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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.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Ginger Weetabix Slice

It's the time of year when I get a little homesick so bake treats I used to have when I was younger and my favourite dishes from NZ.  My 13yo decided she wanted to do some baking yesterday afternoon so I suggested a Ginger Slice, we added Weetabix for extra crunch and to fool us into thinking it was slightly healthier than it is.



Ginger Weetabix Slice 

Base:
250g soft butter
110g light soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
2 weetabix, crushed
300g self raising flour

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Line a 23cm square cake tin with a liner or non-stick baking paper. 

Either by hand or in a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add the ground ginger, crushed weetabix and flour.  Mix together until the mixture resembles biscuit dough.  Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and press down to line the bottom of the tin.  Make sure it is fairly level.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Icing:
100g butter
3 or 4 Tblsp golden syrup
3 tsps ground ginger
400g icing sugar

We love a thick layer of icing on our slice but if you would prefer a thinner layer just halve the icing recipe.  Whilst the base is baking, melt together the butter, golden syrup and ground ginger in a small pan over a low heat.  Once combined remove from the heat and stir in the icing sugar.  As soon as the base is cooked, pour the icing over it whilst it is still warm.  Smooth the icing and then put the iced slice into the fridge for  30 – 60 minutes before cutting in to portions and serving.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Our Family Meal Plan - First week of the New Year - £56

After the indulgence of Christmas we are craving a Meal Plan with lots of vegetables, and also one that is both frugal and filling because we will all be at home for most of this week.  I'm trying to keep tums happy and satisfied as well as our budget intact.

Breakfasts will be porridge to fill us up, with a seasonal fruit compote which I make in bulk and freeze in portions or toast with homemade jam.  Snacks will be fruit, homemade yoghurt or homemade rice pudding.  As usual I shall bake all of our bread, my 3 daughters are keen to help so I will be taking full advantage of their enthusiasm.  We'll be having Twice Baked Potatoes and Versatile Savoury Scone Swirls for lunches as well as the Crustless Quiche and soups I've mentioned below.

Lunches

Crustless Quiche

3 cups mixed vegetables
1 cup cheese, grated
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup self-raising flour
good grinding of black pepper

Put the vegetables and ¾ of the cheese into a greased ovenproof dish.  Lightly beat the eggs and milk together in a jug.  Sprinkle over the self-raising flour and mix well, ensuring there are no lumps.  Pour egg mixture over the vegetables and grind over some black pepper then sprinkle over the remaining cheese.  Bake at 200°C for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and set.  Serve either hot or cold.


Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Soup

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons oil
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tblsp plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder (use mild or medium)
1 pinch chilli powder (optional)
a few good grinds of pepper
1 Litre vegetable stock, more if needed

Heat the oil in a large pan heat the oil and add the onion and garlic.  Cook until softened.  Add the prepared vegetables and the flour and spices then mix so they coat the vegetables. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are fragrant.  Tip everything into your slow cooker. Add the salt, pepper and stock.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
When the vegetables are tender, purée or process the soup until smooth and return to the slow cooker to keep warm or serve immediately.   Adjust the consistency to suit your taste by adding a little more water or stock.


 Onion Soup

1 Tblsp each oil and butter
1 kg onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 tsp light soft brown sugar
1 Tblsp flour
1 Litre vegetable stock

Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 25-35 minutes or until golden and softened.  Add the sugar and flour and stir until incorporated.  Slowly add the stock, stirring constantly until combined.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat. Simmer for 25 minutes, add more stock if necessary.  Serve with cheese on toast or wholemeal crusty bread.


Bean and Greens Soup

2 Tblsp oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes or 4 large fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery (including leaves), chopped
400g can beans, drained and rinsed (I used butterbeans)
750ml vegetable stock
1 Tblsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Handful spinach or chard leaves, fresh or frozen

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until the onion and garlic have softened.  Add the chopped celery (including the leaves), drained and rinsed tinned beans, stock and rosemary.  Bring everything to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  Add chard/spinach to soup and simmer until the greens have wilted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with wholemeal rolls or cheese scones.

Dinners


Slow Cooker Beef Casserole – Tuesday and Wednesday

This is a fab, low faff warming stew that is cooked in a slow cooker. It makes enough to serve us 5 generously for 2 nights. Great for nights when I need a dinner that is guaranteed to be eaten without fuss. This casserole is perfect for that. It tastes even better the second night. Sometimes I freeze the other portion but more often than not I just serve it the next night with different vegetables on the side. You can add other chopped root vegetables to the casseroles if you want, such as potatoes, parsnip. pumpkin, sweet potato, etc.

