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Live Below The Line - Day 3

Wednesday 30 April 2014
Oh my goodness my children were feral this morning. Not entirely sure why but some days are just like that - character building and challenging - this afternoon wasn't much better.

We used up most of the rest of our porridge oats this morning, there is one serving left which I used in an unplanned pudding. More on that later.  We'll be having toast for breakfast tomorrow and Friday with banana or rhubarb compote on top.  I have baked the bread this evening ready for tomorrow morning.

Lunches are still going down well.  The kids miss having yoghurt and being able to snack on fruit whenever they like. Day three has been when reality has hit and the next two days will be more challenging than the mostly whinge free time we have had so far.

After school was certainly a challenge.  They had their snacks then staged a protest at the lack of more snacks. Going for a walk was not a distraction they were willing to fall for this time.  I ended up getting out some crafting activities and they watched telly and spent time crafting which finally settled them all down.

My husband is also very grumpy due to his lack of chocolate and confectionery this week. He normally has chocolate or sweets at morning tea, afternoon tea, on the way home from work and sometimes after pudding.  It is not unheard of for him to devour half a chocolate orange or half a packet of fruit jellies in one sitting. I have no idea where he puts it all as he's slim and always has been.  The lack of chocolate and sugar is making him cross and irritable.  He is counting down the days until Saturday when he can indulge in his treats once again.

Dinner was another family favourite, Pearl Barley Risotto, and we're having leftovers tomorrow night.  Portion control is a challenge because the amount you actually need differs from what you think you need.  We tend to serve ourselves portions that are too big because we are used to seeing large portions.  Weeks like this one are good to redress the balance and rewire our thinking when it comes to how much food we actually need to eat and adjusting portion sizes accordingly.

Due to us having a small amount of oats left I decided to make a rhubarb crumble.  I used a little butter which we had left and some wholemeal flour, oats and sugar.  We have so much rhubarb in our back garden and at the allotments we have been giving it away to friends.  The pudding was welcome after not having had a proper pudding for a few days.  Hopefully it will boost our spirits and get us through the final two days of the challenge ahead.

If you can spare a few pennies, you can sponsor us:

Live Below The Line - Day 2

Tuesday 29 April 2014
Today has been OK, breakfast was fine and lunches are going down well.  I walked to the allotment and picked some leeks and chard for us to have with dinner the next couple of nights.  I haven't been able to hold down any solid food today as my morning sickness has been awful once again.  More food for everyone else I suppose!

After school is definitely the most challenging time as the kids are hungry, tired and grumpy.  I'm finding that a snack and then distraction is working quite well.  I'm sure it will be more difficult as the week goes on and we all get progressively more tired.

Dinner was a hit with almost everyone.  We had homemade fishcakes with wilted chard, steamed chard stems and mixed vegetables.  Eldest doesn't normally like fish but will tolerate salmon and she was rather hungry so enthusiastically ate dinner without moaning.  Result!

Day two done and looking forward to day three, I am baking more flapjacks which will hopefully last the next three days of the challenge.

If you can spare a few pennies, you can sponsor us: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/utterlyscrummy

Live Below the Line - Day 1

Monday 28 April 2014
We're all psyched up for the week ahead and prepared for the fact there will be times we are hungry and grumpy.  Breakfast was fine, not the usual compote or dried fruit on top of the porridge, but baked rhubarb compote was really welcomed and the banana for afters filled us up.  

The kids and hubby liked the calzone and vege sticks with a flapjack for lunch, however they missed the usual piece of fruit and yoghurt dip for the vege sticks.  I didn't have calzone for lunch, I made some wholemeal bread rolls for me to have filled with salad leaves and had vege sticks too.  As I'm still feeling sick a lot of the time I've gone off most foods.  

The most challenging time throughout the week is going to be the period of time between when the kids getting home from school and dinner.  My daughters usually come home and inhale the contents of the fruit bowl before heading to the fridge.  There's none of that this week! I gave them a small serving of rice pudding each and a flapjack which satisfied them until dinner time - but only just.  Not being able to snack freely from the fruit bowl has been the main complaint so far.  I also distracted them from raiding the fridge and fruit bowl by taking them to the allotment to pick chard and salad greens dinner tonight and lunches tomorrow.

