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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Sandwich Filling Ideas with Warburtons

I recently had a brilliant time with Warburtons at the fab Food at 52 Cookery School playing around with sandwich fillings.  It was so much fun to be presented with a huge range of ingredients and be able to just create flavour combinations using a wide variety of Warburtons products under the watchful eye of James Ramsden who offered ideas and encouragement throughout the event.



The four 'sandwiches' I created during the morning were:

Beef, Beetroot and Garlic Mayonnaise 



Fresh Figs, Dark Chocolate and Cream Cheese



Marmite, Strong Cheddar and Apple



Grilled Spam, Fried Egg, Lime Pickle and Fresh Coriander


I had a brilliant time at the event, experimenting and chatting with blogger friends old and new.  It was so refreshing to be given freedom to create flavours instead of being led through a recipe as often happens with Masterclasses and events.  

I do try to bake all of our bread, however should I be unable to due to time pressures, I would be happy for my family to use products such as those I sampled at the event instead.  My daughters especially liked the sandwich thins and square wraps which we were sent to review.


** Disclosure:  I was paid to attend the event and had my travel expenses reimbursed.  I also received some Warburtons products to try before attending the event.   I was not required to blog about the event and all opinions are my own.  **

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Apple Cake and Apple Fritters - Brilliantly British Apples

I was sent some delicious Estivale apples from Waitrose who are promoting seasonal British apples at the moment.  Waitrose will have lots of British apples instore this Autumn, some known and some little known varieties, suitable for eating and/or cooking.  

We have 3 apple trees in our small back garden and I love the fact that each is a different variety, not that I know the exact names of the 3 varieties.  One is a delicious crisp eating apple, also suitable for cooking with, similar to Pink Lady.  Another is definitely a cooking apple, tart and breaks down when cooked.  The third is a mixture between the two, OK to eat but not particularly sweet, cooks well too but doesn't break down too much.  I love the versatility of apples and the endless varieties and flavours suited to different culinary needs.


Waitrose sent me some delicious apples to develop a recipe with.  I couldn't decide which recipe to blog for the challenge so I blogged two!  Both dishes went down very well with my family and they are already asking when I will cook them again.

Estivale Apple Cake


125g butter, chopped
100g firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 medium free range eggs
150g self raising flour
80g plain wholemeal flour
180ml milk
1 ripe eating apple, I used Estivale
4 Tblsp/60ml runny honey

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.  Grease and line a deep 20cm round springform cake tin.  I use disposable paper lines as I bake so much, they are a lot less faff than cutting our paper liners by hand.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl using an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy.  Keep the beaters going on a low speed and add the egg a little at a time, beating after each addition, so the mixture doesn’t curdle.  If the mixture starts to curdle add a tablespoon or two of flour to stabilise the batter.

Sift the flours over the mixture, add the milk and fold in until just combined.  Spoon the batter into your prepared cake tin.  Core the apple, cut into quarters then thinly slice.  Arrange the apples slices on the top of the batter in whatever pattern takes your fancy.  Press the apple slices down gently then put the cake into the oven.

Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Leave the cake to cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes before removing from the cake from the tin and transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.

Put the honey in a microwave-safe mug.  Microwave on High (100% power) for 30 seconds until the honey is very runny.  Brush the honey over the top of the cake.  Serve the slightly cake warm with natural yoghurt or cream.



Estivale Apple Fritters

4 ripe eating apples, I used Estivale
1 medium free range egg
125ml milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 Tblsp caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
200g pot crème fraiche
150g self raising flour
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Icing sugar for dusting

Peel and core the apples. Slice into 1cm thick rounds or quarter the apples and cut into 1cm thick slices.  In a medium-size bowl combine the egg, milk, vanilla, sugar, spices and crème fraiche.  Sprinkle over the flour and mix until you have a smooth batter.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy-bottom deep saucepan to 190°C.  Dip the apple slices into the batter and coat completely, then deep fry in the hot oil for approximately two minutes each side.  Remove the cooked fritters and drain on paper kitchen towel.  Repeat with remaining fritters until all have been cooked.  Dust the cooked fritters with icing sugar or caster sugar and serve warm.  I served ours accompanied by yoghurt dip made from natural yoghurt with a little honey stirred through, however these fritters would be fab with vanilla icecream or cream.