1kg beef braising/stewing steak cut into chunks
1 tsp ground ginger
1 onion, sliced
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g cans of kidney beans, drained and well rinsed
2 peppers, diced (any colour will do) 
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 bay leaves
2 Tblsp light soft brown sugar
2 Tblsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

If you have time, brown the meat in a non-stick pan, use a little oil if necessary.

Put the beef and everything else in the slow cooker. Stir well and cook for 7-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the casserole needs thickening, stir 2 Tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with 2 Tbsp water into it. Serve with mash and greens or mixed vegetables.


Creamy Bacon and Vegetable Pasta - Thursday

I can have this dinner on the table in under 20 minutes from whine to dine LOL Great for those nights when you are really tired or really busy with a low tolerance for faffy dinners or diners.  Also fab for those nights when I have to dash off to work or a meeting.

500g spaghetti
200g unsmoked back bacon
350g frozen chopped spinach
Handful or 2 of frozen mixed vegetables
300ml pot crème fraîche

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and cook following pack instructions. When the spaghetti has about 3 minutes left to cook toss in a handful or two of frozen mixed vegetables.

Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, fry the bacon until the fat starts to run and then add the garlic, fry until the bacon is lightly golden. Add the chopped spinach and 2 tablespoons of water, then cover and cook until the spinach has defrosted.

Remove the lid, stir everything together, season to taste, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Drain the spaghetti and vegetables and add to the bacon and spinach mixture with the crème fraîche. Stir to thoroughly combine and serve immediately.

Homemade Fish and Chips - Friday


Macaroni Cheese with Mixed Vegetables - Sunday

Snacks

Rice Pudding

600ml whole milk
65g long grain white rice
pinch of salt
50g white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g sultanas or mixed fruit (optional)

In a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan combine the milk and rice with a pinch of salt. 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.

When the rice is tender take the saucepan off the heat and sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Mix well to combine. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, this should take about 5 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sultanas if you are using them. 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. To make this into more of a Mullerice type treat add some jam or golden syrup to swirl through the rice pudding. You could also add dried apricots or dates instead of sultanas if you have some in your store cupboard.

Crepes

Makes 8 - 10 crepes

150g flour
2 free range eggs
20g melted butter
20g sugar
300ml milk
Melted butter to grease the pan

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre.  Use a whisk to mix together 2 eggs, 300ml milk and 20g melted butter together.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour and sugar then whisk, gradually mixing in the flour until you have a smooth and well combined mixture.  Cover and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Heat an 18-20cm frying pan over a medium heat.  Lightly grease with a little butter.  Pour 60ml crepe batter into the middle of the pan then swirl the pan around so the mixture spreads out and coats the base of the pan. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until the crepe turns golden and the edges look cooked.  Carefully turn the crepe over and cook for a further 30 - 60 seconds.  Transfer to a plate and repeat until all the batter has been used.

Shopping List

34 items: £55.49

Packets and Cereals
1x   Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg)                                       £2.18
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)        80p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Self Raising Flour (1.5Kg)                     45p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Long Grain Rice (1Kg)                          40p
2x   Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g)                                         £1.28
1x   Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)     65p
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                  £1.28
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
2x   ASDA Chosen by You Diced Casserole Beef (454g)         £6.00
1x   ASDA Whole Leaf Spinach (1Kg)                                     £1.39

Tins, Jars and Cooking
4x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                   £1.24
2x   ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g)        54p
1x   ASDA Organic Butter Beans in Water (400g)                     70p

Dairy and Eggs
1x   ASDA Crème Fraîche (300ml)                                           £1.10
5x   ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)               £5.00
1x   ASDA Smartprice Salted Butter (250g)                              98p
1x   Cathedral City Mature Cheddar (2x350g)                           £4.00
1x   ASDA Mixed Weight Free Range Eggs (6)                        97p