Vegetable Pie is one of their favourite dinner options so was enthusiastically devoured. There were no seconds or pudding which is good for our waistlines but eldest complained of still being hungry.

On the whole day one has gone fairly smoothly, bring on the next 4 days!

If you can spare a few pennies, you can sponsor us: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/utterlyscrummy

Live Below The Line 2014 Family Meal Plan

Friday 25 April 2014

We're once again taking part in the Live Below the Line campaign as a family from 28th April - 2nd May, this time raising money for Christian Aid.  Sometimes the best way for children to learn things is to experience them in a safe but challenging way.  We take for granted our plentiful food, clean water and fairly comfortable lifestyle.  It is very important to me that my children realise that others in the world are much less fortunate and for them to experience a little of what it is like for those people who live on much less than we do.  

There are currently 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty – surviving on just £1 a day.  That £1 has to pay for everything – food, housing, health, clothing, transport and education.  Live Below the Line aims to raise money to help those in poverty by highlighting the plight of the world’s poorest.  My eldest daughter wants to be an aid worker and has already raised £188 for Save the Children this year by organising a concert with a teacher and her worship band at school so she was very enthusiastic about participating in Live Below the Line once again - my husband and other two daughters are slightly less keen.

I am pregnant so have been advised by my Obstetric Consultant to keep taking my pregnancy multivitamins throughout the week but other than that we will be strictly sticking to the rules of spending £1 per person per day on food.  I will be blogging our experiences and feelings throughout next week so do check back to see how we are getting on.

You can sponsor us to raise money for Christian Aid by clicking here.

Our 5 Day Meal Plan

Drinks will be either water, milk or cheats cuppa soup made with some vegetable stock cube dissolved in hot water. There is no tea, coffee, juice or squash in this Meal Plan.  We grow rhubarb, fresh herbs, spinach, chard and salads so I’ve included 60p to cover the costs of seeds used to grow our produce. I will of course be baking our own bread and other baked goods needed for the Meal Plan.


Breakfasts will be porridge with baked rhubarb compote and a banana or banana on wholemeal toast.


These Calzone will be served with carrot and cucumber sticks and salad leaves.

Mince and Vegetable Calzone

250g beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
200g frozen mixed vegetables
4 Tblsp tomato paste
125ml boiling water
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 Tblsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1  x 7g packet instant yeast
1 Tblsp sugar
150ml - 200ml lukewarm water
450g bread or plain flour, I used wholemeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed herbs

Make the dough first so it has time to rise whilst you make the filling. Mix the yeast, sugar and water together then add the flour, salt, a couple of hearty grinds of pepper and mixed herbs.  Mix the ingredients together well, and add more warm water or flour if necessary, until the dough mixture forms a large ball.

Knead the dough gently until it is elastic and smooth.  Grease a bowl with a little oil, put the dough into the bowl and turn it n the oil.  Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 190C/170 Fan.

Now make the filling.  In a frying pan over a moderate heat, saute the onion and peppers until they start to soften then add the minced beef.  Brown the mince well, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add the frozen mixed vegetables, tomato paste, water and chives then simmer gently for 10–15 minutes. Remove the filling fron the heat.

To make the calzone, take a small piece of dough and roll it out into a small circle shape. Put a large spoonful of mince mixture on one side of circle, leaving a 1cm clear edge. Top with a tablespoon of grated cheddar cheese.  Fold the empty side over the filling to make a crescent shape then pinch the edges together to seal the calzone.  Repeat until all the dough and filling has been used.  I can usually get about 18 - 20 small calzone from this recipe.

Put the calzone onto lined baking trays. Brush with a little oil and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.



125g butter
125g sugar
175g rolled oats

Preheat your oven to 160C/140C Fan and line a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper.  Put the butter and sugar into a large saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the butter has melted and everything is well combined.

Take the saucepan off the heat then tip the rolled oats and stir together ensuring that the oats are thoroughly coated with the melted butter and sugar mixture.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and press down firmly to form an even layer, I use a potato masher to do this bit but you could use the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and score slices to make cutting the flapjacks easier once they have cooled.  Leave the flapjacks to cool completely in the tin.

