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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.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

My favourite recipes that are perfect for an Autumn day

*Sponsored Post*

I've been asked to work with Forest Holidays on their 30 Days of Autumn project. They've teamed up with ten of their favourite bloggers from all over the UK to give you lots of fun ideas about what you can get up to this autumn. They’ve kick started the list with a few of their own suggestions.  

Here are my favourite recipes that are perfect for an Autumn day: 

Quick and Easy Oven Baked Risotto, very comforting meal without having to slave over a hob stirring for 20 minutes. 



Wholemeal Herb and Onion Focaccia, perfect accompaniment for soups or stews as well as a fab snack when on an Autumn walk.



Quick and Easy Root Vegetable and Lentil Curry

I whipped this up for a hearty late lunch the other day and it went down very well indeed.  Packed with vegetables and with gently spiciness, it was perfect comfort food for a chilly autumn day.

1 Tblsp oil
1 Tblsp curry paste, I used mild
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g butternut squash or sweet potato, cut into 1 inch chunks
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can brown lentils, drained and rinsed
2 or 3 cubes of frozen spinach, defrosted
2 generous handfuls of frozen peas
fresh coriander, to serve

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add curry paste and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until the curry paste is fragrant. Stir in the butternut squash and/or sweet potato and tin of chopped tomatoes.  Using the can of chopped tomatoes as a measure, add half a can of water to the saucepan.  Stir to combine everything then cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the butternut squash and/or sweet potato are almost soft.  Add the drained and rinsed lentils, defrosted spinach and frozen peas then cook for a further 5 minutes.  Spoon into bowls, sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve accompanied by Naan bread.


And for pudding why not whip up some Chocolate Pots, you could adjust the flavour of the chocolate to suit your mood or the occasion.



*I was compensated by Forest Holidays for writing this post*

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

What's your Perfect Night In?

What's your ideal menu for a Perfect Night In?
*Sponsored Post*

Now that Autumn is upon us and the nights are drawing in earlier it makes me want to be warm and cosy at home rather than out and about in the great British weather.  As a family we enjoy spending one night a week, usually Saturday night, watching a movie or favourite TV programme together.  My 3 girls really like to watch Strictly Come Dancing so dinner that night is deliberately chosen so it's quick to prepare and we can eat it whilst sitting on the sofa. 

Our favourite television night dinners are Homemade Pizza, Calzone, Burgers (either vegetarian or beef), Homemade Fish and Chips or Spicy Vegetable Parcels.

My perfect night in would involve a takeaway with a decadent dessert, no cooking or washing dishes, the kids not bickering over anything and me being able to eat dinner whilst it's hot instead of having to tend to a newborn who seems to need feeding right on dinnertime. 

Sainsbury's are asking everyone to think about their Perfect Night in and tell them about it.  There's a fab prize draw with a great prize of a 40" HDTV, £250 of Sainsbury's vouchers, and 10 DVDs all you have to do is tell Sainsbury's what your perfect night in involves. 

To help inspire you and give you ideas for keeping you and your family entertained at home, Sainsbury's have created some fun and easy activities for the family to get involved in. Check out their crafty garden ideas and other guides.

What's your Perfect Night In?


*I was compensated by Sainsbury's for promoting this prize draw*

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Wholemeal Herb and Onion Focaccia

This is such an easy bake, quick to mix and only one prove.  I have baked this loaf several times in the last few weeks and yesterday it was a delicious accompaniment to Vegetable and Lentil Soup for lunch on a chilly autumn afternoon.



Wholemeal Herb and Onion Focaccia

300g brown bread flour
7g fast action yeast
1/2 tsp salt
30g grated parmesan style cheese
1 Tblsp dried mixed herbs
30ml/2 Tblsp olive oil
250ml lukewarm water
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 Tblsp sea salt
1 Tblsp olive oil

Put the flour, yeast, salt, cheese, herbs into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Make a well in the ingredients and add the oil and water.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, either on a lightly floured surface or in a mixer.  

Once kneaded, put the dough into a lined oven tray and press out into a 25cm/10 inch round.  Cover with greased clingfilm and leave to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.