Fruit and Vegetables
1x   ASDA Smartprice Sultanas (500g)                                    84p
15   ASDA Bananas                                                               £1.39
15   ASDA Royal Gala Apples                                                £3.33
1    ASDA Butternut Squash (Approx 850g)                            80.8p
2x   ASDA Celery                                                                   £1.78
1x   ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)                                    £1.58
1x   ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)                             98p
2x   ASDA Plums (500g)                                                         £2.00
2x   Inspire Premium Baking Potatoes (2Kg)                            £3.00
2x   ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg)                                                      £1.50
2x   ASDA Smartprice Pears (500g)                                        £1.58

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x   ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g)    £2.50
1x   ASDA Butcher's Selection Smoked Back Bacon Rashers (10 per pack - 300g)            £2.00   

Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery website My Supermarket, and are correct as of 28th December 2013.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

As usual I compared the cost of our shopping which cost £55.49 from Asda using My Supermarket.  Had I shopped elsewhere our groceries would've cost £63.47 from Tesco or £65.11 from Sainsbury's.

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


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!


As I type this post it is already Christmas Day in my homeland of New Zealand.  We're counting down to Christmas Day here in the UK, spending Christmas Eve afternoon playing board games and relaxing before the festivities tomorrow.

I would like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas from myself and my family.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you should you be missing loved ones for whatever reason, love and and hugs to all those who find this time of year difficult.

I shall be taking a break from blogging over Christmas to spend time with my family and work shifts at my other job.  Stay safe, try not to stress and remember it's experience rather than expense that is most remembered.


Monday, 23 December 2013

Our Christmas Gingerbread House

We bake and decorate a Gingerbread House each year over Christmas and this year it was the last thing I baked in our condemned oven last night before it was replaced with a shiny new one this morning.  

It was decided that all the windows of the house would be different colours and shapes, definitely a non-conformist Gingerbread House this time.  To get the Gingerbread House assembled more quickly I stuck it together with molten sugar instead of royal icing.  


My 3 girls used royal icing to attach all the sweets and decorate the house.


After all the sweets and most of the icing had been used up they had finished!


Gingerbread House/Biscuit Recipe

125g softened butter
110g light soft brown sugar
125ml golden syrup or treacle
1 free range egg yolk
375g plain flour
1 Tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Crushed boiled sweets

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Line three oven trays with non-stick baking paper.  Using a hand held electric mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add the golden syrup or treacle and beat until completely incorporated.

Sift over the flour, spices and bicarb then mix until combined.  Form the dough into a round, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 5mm thickness.  Cut out shapes using a template or cookie cutters.  We used cookie cutters to cut window shapes out of the wall pieces and filled them with crushed boiled sweets before baking.  

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.  Cool on the trays for a few minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The front of our Gingerbread House

The back of our Gingerbread House

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Mini Christmas Cakes


I made these to put in our Homemade Christmas Hampers, they have the flavour of Christmas Cake but are much lighter and easier to make.  My husband, who normally dislikes fruitcake, declared them to be delicious.  These Mini Christmas Cakes are a delicious treat for a festive afternoon tea, keep some on hand for unexpected visitors or for a sneaky snack with a cuppa.

Mini Christmas Cakes - Makes 10

100g softened butter
110g light soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 free range eggs
2 Tblsp brandy or orange juice, I used Cherry Brandy
75g self raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
160g sultanas
170g dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 160C and line 10 holes of a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, egg, orange juice or brandy and mix until completely incorporated.  Sift over the flour and spice and gently fold through with the fruit until you have a smooth mixture.  Try not to over-mix or beat the mixture or your cakes will be heavy.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases and smooth the top. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  

We iced ours with a simple icing sugar and water icing and decorated them with store bought decorations.



Friday, 20 December 2013

Win a cruise with Thomson Holidays by creating your ideal cruise menu



I dream of going on a cruise to distant shores, it helps me deal with the UK winter and general feeling of meh this time of year.  I imagine visiting different ports whilst spending time on a luxury cruise ship, eating and drinking gourmet treats throughout the trip.

Thomson Holidays is offering the chance to win a Caribbean Cruise, all you need to do is create a menu in their fab competition, the winner gets to see their menu prepared onboard whilst enjoying an amazing cruise.

To enter you need to visit Thomson Cruise Kitchen http://holidaysjustgotbetter.thomson.co.uk/cruise-kitchen/ and create a three course menu using The Cruise Kitchen Menu Creator which allows you to choose from a selection of ingredients to build a masterpiece dinner, as well as choosing the perfect cooking style and accompaniments.  When entering you are also invited to describe your dishes to make them sound as mouth-watering as possible.