Rice Pudding

600ml milk
65g long grain white rice
50g white sugar

In a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan combine the milk and rice.  Place saucepan over a fairly high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender. This usually takes about 25 minutes. Stir the milk mixture frequently using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

Once the rice is tender, cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the rice pudding thickens.  Spoon the pudding into a bowl to cool and cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Vegetable Pie

I love making this for dinner, it's quick, easy and filling. Just what you need for a stormy weekday evening. You can use whatever vegetables that you have available, even leftovers work well. The cheese sauce is quick to make and you cover everything with tasty mash.

Creamy Sauce:
50g butter
50g flour
600ml milk
150g grated mature cheddar

Vegetables, use what you have available:
500g frozen mixed vegetables
small bunch of chives, finely chopped
3 or 4 large potatoes or sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and mustard powder and cook for 1 min. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth with no lumps, then keep stirring until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens to a creamy sauce. Remove from the heat, then stir in the grated cheese, leaving some aside to sprinkle on the top.

Heat your oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 and bring a large pan of water to the boil. Cook the broccoli for 5 minutes then add mixed vegetables and cook for a further 3 - 5 minutes. Drain all the vegetables well. Add the cooked vegetables to the creamy sauce with the chives. Cook and mash the sweet potatoes or potatoes and season to taste as this will cover the top of the finished pie.

Tip the mixed vegetables and sauce into a deep ovenproof dish, carefully cover with the mash and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 20-25 mins until the topping is golden and the cheese is bubbling, then serve.
Salmon Fish Cakes with Vegetables

1 packet of salmon trimmings
500g large potatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs or 1 Tblsp fresh herbs
100g wholemeal breadcrumbs

Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water until soft.  Drain well and mash until smooth, then leave to cool. Finely chop the salmon trimmings and mix into the cooled mash potato along with the herbs.  Shape the mix into fish cakes.

Coat each fish cake in a little plain flour, dip into beaten egg and coat in the breadcrumbs.  Fry the fish cakes in a little oil or butter for 2 minutes on each side. Then put them on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes on 175C. Serve with cooked mixed vegetables or spinach.
Mixed Vegetable Pearl Barley Risotto – 2 nights

50g unsalted butter
500g pearl barley
1 vegetable stock cube
500g frozen mixed vegetables
Handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, tarragon or sage, chopped
150g grated mature Cheddar, a vegetarian alternative

Melt a knob of the butter in a medium pan. Add the pearl barley, stir it around so it's coated with the butter, then cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Dissolve the stock cube in 600ml of boiling water, then pour over the pearl barley.

Simmer over a medium heat for 25-30 minutes until the pearl barley is tender. Keep topping it up with another 800ml hot water, ensuring the barley is covered.  When the pearl barley is cooked, remove the saucepan from the heat, taste it and adjust the seasoning. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, then set aside with a lid on for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat until it starts foaming. Add the mushrooms and fry for 5-10 minutes until they're golden brown. Season to taste. We you're ready to serve, combine the pearl barley and vegetables with the mushrooms, herbs and cheese. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, then spoon into bowls.
Rice and Vegetable Bake

2 cups cooked rice
2 onions, finely sliced
1 Tblsp butter or spread
2 handfuls frozen mixed vegetables
2 cubes frozen spinach, defrosted (or use 1 large bunch of fresh spinach leaves)
6 eggs
1 cup grated cheese

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease a large baking dish.

Cook onions in the butter until soft and slightly caramelised.

Combine all the other ingredients except ½ cup of cheese. Spoon into prepared dish and flatten. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until firm in the middle and lightly browned.
Shopping List

20 items: £24.39

Packets and Cereals
2x   ASDA Wholegrain Scottish Porridge Oats (500g)                     £1.36
1x   Whitworths Granulated Sugar (500g)                                        65p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg)                                 40p
1x   Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g)                                                64p
1x   ASDA Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)          65p
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                         £1.28

2x   ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                              £1.54

