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My blog will be a bit quiet for a while . . . . .

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Our 4th child was born recently via emergency Cesarean section after a very long induced labour which culminated foetal distress and me suffering major blood loss (almost 3 litres). Baby was in NICU for a little while.

The day before our son was born my husband was rushed by ambulance to hospital with a symptoms of a stroke. This proved to be the case and he suffered 3 TIA's leaving him with weakness down one side and balance issues. He is now back home but has regular rehab appointments both at hospital and at home and is totally exhausted most of the time.
Things will be rather challenging over the next while with a newborn, three older children and my poorly husband to take care of whilst I recover from my emergency Cesarean section surgery.

Obviously blogging will be taking a back seat for the foreseeable future.  I hope you will bear with me whilst we work our way through things as a family and I look forward to getting back into blogging once things settle down.

Thanks so much for your understanding.

Michelle x

Rice and Vegetable Bake

Saturday 13 September 2014
I have made various versions of this recipe for a weeknight dinner, packed lunches and as a hearty picnic lunch. It is such a versatile recipe and uses up vegetables and a pot of yoghurt from the fridge as well as eggs and rice from your pantry.  Quick and easy to make, you can also freeze leftovers for later.

Rice and Vegetable Bake

200g cooked white or brown rice, we used wholegrain rice
4 spring onions, white and green parts, finely sliced
2 courgettes, finely diced
1 pepper, deseeed and finely diced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely diced (optional)
large handful baby spinach, shredded
200g strong mature cheddar cheese, grated
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
5 free range eggs, lightly beaten
200g plain natural yoghurt
lots of freshly ground black pepper or a pinch or two of cayenne

Grease and line 23cm square cake tin.  Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan.

Put the rice cooked rice in a large bowl with all the vegetables and mix well. Mix together the eggs, 3/4 of the cheese and yoghurt, pour over the vegetables and rice in the bowl then thoroughly mix until combined.  Season well with lots of black pepper.  Spoon the mixture into your prepared cake tin, sprinkle the leftover cheese on top, then bake for 40 minutes until the top is lightly golden and there is no wobble of the bake if you gently jiggle the tin.

Serve slices with sweet chilli sauce and a fresh green salad or with spicy tomato salsa and cooked mixed vegetables for dinner.

Sainsburys are the leading retailer of cage-free fresh eggs and the first major retailer to use cage-free eggs as ingredients in all their own brand products. It would be brilliant if only free range eggs were used but exclusive use of cage free eggs is a great start down that road.  

Here are some other delicious recipes from my blogging friends for you to try:

** Disclosure: I was compensated for my time, expertise, and ingredients used when developing this recipe **

Seven Vegetable and Sausage Hotpot - Celebrating Organic September

Thursday 11 September 2014
Image used with permission from Soil Association.

I was asked by the lovelies at Sainsburys to help them celebrate Organic September and use some delicious produce to come up with a recipe to tempt you to try some of their wide range of organic products.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are always at the forefront of my mind when I think about organic produce, however Sainsburys have over 250 products in their our own label range alone, this means there's much more to choose from than just fruit and vegetables.  

Image used with permission from Sainsburys
I used So Organic Pork Sausages in this recipe, along with organic pantry staples such as tinned tomatoes, pulses and vegetables.  So Organic fresh fruit and vegetables are currently on a 3 for 2 offer and there's also 25% off So Organic meat and pantry items, this means that you can try organic produce for less than it would usually cost.  I'm all for saving pennies where we can!

This recipe is a quick, warming and filling meal which fed us all generously with leftovers for two lunches the next day.  Great for the slightly cooler Autumn evenings.  You could leave out the sausages, or use vegetarian sausages, and it would be a delicious vegetarian dinner.

Seven Vegetable and Sausage Hotpot

6 organic pork sausages
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 chili, deseeded and finely diced (optional)
2 peppers, deseeded and diced, any colour will do
2 leeks, finely sliced
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
400g packs chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
400g pack butterbeans, drained and rinsed
400g pack chickpeas, drained and rinsed

In a large casserole or saucepan, thoroughly brown the sausages then remove and set aside.  Using the fat rendered from the sausages, saute the onions, garlic, chili, peppers, leeks and celery until starting to soften.  Slice the sausages into bite sized chunks.