You’ll need to hurry though, the competition closes at 23:59 on the 12th of January 2014.

Three finalists will then be selected and will be given the opportunity to try their dishes onboard a cruise to the Canary Islands in March 2014.  The winner will be chosen by an expert panel and will be sent on the Pride of Panama cruise around the Caribbean in January 2015.



I have been compensated for writing this post and promoting the competition.

Stained Glass Christmas Biscuits

I bake these biscuits every year, to decorate our tree and to give as gifts.  They are so easy to make, look very festive and always go down well.  My daughters love giving these to their friends with a homemade Christmas card attached, they seem to suddenly have rather a lot of friends this time of year.


Stained Glass Christmas Biscuits 

175g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp ground cinnamon
225g plain flour
1 pack boiled sweets, I used a supermarket value brand

Preheat your oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/Gas Mark 3.  Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and, using a stand mixer or hand held electric beater, beat until pale and smooth.  Add the flour and mix to bring the dough together by hand.

Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest and chill for half an hour in the fridge.  Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured work surface using a rolling pin until the dough is 0.5cm thick.

Use a large Christmas themed cutter to cut shapes from the dough.  Use a smaller cutter to cut out shapes from the middle of the larger shapes.  Make sure you leave at least a 1cm border of biscuit dough around the edge of each cut out inner shape.

Put the cut out biscuits on to the prepared trays.  Separate the boiled sweets into colours and each colour into a separate plastic bag.  Finely crush using a rolling pin.  Sprinkle the crushed sweets into the cut out sections of each biscuit ensuring the whole shape is filled in.  If you want to hang the biscuits make a small hole in the border of each biscuit before baking with a skewer or drinking straw. 

Bake in your preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes or until the biscuits are pale golden, the sweets melted and the edges are just starting to turn golden.  Leave to cool on the trays for 5 - 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.



Thursday, 19 December 2013

Sugared and Spiced Nuts - Two Ways


These are a fab last minute gift or Christmas nibbles idea, simple and really moreish.  I used Kilner Jars to package mine as the jars keep the contents really fresh and are handy for so many things once the contents have been eaten. 

Sugared and Spiced Nuts - Saucepan Method

350g mixed nuts
220g caster sugar
250ml water
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Line a large baking tray with non stick baking paper.  Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan.  Stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Bring to the boil.  Boil steadily, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, start to stir the mixture, keep stirring until the sugar crystallises around the nuts.  Turn out on to the prepared tray and leave to cool before separating the nuts and storing in airtight jars or packaging in cellophane bags.




Sugared and Spiced Nuts - Easy Oven Method

100g icing sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
350g mixed nuts

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.  Line a large baking tray with non stick baking paper.

Combine the icing sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Put the mixed nuts in a colander and thoroughly rinse under cold water.  Tip the wet nuts onto the prepared baking tray.  Sift the cinnamon and icing sugar mixture over the nuts and toss them until they are well coated.

Roast the nuts for about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until fragrant and browned.  Cool on the tray.  Separate the nuts and store in airtight jars or package in cellophane bags.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Salted Caramel Truffles

These were a huge hit on the school run with my team of taste testers!  We've already made several batches and given them as gifts.  You can package them in giftboxes, jars, cellophane bags or put them on sticks for individually wrapped treats.



Salted Caramel Truffles

110g caster sugar
30ml/2 Tblsp water
125ml cream
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used 72% dark chocolate)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
½ tsp salt

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Cook, stirring, until sugar has completely dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium and allow the mixture to boil.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the mixture turns a rich caramel colour.  Add cream and stir until combined then remove from heat and let any bubbles subside.  Add the chopped chocolate, vanilla and salt, stirring until the chocolate has completely melted and you have a smooth mixture.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with clingfilm then leave to chill in the fridge for about half an hour to an hour or until firm.  Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.  I use a melon baller, but you can use a teaspoon and damp hands, to roll about 1 - 2 teaspoons of the mixture into small balls.  Repeat until all the mixture has been used up then put the tray into the fridge to chill again so the truffles can firm up.



