon over the lentil and vegetable sauce then pour the white sauce on top. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until everything is piping hot and the cheese on top is golden and bubbling.

Baked Rice with Salmon

1 onion
1 Tblsp chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 pepper, any colour will do
1 stalk celery
200g tin salmon, drained
310g tin corn, drained
1 1/2 cups rice
2 cups water

Preheat your oven to 180C. Dice the onion, celery stalk and pepper.

Put the oregano, onion, rice, water, tomatoes, celery and pepper in an ovenproof baking dish.  Stir everything together.  Cover with foil or a lid and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

Use a fork to fluff up the rice then season with pepper.  Stir through the salmon and sweetcorn. Leave for 5 minutes to heat through.  Serve immediately.

Homemade Pizzas

Chicken Traybake

Simmered Mince on Toast/Baked Potatoes

Shopping List

36 items: £51.78 purchased from Asda on 08/07/2012.

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g) £2.17
2x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 62p
1x ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g) 34p
1x ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g) 70p
1x ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g) 48p

2x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £1.50

Dairy and Eggs
6x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £6.00 any 2 FOR £2.00
2x ASDA English Medium Cheddar (400g) £4.00 any 2 FOR £4.00

Packets and Cereals

1x Asda Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 60p
1x ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.28
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 52p
1x ASDA Easy Cook Long Grain Brown Rice (1Kg) £1.61
1x ASDA Chosen by You Wholewheat Fusilli (500g) 95p
1x Napolina Whole Wheat Penne (500g) £1.00
1x Jus Rol Filo Pastry Sheets (270g) £1.80
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 64p
1x Sunnybisk Wheat Biscuits (48 per pack - 864g) £1.78

Fruit and Vegetables
1 ASDA Ginger by Weight (100g) 21.1p
20 ASDA Smartprice Apples by Weight (100g) £2.00
20 ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g) £1.36
5 ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g) 39p
6 ASDA Courgettes by Weight (100g) 97.2p was 18p
1x ASDA Smartprice Mushrooms (750g) £1.18
10 ASDA Red Onions by Weight (100g) 85p
4 ASDA Tomatoes by Weight (100g) 79.6p
6 ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g) 69p was 12.8p
1x ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose £1.00
1x ASDA Celery 75p
1x ASDA Baking Potatoes (2.5Kg) £1.74
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 27p was 30p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.50
1x ASDA Spring Onions 70p
1x ASDA Oranges Extra Juicy (10) £2.00
1x ASDA Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry (430g) £1.20

Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x ASDA Butcher's Selection British Beef Mince (500g) £5.20
1x Banham Poultry Chicken Drumsticks (1Kg) £2.98

Tips for Cake Stall and School Parties

It's that time of year that all parents surely dread, the last few weeks of the school year.  Kids are tired, weather is unpredictable, there are a myriad of school event that parents feel duty bound to traipse to and the dreaded end of year class parties that demand food contributions.

The primary school that my daughters attend has been holding a cake stall each Friday for the past few weeks.  Each cake stall is run by 1 or 2 classes and the proceeds go to that class.  It is a good idea, however, despite only having 2 daughters in separate classes, I have been asked to bake for at least 4 of the cake stalls.  The reason for this is that my baking sells well, and embarrassingly, people specifically ask which baking is mine before they part with their cash. 

Having organised, baked for and cleaned up after loads of cake stalls and class parties in my time, I thought I would pass on my top tips and pitfalls to watch out for.

Cake stalls

Make sure that you use disposable packaging as much as possible.  It is heartbreaking to receive a beautiful cake for a cake stall that is in a tin with no easy way to remove it without damaging the cake. Returning tins to their rightful owners can b a bit of a mission as well so best put it on a cake board, plastic/cardboard plate or use a disposable foil tray to bake your traybake in.

Keep cake and cookie decorations simple.  Save the Sistine Chapel cake for another occasion.  A bit of glace icing and sprinkles will do fine.  In fact, if you bake the sprinkles in to the cookie dough, you don't even have to decorate them. 

People should be able to eat what they buy with their hands, or carry it out in a bag. Anything that’s gooey, messy or too delicate might get damaged and will be hard to carry.

Avoid using fresh, whipped cream if possible.  In summer it might go off, if the cake is sitting around for a while it may go soggy. Neither are a good look.  Use jam, glace icing, buttercream or ganache instead as they tend to be a little more stable.

Make life a bit easier for the organisers of the cake stall by slicing your cake or bagging up cookies into portions suitable to sell.  Mini loaves, muffins and cupcakes on a disposable plate covered with clingfilm are fab and sell well either individually or by plate.

Have some savoury items as not everyone likes sweet bakes.  Savoury scones, pastry twists and palmiers all go down well with those preferring a savoury nibble.

If possible have some bakes for sale or at parties suitable for those who are coeliac and those who need dairy and egg free options, then nobody feels left out.  Make sure allergy free baking is stored appropriately away from contamination.  Also, if you offer food for consumption or sale and say that it is free from a particular ingredient, make 100% sure that it is, otherwise there could be serious consequences for all concerned.

Class Parties

Ask about parties now, even though it is still a couple of weeks before the end of term. Forewarned is forearmed LOL If you know there will be a party coming up either get a few extra baking ingredients with your grocery shop, or some drinks, crisps, breadsticks, etc that you can send to the party instead of baking/cooking anything.

Puff pastry is your friend, especially if you are told at short notice that you need to provide something edible.  Make sweet or savoury pastry twists, pastry parcels or tarts quickly and easily using a muffin tin and some store bought pastry with store cupboard ingredients.

Mini muffins, cupcakes, cookies always go down well as long as they are small and easy to eat.  Check with staff if children in the class have a nut allergy, or other allergy, just in case your recipes have that ingredient in them. 

If baking anything really does bring you out in a cold sweat, ask if you can provide drinks, fruit or crudites instead.  You could always provide disposable plates, cups, napkins or other items that don't require stepping into a kitchen.

Be prepared! That is my one top tip.  End of year class parties are coming so get some appropriate grocery supplies in if you're not baking, and if you are baking, make sure you have some cookie dough and puff pastry in the freezer so you are not caught out.  You can bet you'll get very little notice.

What are your top tips for cake stalls and class parties?
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