You can share your own apple recipe and why it’s special to you for the chance to win £500 worth of Waitrose vouchers and have your recipe featured on Waitrose.com!  Enter here.  The competition is open until Wednesday 9 October.


I am also adding these recipes to the following Monthly Food Blogging Challenges:

A Kick At The Pantry Door's "Feel Good Food" - The challenge ingredient this month is Apples


Eat Your Veg and Delicieux Four Seasons Food - the theme this quarter is Sliding Into Autumn.

Four Seasons Food Autumn Badge


** This is a Sponsored Post - I was sent some delicious apples by Waitrose and received vouchers for Waitrose Cookery School in return for writing creating and blogging these recipes **

Monday, 23 September 2013

Our Family Meal Plan for this week - The Cupboard and freezer Raiding Edition

Our Meal Plan this week is a little late, I was in London on Friday, knocked for six by a foul migraine on Saturday then worked Sunday night.

It is the week leading up to payday for us, just as well as we are counting the pennies and the days until our bank account is slightly more healthy than it is now.  As a result of us needing to spend as little as possible this week it is a clearing out the storecupboard and freezer based Meal Plan.  It is useful to have a fiscal (thankfully not physical) knock over the head once in a while to prompt a clean out and also renew our resolve to be thrifty and frugal.

Dinners

I was very fortunate to pick up a couple of packs of 1kg free range chicken pieces £1.25 per pack and two 500g packs of casserole beef for £1 each in the reduced section of the local Co-op.  Those will form the basis of a few meals this week, along with raiding our freezer and pantry.

Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables and Yorkshire Puddings *bones used for stock

12 Muffin Tin Chicken Tarts *using leftover chicken and chicken stock

1 leek, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
25g butter
2 Tblsp plain flour
250ml milk
500g leftover roasted vegetables, diced
200 - 300g leftover cooked chicken
1 Tblsp fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 free range egg, beaten

Shortcrust pastry
300g flour
150g butter
pinch of salt
a little cold water

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, stir through the salt then add just enough cold water for the mixture to form a dough. Pat into a round then wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour before using.

Preheat your oven to 200C. In a saucepan over a moderate heat cook the leek, mushrooms and garlic in the butter until softened. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring to avoid lumps, until a thick sauce forms. Add the leftover cooked chicken, roast vegetables and thyme. Season the mixture to taste then set aside to cool.

Grease a 12 hole muffin tray and line each muffin hole with shortcrust pastry. I find a metal tray works better than a silicon one for this recipe and helps avoid soggy bottoms. Spoon the cooled chicken filling into the pastry cases. If you have enough pastry leftover after lining the muffin tray, roll out and cut a few strips to place over each tart in a lattice pattern. Attach the strips to the pastry cases with a little water and press firmly in place around the edges of the cases.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve with salads or steamed vegetables. These are also fab to take to work in a packed lunch.




Beef Pasties *made with leftover beef casserole

Breakfasts will be porridge with apple compote made with apples from the trees in our back garden. There will be a piece of fruit for afters as well. We will all be having packed lunches, either leftovers or Falafels with crudites and herbed yoghurt dip with a small baked treat and piece of fruit for afters.

Apologies for the lack of shopping list this week, I'm using up what we have and produce from our allotments so will need to only buy eggs, milk, fruit and a few vegetables. All should be back to normal with a shopping list and more interesting Meal Plan next week.

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


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Science Museum London - The Energy Show and Chelsea Buns


We love the Science Museum in London and I was tweeting about how much we enjoy it when lovely Racheal from the Science Museum emailed me.  Apparently she had seen my tweets raving about how fab it is and offered to give us tickets to The Energy Show which was taking place during the Summer School Holidays.  I may have done a happy dance in the lounge before excitedly replying that we would be delighted to go along.

My Mum had never been to the Science Museum in London so she was even more excited than us!  We were delayed on the train journey in to London by overrunning engineering works on the tracks so arrived almost 2hrs later than we had planned.  Luckily we had booked in for the later show so could fit in some lunch before we sat down to enjoy The Energy Show. 


 The show was brilliant! Annabella and Phil, two students who are on the brink of failing their Science course, present the show and it is their task to work together as a team and to demonstrate to the audience nine types of energy live on stage using only the equipment and characters they have to hand.