Basic Chocolate Ganache

200g dark or milk chocolate, roughly chopped
150ml double cream

Heat the cream until almost boiling, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until you have a smooth mixture.  Add a little liqueur or flavouring if you like.  Leave to cool until thickened, you can refrigerate the mixture if you are in a hurry.  Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.  I use a melon baller, but you can use a teaspoon and damp or cocoa powder covered hands, to roll about 1 - 2 teaspoons of the mixture into small balls.  Repeat until all the mixture has been used up then put the tray into the fridge to chill again so the truffles can firm up.



Covering/Dipping the truffles

Put 200g of chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.  You want the chocolate to melt slowly and not get too hot.  Stir the chocolate occasionally until it has melted and is completely smooth.  Dip each truffle into the chocolate, making sure it is well coated, tap off the excess then put it back onto the chilled tray.  Repeat until all the truffles have been dipped.  Decorate the top of each truffle with festive sprinkles if you want.  Set aside until the chocolate has set.



Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Cranberry Jam and a Christmas Wreath

I love giving homemade gifts at Christmas, it is usually cheaper and you don't have to battle the crowded shops quite so much.  I saw fresh cranberries in the supermarket and decided to try making jam out of them instead of Cranberry Sauce, the jam wasn't as tart and sharp as I expected.  It is delicious on freshly baked bread.

The lovelies at Hobbycraft sent me some goodies to help with our homemade Christmas gift giving and crafting.  I used their jars for the jam and the tree decorations decorating the jars are from there are well.



Cranberry Jam

350g  fresh cranberries
350g caster sugar


Put a film of water in the bottom of a large heavy based saucepan, add the cranberries and sugar.  Stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves; this will take a little while so be patient.  Turn up the heat and boil the mixture rapidly until setting point is reached, about 5 - 7 minutes.  Pour the jam into a sterilised jars and seal immediately.  I sieved my jam to get a clear jam but you don’t have to.



Our Christmas Wreath

Hobbycraft is a regular haunt of mine, it is also the one shop my three daughters pester me to take them to visit regularly.  We were delighted to receive a large package of Christmas crafting materials from them and I shall be blogging about other things we make as we work our way through the supplies. We made this Christmas wreath this past weekend using decorations supplied by Hobbycraft and some crocheted by 7yo who is barely without a crochet hook in her hand lately.


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Our Family Meal Plan for this week - £53 Countdown to Christmas Edition

This week is the last week for my daughters at school before the Christmas Holidays so we will all be busy with Carol Services, school events, and final preparations for the festive season.  I've gone for a very low faff, slow cooker based Meal Plan this week to save our sanity and fill our tums with minimal moaning.

Lunches will be Wholemeal Savoury Swirls as requested by my daughters and will be accompanied by crudites, fruit and a small baked treat.  Weekend lunches will be Twice Baked Potatoes and Frittata using up whatever vegetables we have left at the end of the week.

Breakfasts will be porridge with homemade seasonal fruit compote.  On the weekend we will have pancakes and crumpets.

Dinners

Slow Cooker Vegetable Stew – Meatfree Monday

2 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pepper, diced
1 Tblsp oil
2 tsp cumin
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
500ml tomato passata
2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled and finely sliced
1 small sweet potato, cut into small dice
2 tsp dried oregano
250ml red wine
500ml vegetable stock

Soften the onions, pepper and garlic in a little oil then stir in the cumin and cook for about a minute until fragrant. Put in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients. Stir well. Cook on low for 3 hours. Season to taste before serving with crusty bread.
  
  
Slow Cooker Beef Casserole – Wednesday and Thursday

This is a fab, low faff warming stew that is cooked in a slow cooker. It makes enough to serve us 5 generously for 2 nights. Great for nights when I need a dinner that is guaranteed to be eaten without fuss. This casserole is perfect for that. It tastes even better the second night. Sometimes I freeze the other portion but more often than not I just serve it the next night with different vegetables on the side. You can add other chopped root vegetables to the casseroles if you want, such as potatoes, parsnip. pumpkin, sweet potato, etc.

1kg beef braising/stewing steak cut into chunks
1 tsp ground ginger
1 onion, sliced
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
2 x 400g cans of kidney beans, drained and well rinsed
2 peppers, roughly diced (any colour will do)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 bay leaves
2 Tblsp brown sugar
2 Tblsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

If you have time, brown the meat in a non-stick pan, use a little oil if necessary.

Put the beef and everything else in the slow cooker. Stir well and cook for 7-8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the casserole needs thickening, stir 2 Tbsp cornflour mixed to a paste with 2 Tbsp water into it. Serve with mash and greens or mixed vegetables.
  