Whilst the dough is proving, finely slice the onion and coat with the olive oil.  Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan.  Once the dough has proved, remove the cling film and sprinkle the onion over the top of the dough followed by the sea salt.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until golden and cooked through.  Cool on a wire rack.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Quick and Easy Oven Baked Risotto

My family devour this dinner enthusiastically and always ask for seconds.  It is quick to make with minimal prep and fuss and almost cooks itself.  I love the fact you can cook it in the oven for 20 minutes or so whilst you get on with other things that invariably need doing on a weekday evening when you've children to sort out.  This dinner serves 5 people generously, with a couple of second helpings.



Quick and Easy Oven Baked Risotto

250g pack smoked bacon, roughly chopped into small pieces, or use any leftover cooked meat
2 onions, diced
2 peppers, diced
500g risotto rice
200ml white wine (optional)
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
400g frozen peas 
75g parmesan style cheese, finely grated

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas Mark 6. Fry the bacon pieces in a little oil in an ovenproof pan or casserole dish for 3-5 minutes until golden and crisp.  Stir in the onion and pepper then cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add the rice and stir until coated in the oil.  Pour in the wine and cook until it has been absorbed.

Add the hot stock and stir, heat until stock is boiling.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until rice is just cooked.  Stir through the frozen peas and most of the Parmesan then cover with lid and leave to sit for 5 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with extra cheese and steamed greens.



I'm adding this recipe to the Speedy Suppers challenge created by Katie and Sarah, hosted this by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.  The theme is Cheesy and this comforting risotto has paremesan style cheese stirred through and grated on top.

speedy suppers

I'm also entering the Credit Crunch Munch linky this month.  This Quick and Easy Oven Baked Risotto is a cheap and comforting recipe and a great way to use up leftover cooked meat, perfect for the linky created by Helen and Camilla, hosted this month by Hannah at A New Addition

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Monday, 20 October 2014

Our Family Meal Plan for this week 20/10/2014 - £51

Our Meal Plan this week is fairly low faff and includes meals requested by my family as I asked them to name the meals they wanted included.  I am sleep deprived so uncomplicated and quick meals are what I need.  Bub is now a month old and although he sleeps for a 3 or 4 hour stretch once a day, most other sleeps are around 2 hours or less.  This means I am pretty much a zombie running on autopilot.

Breakfasts will be porridge with homemade fruit compote. School lunches will be cheese and homemade chutney or egg salad sandwiches with crudites and herby yoghurt dip, a piece of fruit and a small baked treat. My husband and I will be having more soups from the freezer.  Weekend lunches will be Toasted Sandwiches and Twice Baked Potatoes.


As a treat, and because I really want chicken soup, I purchased a free range chicken.  We'll be having a roast with all the trimmings to start the week. I will then use leftovers from the chicken in a couple of other meals throughout the week. 


Dinners

Roast chicken with Yorkshire puddings, roast vegetables and steamed greens

Chicken Soup - Flu Soother, because we all seem to have a slight cold

12 Muffin Tin Chicken Tarts

Mixed Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto

Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot

Homemade Fish and Chips (perfect for munching on whilst we watch Strictly)

Macaroni Cheese with steamed greens


Shopping List 

32 items: £51.00

Packets and Cereals
1x   Mornflake Superfast Oats (2Kg)                                                    £2.18
1x   ASDA Strong White Bread Flour (1.5Kg)                                        80p
1x   Jus Rol Shortcrust Pastry Block (500g)                                         £1.25
1x   Great Scot Pearl Barley (500g)                                                      70p
1x   Great Scot Broth Mix (500g)                                                          75p
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 Fusilli (500g)                                           £1.00

Frozen
1x   ASDA Smartprice Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)                                     73p
1x   ASDA Chosen by You Cook from Frozen Whitefish Fillets (500g)    £2.00

Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x   ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)                                 31p

Dairy and Eggs
4x   ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)                           £4.00
2x   ASDA Smartprice Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g)                           90p
1x   ASDA Free Range Mixed Weight Eggs (15)                                   £2.00
1x   ASDA Smartprice Mature White Cheddar (830g)                            £4.00

