Routine can be comforting, it can also be tiresome and dreary. After our summer of fun and exciting times we are getting back into our usual routine of work and school. My 3 daughters had their first week back at school last week and I was back at work after a month off. Getting back into routine after a carefree summer has been difficult for us all. The inevitable tiredness and frayed tempers combined with the weather turning decidedly chilly and autumnal has meant that our house has not been as warm and happy as normal.
This week I am determined that despite our weariness, busyness and some wet and dreary weather we will make the best of the week ahead and there will be a concerted effort to maintain our usual cheery and relaxed vibe. Hubby will be in charge of dinner and bedtime routine 4 times this week as I will be working 2 nights and will be in London twice. Luckily the days I am in London hubby will be working from home so my girls will still have a parent home to walk them to and from school. Obviously the dinners my family enjoy on the nights I am not around will need to be low faff and ideally ones I can prepare in advance so all my husband has to do is bung it in the oven to cook or reheat it in the microwave.
Macaroni Cheese - Meatfree Monday
Herby Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
3 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tblsp fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmesan and cooked pasta, to serve
Preheat your oven to 220C. Put the prepared butternut squash or pumpkin into a roasting tin and coat with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Bake until soft and caramelised.
In a pan over a medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until they are softened. Add the cooked pumpkin, cream and oregano. Simmer until the liquid reduces a little, season to taste, then mash the pumpkin in the sauce or blend with a stick blender to create a thick and flavoursome sauce. Stir cooked pasta through the sauce then serve with plenty of grated parmesan. I usually serve steamed greens on the side or cook frozen mixed vegetables with the pasta to make the meal go further.
Mini Toads in the Hole
6 good quality sausages
150g plain flour
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 190°C. Cook the sausages on a foil lined tray in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the sausages from the oven and increase the heat to 220°C.
Use a pastry brush to brush the cups of a 12 hole muffin pan generously with some of the fat from cooking the sausages. This will stop the toad in the holes from sticking as well as giving them extra flavour.
When the pan is well greased, chop the cooked sausages into quarters and distribute the sausage pieces evenly between all 12 muffin tin holes. Put the greased muffin with sausage pieces in the oven to heat up. You want the tray to be really hot before you put the batter in. This will help the batter puff up when it cooks.
Make the batter by sifting the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and break in the eggs. Add the liquid, gradually whisk in the flour and ensure the mixture is smooth before you add the remainder of the liquid. Mix until completely combined and smooth then pour into a jug.
Remove the tray from the oven and ¾ fill each muffin tin hole with batter as quickly as you can, making sure to cover the hot sausage pieces. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the batter has puffed up and your mini toads are golden and crisp. We served ours with steamed greens, mash and gravy.
Vegetable Casserole with Rice
2 Tblsp oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
3 carrots, diced
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
750ml vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked rice and chopped fresh parsley, to serve
In a large pan over a moderate heat saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes or so until softened but not coloured. Add the celery, carrot, butternut and potatoes then cover and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes. Pour in the tinned tomatoes, stock and paprika then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the stew for 40 minutes to 1 hour until the vegetables are tender. Serve the stew over cooked rice and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
Breakfasts and Lunches
Breakfasts will be cereal and milk or toast with a piece of fruit for afters, alternatively we can have porridge with apple and sultana compote using apples from the trees in our back garden. Packed lunches will be leftovers or Savoury Swirls with crudites and herbed yoghurt dip with a piece of fruit and flapjack for afters. Weekend lunches will be Mixed Vegetable Frittata and Twice Baked Potatoes.
340g porridge oats
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp golden syrup or honey
100g sultanas or mixed dried fruit
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 28cm x 18cm x 3cm or 11in x 7in x 1.2in baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan on the hob until the butter has melted, stir well to mix. Don't let it boil!
Once the butter has melted take the saucepan off the heat and add the oats, sugar, sultanas and pinch of salt. Thorough mix everything until well combined and the oats are completely covered by the butter mixture.
Put the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth evenly into the corners. Bake in the oven for approximatly 15minutes, turn the tin around and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown.
Once cooked remove the baking tray from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. With a bread and butter knife lightly mark out about 16 pieces before the flapjack completely sets. Cut up into pieces when completely cold.
Our meals will be supplemented with greens, potatoes, swedes and beans from our allotments. I compared the cost of our shopping as always using My supermarket. Our 37 items cost £53.67 from Asda on 14th September 2013, had I shopped elsewhere our shopping would've cost £57.93 from Tesco or £64.72 from Sainsbury's.
Packets and Cereals
1x Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg) £1.50
1x ASDA Smartprice Cornflakes (750g) 46p
1x ASDA Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg) 80p
1x ASDA Wholemeal Bread Flour (1.5Kg) £1.26
1x ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg) 45p
1x Silver Spoon Granulated Sugar (500g) 65p
1x Lyle's Golden Syrup Tin (454g) 98p
1x ASDA Basmati White Rice (1Kg) £1.69
1x Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g) 65p
1x Cook Italian Wholewheat Spaghetti (500g) £1.00
1x Cook Italian Wholewheat Fusilli (500g) £1.00
3x ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg) £2.25
1x ASDA Whitefish Fillets (500g) £2.00
Tins, Jars and Cooking
2x ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g) 68p
1x ASDA Chosen by You Chilli Beans (290g) 48p
1x Sharwood's Tikka Paste (290g) £1.00
Dairy and Eggs
1x ASDA British Single Cream (300ml) £1.05
5x ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L) £5.00
1x ASDA Grana Padano (200g) £2.50
1x ASDA Rich and Creamy Unsalted Butter British (250g) £1.00
2x Suffolk Farm Medium Free Range Eggs (6) £2.00
1x ASDA Smartprice Cheddar Mature White (385g) £2.00
Fruit and Vegetables
1x ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g) 84p
18 ASDA Bananas (Approx 170g) £2.08
18 ASDA Carrots (Approx 110g) £1.78
2 ASDA Butternut Squash (Approx 850g each) £1.45
2 ASDA Sweet Potatoes (Approx 460g) £1.18
3x ASDA Whole Cucumber £1.50
2x ASDA Celery £1.00
1x ASDA Baking Potatoes (2.5Kg) £2.35
1x ASDA Garlic Loose 25p
1x ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g) £1.58
1x ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg) 98p
1x ASDA Spinach (350g) £1.50
2x ASDA Medium Navel Oranges (1Kg) £2.00
2x ASDA Smartprice Apples (500g) £1.80
Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g) £2.98