The problem is, the two students are painfully mismatched and they have been send to an old fashioned Steam punk style lab in the middle of a storm.  Whilst Annabella is focused, uncompromising and overly fond of lists and plans; Phil is a mischievous die-hard Star Wars fan who loves blowing things up more than anything else. Fortunately, the two ‘students’ are joined by two helpers, a virtual helper named I-stein and Bernard a silent lab drone.

Although the show is recommended for children 7 years and older my 6 year old loved it, as we all did. Star Wars references were much appreciated by my 10 year old and my husband. The welcome help from I-nstein who explains the chemical reactions that make up the chain of events in each demonstration means that parents and children can enjoy the show without being too dazzled by science and physics.

The show is fast paced without feeling rushed and was so entertaining that 70 minutes passed quickly. We were enthralled by methane bubbles exploding into a big fireball, hydrogen balloons popping with very loud bangs and liquid nitrogen that froze everything that came into contact with it and produced clouds of steam which would make a witches cauldron seem passé. The finale of the show was a hydrogen powered rocket launcher that fired plastic bottles into the audience.

You can watch a clip of the experiments from the show here.

After The Energy Show we explored some of the rest of the museum, watched the Flash! Bang! Wallop! Show and then let the kids play whilst learning in the Launchpad area.


We took our own lunch and snacks to save money and also make sure we had plenty of goodies to fuel our busy and brilliant time at the Science Museum.  Along with some Wholemeal Savoury Scones, crudites, fruit, and drinks I packed some Chelsea Buns which went down very well indeed for afternoon tea.  Here's the recipe:

Our Favourite Sticky Chelsea Buns

450g plain flour
1/2 sachet instant yeast
55g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
30g butter, melted and cooled
180ml warm water
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten

Filling:
1/3 cup light soft brown sugar
30g butter, melted
2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 cup sultanas
2 Tblsp honey, warmed until runny

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 water, melted butter 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.

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 melted butter.  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 sultanas.

Roll up the dough like a Swiss roll then cut the dough log in to 12 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 15 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, brush them with runny honey, then leave them on a wire rack to cool completely.



Monday, 16 September 2013

Charity Coffee Mornings - and some easy recipes


I really love to bake! I find it relaxing and I can just zone out of life for a bit whilst I make something delicious.  I also love coffee, it keeps me going when I am tired and I am a proper coffee snob, no instant for me!

Combining the two, baking and coffee (or tea), to hold a coffee morning is the perfect chance for me to enjoy the company of like minded people and have a good natter - throw in a good cause to raise money for and it's a winner all round.

Here are a couple of fab charities that are encouraging people to hold Coffee Mornings to raise funds: 


Good To Know Magazine have teamed up with Bake-A-Wish and launched a campaign to encourage bakers around the country to throw their own events, and raise money for the charity.  You can find out all about Bake A Wish here.


The Great Pink Bake Off is a new fundraising initiative from Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  They have designated Friday 18 October as Great Pink Bake Off day.  Don’t worry if that date doesn’t work for you though you can choose any day in October which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month to hold your event.  There are promotional materials available for download from their website along with recipes and other helpful hints and tips.

So what do I bake? 

I usually bake batches of my legendary chocolate brownies, however, I sometimes get asked at very short notice to bake for Coffee Mornings, Cake Stalls and other events.  When there isn't enough time for me to bake my chocolate brownies or I don't have all the ingredients available I bake the recipes detailed below.  These are super easy and quick recipes that can be whipped up when you need a quick baking fix.  

Both recipes are suitable for freezing so are fab for packed lunches or to bake in advance when you have the time.  

Wholemeal Banana Loaf

125g butter, melted and cooled
3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
200g brown sugar
300g wholemeal self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.  Grease and line a loaf tin with either a paper liner or non-stick baking paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the mashed bananas, vanilla extract, cinnamon and eggs then beat well until completely combined.  Add the flour and fold through until just combined.

Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.  Cover the top of the loaf with foil if it is browning too quickly.  Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.



Very Versatile Muffins

300g self raising flour
200g sugar
1 free range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract.
180ml milk
80ml oil
A large handful of optional ingredients such as: chocolate chips, fresh or frozen berries, mixed dried fruit

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160C Fan.  Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl.  Combine the egg, vanilla, milk and oil in a jug and mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry with a handful of optional ingredients if you wish.  Mix everything together gently but thoroughly.  Do not overmix or the muffins will be heavy and tough.