Dairy and Eggs
3x   ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                      £3.00
1x   ASDA Smartprice Salted Butter (250g)                                     98p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Mild Grated Cheddar (500g)                         £2.21
1x   Suffolk Farm Medium Free Range Eggs (6)                              £1.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x   ASDA Smartprice Smoked Salmon Trimmings (120g)               £1.25
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection British Beef Mince (250g)                £1.75

Fruit and Vegetables
20   ASDA Bananas by Weight (150g)                                            £1.97
2     ASDA Onions by Weight (230g)                                              34.5p
1x   ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                                 £2.00
3x   ASDA Whole Cucumber                                                          £1.50
1x   ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg)                                                             75p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x   ASDA Tomato Puree Double Concentrate (310g)                      72p
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Vegetable Stock Cubes (12x10g)          40p

Chocolate Wheatens

Monday 21 April 2014
I was challenged by the lovelies at Sainsbury's to come up with an idea to use up leftover Easter Egg chocolate.  We don't ever seem to have leftover chocolate, my hubby usually eats it in the blink of an eye.  However, should you have some leftover chocolate languishing in the cupboard after Easter give these biscuits a whirl.  

Chocolate Wheatens

120g softened butter
110g light soft brown sugar
100g wholemeal plain flour
40g white self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon or ground ginger
30g rolled oats
up to 4 Tblsp milk
Leftover chocolate, broken into chunks

Cream the softened butter and sugar then add the flours, cinnamon and oats.  Mix in the milk one tablespoon at a time until a fairly firm dough forms, you may not need to use all 4 tablespoons of milk.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth, don't overwork the dough or your biscuits will be tough.  Roll out the dough to about the thickness of a £1 coin (3mm) and use a 6cm cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can, re-roll the scraps and keep cutting out biscuits until all the dough has been used.

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan and line two large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.  I pricked each biscuits a couple of times with a fork to stop them rising up too much in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.  Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Melt chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Spread the chocolate over one side of each biscuit, put on a tray and leave until the chocolate has set.  Store in an airtight container.

Rainbow Chard and Leek Quiche

Thursday 17 April 2014

We have an abundance of rainbow chard at our allotments and some leeks ready to harvest so I decided to make a Rainbow Chard and Leek Quiche for our lunch.  The stems of the rainbow chard are so colourful and a contrast to the rich green leaves.  Both are delicious, it is such a shame that the stems don't retain their vibrant colour after cooking.  They do make a great addition to a salads when finely chopped and lightly blanched, I also use them in stirfries, stews and other dishes to ensure nothing is wasted.  We have chard and spinach regularly as a side dish but I wanted our colourful homegrown rainbow chard to be the main feature of a dish instead of being relegated to 'steamed greens' status.

Rainbow Chard and Leek Quiche

For the pastry:
225g plain white flour 8p
pinch salt
110g cold unsalted butter, cubed 49p
1 medium free range egg yolk 9p
Cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolk and a little water.

I add a tablespoon of cold water then add more, if necessary, a teaspoonful at a time.  Mix to a firm dough and press out to a disc shape.  Wrap the dough in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for half an hour before you attempt to roll it out.
For the filling:
1 Tblsp oil 1p
1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
1 large bunch of rainbow chard, leaves shredded and stalks finely sliced
5 free range eggs 90p
200ml milk 10p
100g grated cheddar cheese 13p
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and freshly ground pepper 

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan.  Roll out the pastry into a circle about 0.5cm/5mm thick.  Line a greased loose based tart tin with the pastry, mine measures 25cm in diameter.  Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper and baking beans or dried rice and blind bake it for 15 minutes.  Leave to cool whilst you prepare the filling before removing the baking beans and paper.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan or saucepan over a moderate heat.  Add the leek and chard, cooking until the leek softens and the chard wilts slightly.  Pour the vegetables into the blind baked pastry case.

Beat together the eggs, milk, cheese, herbs, a few grinds of pepper and a large pinch of salt.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and bake the quiche for 25 - 30 minutes or until set and golden brown.

I'm entering this quiche into Extra Veg, a monthly blog challenge created by myself and Helen from Fuss Free Flavours to encourage us all to add extra vegetables to our meals.  Helen is hosting this month.