Add the sausages back to the pan along with the squash, sweet potato, chopped tomatoes, stock and herbs.  Simmer until the squash and sweet potato are cooked through and soft.  Add the drained and rinsed pulses then simmer for a further 5 minutes or so until they are heated through.  Serve.

** Disclosure: I was compensated for my time, expertise, and ingredients used when developing this recipe **

Wholemeal Chocolate Chip and Banana Loaf

Wednesday 10 September 2014

I experiment often with recipes to use up over-ripe bananas. No matter how carefully I try and calculate how many we will use, there always seems to be some either ripening too quickly or leftover before shopping day.

This recipe is a quick, easy and tasty loaf which is great for lunch box snacks, after school snacks or a treat with a cuppa. I have baked it 4 times in the last month and it has gone down very well with kids and adults alike.

Wholemeal Chocolate Chip and Banana Loaf

3 WeetaBix type cereal wheat biscuits, crushed or 80g rolled oats
1½ cup plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
80g pack dark chocolate chips
50g caster sugar
60ml oil
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
60ml milk, I used semi skimmed, you could use dairy free milk instead
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin.

In a large bowl combine the cereal, flour, baking powder and chocolate chips.  In another bowl combine the oil, sugar, bananas, egg, milk and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring gently but thoroughly until completely combined.  

Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and level the surface.  Bake for 40 - 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Spicy Chicken Stew to celebrate 20 Years of Freedom Food with Sainsbury's

Wednesday 3 September 2014

I always try to buy higher welfare meat, especially chicken, and preferably free range chicken at that.  The meat always tastes better and I am able to utilise what we buy in several meals to spread the cost and make it more affordable.  

I was asked by Sainsbury's to develop a recipe to help them celebrate 20 Years of Freedom Food with Sainsbury's and came up with a Spicy Chicken Stew which served 5 generously for dinner, with leftovers making a tasty lunch served with homemade tortilla wraps.

Sainsbury’s sells more Freedom Food labelled products than any other supermarket, and more than 60 per cent of all Freedom Food sold in the UK.  In fact, they stock more than 368 different products, including chicken, eggs, pork, salmon, trout, turkey and veal.  The RSPCA's Freedom Food label gives consumers confidence that the food they're buying has come from an animal that has been cared for to strict RSPCA welfare standards, for the whole of its life.

Spicy Chicken Stew

1 Tblsp oil
8 - 10 chicken portions, bone in and skin on
2 large red onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 chilli, finely diced (or more to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
300ml - 500ml chicken stock
3 Tblsp fresh oregano leaves or 3 tsp dried
420g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 peppers, deseeded and diced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, brown the chicken in batches then set aside.  Add the onions, garlic, chilli and cumin to the pan and cook until the onion starts to soften.  Return the chicken to the pan with the tomatoes, stock and oregano.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat so the stew simmers.  Cook, covered for 30 minutes.  Add the kidney beans and diced peppers then simmer uncovered for a further 20 minutes.  Serve the stew with rice, quinoa or mashed potato and steamed greens or mixed vegetables.  Sprinkle with a little more fresh oregano if you like.

I was asked to provide a cost breakdown for this meal which served 5 generously for dinner and lunch the next day.

Free range corn fed Freedom Food Chicken (10 pieces) £6
2 cloves garlic 5p
1 chilli 20p
2 red onions 40p
6 tomatoes, free from our allotment or £1 from supermarket
Chicken Stock 10p
Fresh Oregano, free from our back garden
400g tin Kidney Beans 30p
Basics Peppers 50p

Total Cost £8.55 or 85p per portion for 10 portions, not including the cost of accompaniments such as rice, mixed vegetables, tortilla wraps, etc.

5 portions rice 25p
5 portions mixed vegetables 60p
Mixed greens, free from our allotment
10 homemade tortillas 50p

Total cost of both meals with accompaniments £9.90 or 99p per serving for 10 servings.

** Disclosure: I was compensated for my time, expertise and ingredients used when developing this recipe **
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