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  The muffins should spring back when lightly pressed on the top.  You could also check they are cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of a muffin, it should come out free from crumbs.  Leave to cool in the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Other options: You could add 3 Tblsp cocoa to the mixture if you want to bake chocolate muffins.  I sometimes add chopped apple and a tsp of dried cinnamon or some mashed banana.  To make lemon drizzle muffins add the zest of a lemon to the muffin batter then mix the juice of the lemon with 50g of sugar and drizzle over the muffins once they are on the wire rack cooling.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Our Family Meal Plan for this week - £54 Normal service resumes

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.

Dinners

Macaroni Cheese - Meatfree Monday



Herby Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

400g peeled and diced butternut squash or pumpkin
3 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300ml cream
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
2 eggs
150ml milk
110ml water
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.

Flapjacks

225g butter
170g sugar
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.

Shopping List

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

Frozen

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
Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 15th September 2013  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.




Don't forget to check out all the other fab Meal Planning Monday posts over on At Home With Mrs M where there's a fab linky.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Our Second and Final Organic Meal Plan


I was sent the second and final delivery of organic groceries this week from Organic UK to formulate a Meal Plan from.  Here's what arrived:



I will make a Beef and Vegetable Pie with the diced beef, a Moussaka with the minced lamb, a Courgette and Vegetable Crustless Quiche with the eggs, courgettes, two peppers, and two onions.

Another delicious dinner will be Creamy Courgette, Spinach and Bacon Pasta using the creme fraiche along with the obvious ingredients A Mixed Bean and Tomato Soup will be made using leftover vegetables, the various tinned pulses, tinned sweetocorn and passata and should provide a warming and weekend hearty lunch.

I made a tasty apple and rhubarb compote from apples and rhubarb grown organically in our back garden to have with the yoghurt for pudding and also made Chocolate Pots with the remainder of the yoghurt and garnished them with strawberries.

As I said in my previous post, organic produce is generally too expensive for us as a family even when stretched using a good meal plan.  We will continue to buy organic produce as we usually do, when it is on offer for the same price or cheaper than our usual produce.  Of course growing our own ensures we have a ready supply of organic greens, potatoes, onions, beetroot, carrots, beans, chard and other produce when in season.  My friend has organic free range chickens so we are also able to source eggs in exchange for some of our produce.

Do you buy organic?  Have you substituted some of your regular shopping choices for organic products or produce?  Would you buy organic if there wasn't such a large price difference?

As always my thought is: Feed yourself and your loved ones as best you can with the resources you have.  Spend time together enjoying nourishing food and good conversation, that is what will be remembered.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Lactofree Event - aka take your Mum to work evening


My Mum will freely admit that she isn't the best cook in the world and enjoys both eating my delicious meals, and learning a few dishes from me, whenever she spends the summer with us.  One aspect of being a food blogger that I really enjoy is attending Masterclasses and cookery events.  I always learn loads from each one whether it be different techniques, different ways to use ingredients or just tips and tricks to help make cooking easier.  When I was invited along to an event for Lactofree over the summer my Mum asked if she could come along.  I was delighted when the PR confirmed that I could indeed bring along a guest.

My Mum now thinks that being a blogger is the best job in the world, despite having to battle London public transport in rush hour and drag heavy goodie bags home like super fit sherpas.  I must admit blogging is a fun and relatively stressfree antidote to my usual enjoyable yet stressful job and it was fab that my Mum could enjoy a cookery event with me.

We headed along to L’atelier Des Chefs  St Pauls Branch for a Lactofree Cooking Class.  I have been to L'atelier Des Chefs many times before and both the Oxford Circus and St Pauls branches are great venues with staff who are both knowledgeable and lovely.  Lactofree is launching a series of lactose-free cooking classes in partnership with L’atelier Des Chefs which will run from 6th September to 9th November, book online here.

Lactofree is a range of products for anyone who caters for those who are lactose intolerant but don’t want to miss out on eating dairy. Unlike soy milk, almond or rice milk, Lactofree products are still dairy they have just had the lactose removed.  This means Lactofree products still have the same taste as regular dairy products, unlike soy or rice milks which taste vastly different to cows milk.