I am also entering this recipe into Credit Crunch Munch, created and hosted alternately by Helen and Camilla.  Camilla is hosting this month.  The chard and leeks were free and the rest of the ingredients cost £1.80 (not including energy costs to cook the quiche).  This quiche was a thrifty and filling lunch for our family of 5, we did have large slices and it could have been stretched over 2 lunches if accompanied by more salads and crudites.

Delicious Hot Cross Buns - thrifty and tasty!

Tuesday 15 April 2014

I decided to try out yet another variation of my Hot Cross Bun recipe as I wanted a rich and flavoursome bun packed with fruit which was inexpensive and easy to make.  Basically I wanted a Hot Cross Bun that would give the supermarket premium brand buns a run for their money but cost much less than posh store bought buns.  These buns cost £1.47 for ingredients to bake a dozen, energy costs to bake them would of course be extra.  Asda and Sainsbury's sell their premium Hot Cross Buns for £1.35 per 4 pack, Tesco Finest are on offer for £1.20 (was £1.70) for a 4 pack and Waitrose Richly Fruited Hot Cross Buns are £1.59 for a 4 pack.

This means that the cost of baking this batch of 12 Hot Cross Buns is about the same as buying only 4 buns from a supermarket premium range.  You don't have to be a master baker to make them either, just make sure the milk isn't hotter than 38C and that you knead the dough well until it is springy and elastic. That's all there is to it! You don't need a stand mixer, you can make them by hand.  Kids love kneading and shaping the dough, great for keeping them amused in the holidays.

You could add some peeled and finely chopped eating apple for extra fruit content or use a mixture of sultanas and dried apricots for a slightly different flavour.  My kids aren't fans of mixed peel so I normally leave it out and add some orange or lemon zest instead.

Delicious Hot Cross Buns

180ml milk, lukewarm 10p
4 tsp instant dry yeast 20p
75g sugar 6p
3 medium free range eggs 48p
125ml vegetable oil 15p
560g plain flour 18p
finely grated zest of an orange (optional)
3/4 tsp salt 1p
1 tsp mixed spice 1p
160g sultanas or raisins 18p

If you're using a stand mixer: Measure all of the dough ingredients, except the dried fruit, into the bowl of your mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix the dough on a low speed until it comes together, then increase the speed a little.  Knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  

If making by hand: Measure the ingredients, except for the dried fruit, into a large bowl.  Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead  until smooth and elastic.  Don't be tempted to add too much flour to the work surface or it will dry the dough out too much.  

Once your dough is smooth and elastic, knead through the dried fruit, either in the mixer or by hand.  Transfer the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave for rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a minute to knock the dough back.  Divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces, ours weighed about 100g each.  Shape each piece into a ball and put onto a lined baking tray, leave a little space between them as they will be left to rise again.  Cover the baking tray with greased cling film and leave the buns to rise for another 45 minutes.

3 Tblsp plain flour 1p
2 Tblsp cold water

Mix together the flour and water until a smooth paste forms then transfer to a piping bag, If you don't have a piping bag don't worry, just use a plastic sandwich bag and snip a small piece off one corner.  Pipe crosses on the buns.

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Uncover the buns and pipe on the crosses.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are are cooked through and a dark caramel colour on top.  Quickly make the glaze whilst the buns are still hot from the oven.

110g sugar 9p
50ml water

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat.  Heat gently, stirring constantly, until all the sugar has dissolved and a thin syrup has formed.  Brush this mixture over the buns, until it has all been used. Let the buns cool completely so the glaze can set.

Our Meal Plan for this week, school holidays edition - £70

Sunday 13 April 2014
It is the second week of the School Holidays and after being forced to rest last week I am back on form this week but not rushing about as much as I usually do.  You could be forgiven for thinking we are feeding an army this week but my 3 daughters eat like ravenous All Blacks and they will have friends over a few times which means extra mouths to feed.  I'm also taking the opportunity to replenish supplies after our kids almost ate us out of house and home last week.

Breakfast will be porridge this week to fuel our holiday fun and keep the kids fuller for longer. The wraps and bread/rolls for lunches will be homemade to keep the kids occupied and save money. Snacks will be fruit with homemade yoghurt in the morning and a small baked treat, popcorn or Scroggin in the afternoon. I have deliberately kept dinners low faff as I am almost always exhausted by dinner time and am still suffering from 24/7 morning sickness despite being in my second trimester.  