Fruit and Vegetables
2x   ASDA Ripen at Home Kiwi Fruit (6)                                                £1.50
16   ASDA Bananas by Weight (170g)                                                  £1.85
1x   ASDA Carrots (1Kg)                                                                      57p
2     ASDA Parsnips by Weight (250g)                                                  74.5p
2x   ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg)                                                       £3.00
1     ASDA Butternut Squash by Weight (850g)                                     75.7p
3x   ASDA Whole Cucumber                                                                £1.47
2x   ASDA Celery                                                                                £1.00
1x   ASDA Trimmed Leeks (500g)                                                        67p
1x   ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)                                                  £1.19
1x   ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)                                          £1.08
2x   ASDA Plums (400g)                                                                      £1.50
3x   ASDA Gala Apples (600g)                                                             £2.52
1x   ASDA Garlic (4)                                                                            65p
1x   ASDA Extra Juicy Oranges (1.6Kg)                                               £2.00

Meat, Fish and Poultry
1     ASDA Extra Special British Free Range Corn Fed Whole Chicken (1.4Kg) £5.57
1x   ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 400g)                £2.38
Prices and special offers reflect those in Asda on 20th October 2014.  

As usual I compared the cost of my shopping, here is the price comparison table from My Supermarket:



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


Friday, 17 October 2014

Lamb Meatballs and Root Vegetable Bake

This is a quick and easy weeknight dinner.  I sometimes prepare the vegetables and meatballs earlier in the day so I can just put it all in the oven to bake at dinner time.  It went down very well with my family and leftovers made a delicious lunch the next day with a side salad.



Lamb Meatballs and Root Vegetable Bake

750g root vegetables peeled and diced. I used parsnips, swede, carrot and sweet potato
2 onions, sliced
2 peppers, diced
500g lamb mince
1 handful breadcrumbs
1 free range egg
3 Tblsp fresh mint, finely chopped
300g plum tomatoes (optional)

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan.  Cook the root vegetables in boiling water for 5 - 8 minutes until they start to soften, alternatively steam them in the microwave for a few minutes.  Combine the lamb mince, breadcrumbs, egg and mint.  Shape into meatballs, I managed to get 25 meatballs from the mixture.

Lightly oil a large ovenproof dish.  Put the vegetables into the dish and nestle the meatballs on top.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, add the tomatoes and bake for a further 5 minutes.  Serve with steamed greens or a side salad.



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wholemeal Banana Slice

I baked this slice as a lunchbox treat for my daughters and also an energy boosting snack for me to have with a cuppa. The slice is not particularly sweet, using very over-ripe bananas helps boost the sweetness and the flavour, as does adding some dried fruit.  A delicious way to use up over-ripe bananas!



Wholemeal Banana Slice

200g wholemeal plain flour
90g rolled oats
75g light soft brown sugar
75g dried fruit
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
4 Tblsp/60ml milk, I used semi-skimmed but you could use soy/almond milk
2 free range eggs

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Line a 23cm square cake tin with non-stick baking paper.  Mix together the flour, oats, sugar, dried fruit, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl then make a well in the centre.
In another bowl or large jug combine the mashed banana, milk and egg.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.  Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Set aside to cool completely before cutting and serving.  


Monday, 13 October 2014

Our Family Meal Plan for this week 13-10-2014

I'm back to blogging our Meal Plans after what seems a very long break. I've still been Meal Planning, just haven't had the time or energy to blog about it.  Ironically, time and energy are in even shorter supply at the moment as our 3 week old son has typical newborn erratic sleep patterns and cooking needs to be fitted in around his feed and change times.

I cleaned out our pantry before our son was born, during that lovely but slightly insane nesting phase where everything that cannot move out of the way is organised and cleaned.  Despite my best efforts not to have opened packets hiding in the pantry, there were a few part packets of pulses and rice which need using up.  I also cleared out the freezer so along with our pantry items there's some frozen fish, vegetables and homemade soups, stocks and meals which also need using up.  That is our theme for this week - using up leftovers and part packets.