My Mum expertly preparing scallops, with help from a lovely Chef
Throughout the cookery class we were under the expert guidance of the Chefs from L'atelier Des Chefs and had the chance to cook Pan-fried Scallops with Beurre Blanc, Traditional Pasties, Smoked Salmon Blinis, Chicken Passanda and some delicious cupcakes for a sweet treat.


We had a brilliant time, learned lots and ate lots before heading back home via the Tube and train. It was fab that I was able to let my Mum experience some of what I get up to doing this blogging lark. Mum may now want her own personal Chef! LOL

My Mum and the lovely Randal who taught Mum how to make blinis

Many thanks to Lactofree and L'atelier Des Chefs for their hospitality. I was not compensated for this post (other than an enjoyable evening and a goodie bag) as usual all views are my own.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Our Meal Plan Making The Most Of Organic Produce


I was asked by Organic UK to compile a Meal Plan using a hamper of groceries delivered to me last week.  I had no idea of the contents of the hamper until it arrived so had to play Ready, Steady, Cook (or Meal Plan) with what arrived.  A change from how I normally Meal Plan but I am always up for a challenge!  Due to a tight deadline for the blog post I haven't blogged all the recipes for the Meal Plan, I may blog them at a later stage.


The contents of the hamper were as follows:

Cost of 19 items: £56.45
  
Packets and Cereals
 1x    Waitrose Organic Fusilli (500g)                                                                      £1.05
1x    Waitrose Organic Aromatic Basmati Rice (500g)                                      £1.99
1x    Waitrose Organic Wholesome Couscous (500g)                                        99p

Tins, Jars and Cooking
 2x    Waitrose Organic Chopped Tomatoes in Natural Juice (400g)               £1.78
Doves Farm Organic Plain White Flour 1kg                                                        £1.19

Dairy and Eggs
 2x    Yeo Valley Organic Double Cream (227ml)                                               £1.90
1x    Stonegate Organic Free Range Medium Eggs (6)                                       £2.29
1x    Yeo Valley Organic Fresh Semi Skimmed Milk (2L)                                 £1.88
1x    Yeo Valley Organic Unsalted Butter (250g)                                                £1.60
1x    ye Cross Farm Organic Cheddar (245g)                                                      £2.69

Fruit and Vegetables
 1x    Waitrose Organic Carrots (1Kg)                                                                    £1.75
1x    Waitrose Organic Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                                              £3.50
10    Waitrose Organic Butternut Squash by Weight (100g)                             £1.99
3x    Waitrose Organic Plums (400g)                                                                     £7.77
1x    Waitrose Organic Garlic (100g)                                                                     £1.05
2x    Waitrose Organic White Cup Mushrooms (250g)                                      £2.70
2x    Waitrose Organic Pink Lady Apples (4)                                                       £5.40
1x    Ocado Organic Brown Onions (750g)                                                          £1.09

Meat, Fish and Poultry
 1x    Duchy Originals Organic British Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 400g)      £3.49
16    Waitrose Organic Whole Chicken by Weight (100g)                                 £11.34


I also purchased Sainsbury's Organic Fairtrade Cane Sugar (500g) £1.09 and Sainsbury's So Organic Unwaxed Lemons (4 pack) £2.  I used vegetables from our allotments to supplement the grocery hamper and had to use non-organic baking powder as there was none on sale at my local Sainsbury's or Asda.  I also used organic fresh herbs from our garden, organic vegetable stock powder and non-organic spices from our store cupboard.

Here's what I came up with:


12 Mini Toad in the Holes with Mash and Steamed Greens *greens from our allotment



Butternut Squash and Herb Pasta Sauce

Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables and Yorkshire Puddings *carcass used for stock

12 Muffin Tin Chicken Tarts *using leftover chicken and chicken stock


Egg and Vegetable Fried Rice

Vegetable Tagine with Herby Couscous *using last of the veg , tinned tomatoes and allotment veg


Lunches

Mushroom Soup with Herb Scones

Cheese and Tomato Flatbreads *using tinned tomatoes and fresh herbs for the topping


Puddings




Lemon Posset with Plum and Apple Compote *using organic lemons and sugar purchased from Sainsbury's


Image: #OrganicSeptember

The Campaign for Organic

The "Organic. Naturally different" campaign which bloggers are being asked to highlight is aiming to inform consumers about what the term organic means and encourage shoppers to make conscious decisions when they go food shopping.  The aim of the campaign is for people to choose and taste organic products and understand the benefits which, according to Organic UK, are:

·         Organic is better for nature
·         Organic animals have high animal welfare standards
·         Organic contains less pesticide residues
·         Organic is natural and great tasting food

Organic UK Food want to challenge peoples’ price perceptions of organic and demonstrate that eating organic can be part of an budget-conscious lifestyle if you shop, cook and plan wisely.