We'll be visiting the allotment to do some light weeding and planting, I have been banned from any heavy digging.  We'll also be harvesting chard, spinach and salad greens to have with our lunch and dinner.

Lentil and Mince Bolognese – Monday with pasta and Tuesday with baked potatoes

500g minced beef
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 peppers, deseeded and finely diced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 x 400g tins lentils, drained
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil

Heat a little in a frying-pan and sauté the onion, garlic and peppers together until softened. Add the minced beef and brown well, breaking up the mince as it browns.

Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, lentils, and dried herbs. Stir well to combine and let simmer for at least 20 – 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta according to pack instructions. Serve over the pasta with steamed greens or vegetables on the side.

Thrifty Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot - Wednesday and Thursday (using 12 sausages)

Meatball Minestrone - Friday

12 meatballs
1 onion, finely diced
2 peppers, deseeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock
400g tin cannellini beans, drained
400g tin kidney beans, drained
1 cup dried pasta
1 tsp dried basil
200g spinach leaves

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, peppers and garlic over a low heat until softened. Add the carrots, celery, and frankly any other veggies you have on hand that may need using up. Make sure all the vegetables are cut the same size so they cook evenly.

Cook the vegetables over a moderate heat until the carrots start to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and stock then bring everything to a gentle simmer. Add cannellinni beans, kidney beans and pasta then simmer gently for at least 20 minutes or until the pasta has softened.

Fry meatballs in a little olive oil until lightly browned all over. When the pasta has softened, add the meatballs and spinach. Simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes then serve.

Fish Pilaf - Saturday

Spaghetti and Meatballs - Sunday


We'll have crudites along with Savoury Scone Swirls or falafel and salad wraps for lunches. One day this week we'll have baked potatoes with baked beans and cheese, probably mini frittatas (using ingredients on hand) at some point during the week and I might make some rice pudding using the leftover rice too.


There will of course be lots of baking to keep my 3 daughters both busy and fed. I've supplies to make fruit scones, flapjacks, muffins/cupcakes and cookies. We'll be using cereals to bake with (cornflakes and rice crispies) and wholemeal flour which should also help quell hunger pangs.

Shopping List

40 items: £70.36

Packets & Cereals
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Cornflakes (750g)                                   £1.74
1x   Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg)                                                £2.18
1x   ASDA Smartprice Crispy Rice Cereal (440g)                              77p
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Fusilli Twists (500g)                                50p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g)                                           20p
1x   ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                    80p
1x   ASDA Basmati White Rice (1Kg)                                               £1.78
1x   Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g)                                                  64p
1x   ASDA Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)            65p
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                          £1.28
1x   Whitworths Granulated Sugar (1Kg)                                           88p

Tins, Jars & Cooking
1x   ASDA Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce (4x410g)                          £1.24
3x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                            93p
1x   ASDA Cannellini Beans in Water (300g)                                     50p
2x   ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g)                                             £1.00
1x   ASDA Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g)                                  40p
1x   ASDA Double Concentrated Tomato Puree (200g)                     48p
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Bolognese Pasta Sauce (735g)               £1.36
2x   ASDA Chosen by You Green Lentils (400g)                               £1.24

2x   ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                                £1.54
1x   ASDA Whitefish Fillets (500g)                                                   £2.00

Dairy & Eggs
5x   ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                       £5.00
1x   Stork (1Kg)                                                                              £2.00
1x   ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g)                        45p
1x   ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15)                               £2.00
2x   ASDA 30% Less Fat Mature Light British Cheese (450g)             £5.00

Fruit & Vegetables
1x   ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g)                                             84p
12   ASDA Bananas by Weight (170g)                                              £1.39
2x   ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                                  £3.00
3x   ASDA Whole Cucumber                                                            £1.50
1x   ASDA Celery                                                                            80p
2x   ASDA Garlic Loose                                                                  60p
2x   ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)                                             £3.14
1x   ASDA Spring Onions                                                                50p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)                                      98p
2x   ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg)                                                              £1.50
2x   ASDA Apples (1.2Kg)                                                               £4.00
2x   ASDA Chosen by Kids Easy Peasy Peelers (500g)                    £2.00

Meat, Fish & Poultry
2x   ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g)             £5.00
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Beef Meatballs (730g)                       £4.00
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Lean Beef Mince (580g)                    £4.50
Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 12 April 2014.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

As usual I compared the cost of our shopping using My Supermarket.  Had I shopped elsewhere our groceries would've cost £69.75 from Aldi, £72.52 from Sainsbury's, £74.84 from Tesco and £82.07 from Morrisons.