Breakfasts

Now that the weather has turned colder we are having porridge with homemade fruit compote or toast with spread if there isn't time to make porridge.  On the weekend I shall make pancakes and crumpets, hopefully making some extra so we can freeze some for a treat next week.

Lunches

My 3 daughters will be having packed lunches which will be ham and salad sandwiches with crudites, yoghurt, a piece of fruit and a small baked treat.  My husband and I will be having soups for lunch with wholemeal bread rolls.  My 14yo baked a couple of batches of wholemeal bread rolls on Sunday for us to have for our lunches.

Comforting Bean and Chorizo Soup

Vegetable and Lentil Soup

I love this soup, so warming and tasty on cold autumn days. It is really filling and a great low cost dinner. We've several portions in the freezer which we shall be defrosting, heating up and eating for lunch.

1 onion, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely sliced 
2 carrots, peeled and diced 
1 swede, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, crushed 
1 Tblsp ground cumin 
115g (1/2 cup) red lentils 
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes 
1.25 Litres (5 cups) vegetable stock 

Put a large saucepan on the hob over a medium heat. Sauté the vegetables and garlic in a little oil until they begin to soften. Add the cumin and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.  If I can be bothered I whizz up the soup a little with a stick blender. I serve this with cheese on toast or crusty bread rolls.

Dinners

Creamy Bacon and Vegetable Pasta

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.

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.

Simmered Mince Many Ways - Cottage Pie (Tuesday), Spaghetti Bolognese (Wednesday)

Spicy Rice with Chickpeas and Spinach

This is a quick, healthy and delicious family dinner for a Meatfree Monday or any day of the week. My daughters like it with some poppadoms on the side and mango chutney. Give it a go, it works well as a side dish too.

1 ½ cups basmati or long grain rice
1 Tblsp olive oil
3 carrots, roughly diced
1 pepper, roughly diced
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp mild curry powder
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
400ml vegetable stock, made with 1 stock cube
300ml water
200g spinach (fresh or frozen)
2 Tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves
Natural yogurt and more chopped fresh coriander leaves to serve

Put the rice in a sieve and rinse it under cold running water until the water runs clear. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the roughly diced carrots, pepper, leek, garlic, raisins/sultanas and spices. Cook, stirring it occasionally for about 8 – 10 minutes or until the vegetables, especially the carrots, are tender.

Once the vegetables are tender add the chickpeas, rice, stock, and water. Bring everything to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook everything with the lid on the saucepan for 12 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and put the spinach over the top of the rice. Replace the lid on the saucepan and stand for 8 minutes. Uncover the saucepan again and add the chopped fresh herbs. Stir everything together until well combined. Serve topped with some yoghurt, chopped fresh herbs.

Homemade Fish and Chips


Homemade Pizzas





I haven't included a Shopping List this week as we only purchased a minimal amount of groceries to enable us to use up the leftovers and part packets we have lurking about.  I shall be back to blogging a Meal Plan with Shopping List, hopefully next week.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Feeling thankful . . . .

I'm feeling very thankful that despite all that has happened we are still smiling and doing OK. I have been amazed, humbled and touched by the support we have received from friends old and new both online and in person. Thanks so much to those who have provided hugs, good wishes, encouragement and tissues when needed. Thanks also to those who have provided us with delicious dinners and other treats to keep us fed and functioning.

We are very fortunate to have a large hospital up the road with dedicated staff providing excellent care to both myself and my husband, and also to 11yo who injured her foot recently. Free, good quality healthcare is a luxury many people elsewhere do not have but one we are blessed with and very grateful for.

Bubs is gaining weight well, hubby is progressing well with rehab and can get about now, my post op infections are sorted, 11yo's ankle should be fine soon and our other two girls are happy and healthy. We have lots to be thankful and grateful for despite having a tough time recently. That's what keeps me going when times are hard.

I am hoping to gradually get back into blogging when time allows but will not resume my regular 3 or 4 posts a week for quite a while yet.  Thank you so much for your patience whilst we adjust to having a new baby, who is stubbornly nocturnal, and fitting in my husband's schedule of rehab appointments.

Michelle :)