Here's what I think . . . . .

I used My Supermarket to compare the cost of the items I was sent with those from Asda where I usually shop.  Unsurprisingly many of the organic items available from Waitrose were unavailable at Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury's.  However, the carrots, mushrooms, eggs, milk, and pasta were all still organic and the total cost of the items would've been £36.87.  Had I swapped the organic products for a trolley containing no organic products the cost would've been £33.22.  There is no way our family, and I am sure many other families, could afford to spend £23 more to buy organic produce from a high end supermarket.  Yes I was able to stretch the organic produce to go far but some families are lacking the skills to do so and it did take me a couple of hours to think up the dishes to best use the groceries that arrived.  

In an ideal world I would buy organic produce regularly and only buy organic produce as I believe it is better for consumers, farmers and the environment.  At one time we used to receive an Abel and Cole Fruit and Vegetable Box but the cost was too much and we stopped.  The only organic produce we can afford to eat is that which we grow ourselves in our back garden and on the two allotments we take care of.  My friends occasionally give us free range organic eggs and produce from their gardens and allotments as well.

I completely understand why organic produce costs more.  It is a much more labour intensive process and involves more inventive methods of pest control and working with the seasons and environment.  To be honest the organic produce did taste a little different to our usual supermarket produce, however that may be because it was from a higher end supermarket than what we are used to ;o)  Our homegrown organic produce will of course always taste better than anything we buy as it is freshly picked and we have an emotional and physical investment in the harvest.  

Of course it is very important that we know where our food comes from, the processes involved in producing it and the consequences on both the environment and us of different methods of production.  However much we may want to buy better we cannot always afford to do so.  With many experiencing financial difficulties, food poverty and struggling to feed families decent healthy food at a decent price, I think the Organic UK campaign will not change buying habits in some families.  

Food tends to be the one expense that isn't fixed in households.  Rent/mortgage, phone, electric, water, council tax, etc are all usually expenses that are fairly fixed however the food bill is the one area that savings can be made if they have to be made.  I always buy free range eggs, free range chicken and usually higher welfare sausages and meat.  It takes savvy meal planning for us to afford to do that and I make the most of those ingredients, usually over several meals.  I do not usually buy organic, unless the items are on offer at a price as good as or better than what I would pay normally.  

I also find the idea of "Thrifty Meal Plans" varies widely.  Jamie Oliver crowing that his new meals cost on average £1.38 per portion is his idea of thrifty, working out at almost £7 for a meal for my family it is more than I would normally spend.  I enjoy reading the delicious and well thought out Thrifty Organic Meal Plans from another blogger, who is paid well by Organic UK to produce them, however the fact that some of the meals cost £12 - £15 for a family of 4 mean that the cost per meal is too much for our usual family of 5 budget.  I would hasten to point out that some of her meal plan recipes do cost around £5 for a family of 4 which is much more in line with our budget and that would sway me to give them a go.

I will read the posts from the other 9 blogs involved in the campaign with great interest.  I wonder if I am missing something and they will show me that organic can indeed be a thrifty option and work for families on a very limited budget.  I do hope so.  I tried to make the most of the groceries I was sent and managed to get 6 dinners, 2 lunches and 2 puddings out of them.  It does concern me that I could do the same for 30% cheaper using non-organic produce as I was hoping the cost difference would be much less.  The reality is that the food budget for my family of 5 each week is a maximum of £70 and buying what we need to using organic produce just isn't achievable.  

The bottom line is buy organic if you can afford to, if you can't then try and grow as much of your own as you can.  Have plants in your garden that are good for bees and other wildlife as well as gorwing vegetables, fruit and herbs if you can.  Feed your families as best you can, buying good quality healthy options, buy organic if and when you can afford it.


** I was sent a hamper of groceries my Organic UK. All opinions are my own. **