Don't forget to check out the other Meal Plans in the linky over on 
At Home With Mrs M.

Iced Easter Swirls

Friday 11 April 2014

Flora recently got in touch to see if I could come up with a recipe for them, so I decided to try baking with Flora Cuisine. It’s like liquid margarine so it’s easy to mix into baking and you can measure it in grams or mls depending on the recipe.  It's great if you’re keeping an eye on your saturated fat intake because Flora Cuisine contains 85% less than butter.

Iced Easter Swirls

450g white bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
55g sugar, I used golden caster
1/2 tsp salt
30g Flora Cuisine
180ml lukewarm water
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten

15g Flora Cuisine
1/3 cup light soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g marzipan, finely diced
1 handful sultanas
1 handful dried apricots, finely diced

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl if making by hand, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt.

Mix the milk, Flora Cuisine and egg together.  Pour into the flour mixture and mix until a soft dough forms.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, this usually takes 5 - 7 minutes in a stand mixer or around 10 minutes if kneading by hand.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove until doubled in size, this took about an hour in a warm kitchen.

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan.  Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

Knock the dough back and roll it out on a well floured surface to a rectangle approximately 40cm x 30cm.

Brush the dough with the Flora Cuisine.  Put the light soft brown sugar and mixed spice in a jar and screw on the lid.  Shake to mix then sprinkle over the dough followed by the marzipan, sultanas and dried apricots.

Roll up the dough like a Swiss roll then cut the dough log in to 8 - 10 equal pieces.  Put the slices of dough fairly close to each other on the baking tray cut side up.  Cover with greased cling film and allow to rise for 20 - 30 minutes before removing the cling film and baking the buns in the preheated oven.

Bake the buns for 15 - 20 minutes.  Once the buns are cooked and golden remove them from the tray and leave to cool completely.  Drizzle with a little icing made with icing sugar and water.

Disclosure: I have been paid for the time spent creating and photographing this recipe featuring Flora Cuisine

Chocolate Almond Easter Cake

Wednesday 9 April 2014

This cake is not for the faint hearted.  Yes, I know I am meant to be resting and I did rest after my baking session.  It is my husband's birthday in a couple of days and he wanted a full on chocolate cake that was rich and flavourful.  I added chocolate mini eggs to the top of the cake for an Easter theme, and yet more chocolate, and used Green and Blacks Organic Maya Gold Dark Chocolate for the ganache which added another level of flavour with a little spice.  Hubby was very happy indeed, he may have had more than a couple of pieces in the interests of proper taste testing.  My 3 girls liked the cake too, as did our neighbours who were also drafted in as taste testers.

Chocolate Almond Easter Cake

300g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
250g Butter, diced
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
4 free range eggs
110g caster sugar
150g self raising flour
70g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir until melted together, smooth and glossy.  Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Using electric beaters or a stand mixer, beat the vanilla, eggs, sugar together for 5 minutes until  pale and thickened.  Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture.  Sift over the flour and ground almonds then gently fold in until completely combined.

Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Set the cake aside to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

300g dark chocolate, I used Green and Blacks Organic Maya Gold
200ml double cream

Put the cream in a saucepan over a moderate heat.  Heat until almost boiling, remove from the heat and stir through the chocolate until a smooth mixture forms.  Leave the ganache to cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

I am entering this cake into the following blog challenges this month:

We Should Cocoa created by Chocolate Log blog and hosted this month by Rachel Cotterill, the theme is Easter

Love Cake hosted by JibberJabberUK, the theme is Springing into Easter

Let's Cook Sweet Treats for Easter hosted by Simply Food

Just one more photo to tempt you to try baking this cake!

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