Spicy Vegetable Parcels - Friday

You can make these vegetable parcels as spicy or mild as you like.  Sometimes I use filo pastry to make them more like samosas but puff pastry is an easier alternative, and cheaper too.  Any leftover filling is fab in wraps for lunch the next day.

4 large potatoes, cubed
1 tsp oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp chilli powder, I used mild
1 - 2tsp garam masala
1 - 2tsp tumeric
1 - 2tsp coriander
1 - 2tsp ground cumin
200g frozen mixed vegetables
500g block of puff pastry

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender then drain.  Whist the potatoes are cooking heat the oil in a fryingpan over a moderate heat.  Saute the onions and garlic until soft then add the spices, mixed vegetables and cooked potatoes.  Mix well, mashing everything together a little, making sure the mixture is thoroughly heated through.

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan.  Line a couple of oven trays with non-stick baking paper.

Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle shape and pastry is 3mm thick then cut into 6  squares.  Place a dollop of filling on one half of each square, fold over then crimp with a fork to seal.   Put the parcels onto prepared baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden and crispy.  I’ll be serving ours with steamed greens and mango chutney.
  
Slow Cooker Chicken Casserole - Saturday

This dinner is fab for those times when you need a low maintenance meal or are out all day and want to come home to a tasty hot meal.  I have also included instructions for oven cooking in case you don't have a slow cooker.

8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
500g pumpkin, skin removed and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp paprika
1 can chopped tomatoes with 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (I use a casserole pack)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Place all ingredients, except chickpeas and frozen vegetables, in slow cooker and cook on LOW for 7 - 8 hours.  Add the chickpeas and frozen mixed vegetables and cook on high for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Or if you don't have a slow cooker, put all of the ingredients into a casserole dish and cook in your oven at 180 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove from  the oven, add the chickpeas and frozen vegetables, and cook for another 30 minutes.


Macaroni Cheese with Mixed Vegetables – Sunday

Shopping List

33 items: £52.77

Packets and Cereals
1x   Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg)                                          £2.18
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)          80p
1x   Jus Rol Puff Pastry Block (500g)                                        £1.10
1x   Great Scot Red Split Lentils (500g)                                      £1.28
1x   Asda Home Baking Easy Bake Yeast (6 per pack - 42g)       65p
1x   ASDA Wholefoods Brown Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                    £1.28
1x   Cook Italian Wholewheat Spaghetti (500g)                            £1.00
1x   Cook Italian Wholewheat Fusilli (500g)                                 £1.00

Frozen
2x   ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                          £1.50
2x   ASDA Chosen by You Diced Casserole Beef (454g)            £6.00
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Casserole Mix (1Kg)                         £1.00

Tins, Jars and Cooking
5x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                      £1.55
2x   ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g)           54p
3x   ASDA Chick Peas in Water (400g)                                       £1.80
1x   ASDA Smartprice Passata (500g)                                        34p

Dairy and Eggs
4x   ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                 £4.00
1x   Suffolk Farm Large Free Range Eggs (6)                             £1.58
1x   ASDA Cheddar and Mozzarella Grated Cheese (250g)          £1.50
1x   ASDA Mature Light Grated British Cheese (250g)                 £1.50

Fruit and Vegetables
15   ASDA Bananas                                                                  £1.39
10   ASDA Royal Gala Apples                                                   £2.56
1     ASDA Butternut Squash                                                     80.8p
1     ASDA Sweet Potatoes                                                       58.9p
3x   ASDA Whole Cucumber                                                      £1.50
1x   ASDA Celery                                                                      89p
1x   ASDA Garlic Loose                                                            30p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Peppers                                                 £1.58
1x   ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)                                98p
1x   ASDA Plums (500g)                                                           £1.00
2x   Inspire Premium Baking Potatoes (2Kg)                               £3.00
2x   ASDA Carrots (1.2Kg)                                                        £2.00
2x   ASDA Smartprice Pears (500g)                                           £1.58

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x   Banham Poultry Chicken Drumsticks (1Kg)                           £4.00
Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 14th December 2013.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.
Our groceries cost £52.77 from Asda, had I shopped elsewhere my shopping would've cost £57.02 from Tesco or £60.71 from Sainsburys.

Don't forget to check out all the other Meal Plans on the linky with 
At Home WIth Mrs M.