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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.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Blueberry Cheesecake Swirls



I do like a picnic afternoon tea and baked these treats for exactly that occasion.  We were invited to a friends for an afternoon of Pimms, games and a fab picnic afternoon tea.  Much fun was had by all and these delicious morsels went down a treat.  The filling tastes like a cheesecake, the enriched bread which encases the filling is light and tempers the richness of the filling perfectly.

Blueberry Cheesecake Swirls

200g plain flour
100g wholemeal flour
60g butter, diced
125ml lukewarm milk
1 free range egg
7g sachet dried yeast
2 Tblsp caster sugar
  
Filling:
100g blueberries, thawed slightly if frozen
1 or 2 Tblsp lemon curd
150g tub ricotta or mascapone

Put the flours and butter into the bowl of a standmixer or mixing bowl if making by hand.  Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, either using a mixer or by hand.  Combine the milk and egg, beating until totally combined.  Add the yeast and sugar.  Stir to incorporate then add to the flour and butter mixture.  Mix until a dough forms then knead for 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 10 minutes by hand.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film.  Set aside in a warm place to prove until the dough has doubled in size, this took 45 minutes in my kitchen on a summer day.

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of minutes to knock it back.  Your dough should be smooth and elastic.  Roll out the dough to 30cm x 40cm rectangle.

Combine ricotta and lemon curd then spread evenly over the dough leaving a 2cm border on one long edge. Sprinkle over the blueberries.  Starting with the longest side roll up the dough firmly to form a log.  Slice the log into 8.


Arrange each slice, cut-side up, nestled next to each other on your prepared tray.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Leave to cool a little on the tray then serve warm.



British Summer Berries


After the gloom and freezing temperatures in winter followed by the almost endless rain and record breaking cold this spring I'm rejoicing in the sun and warmth of the British summer.  Yes there is still rain and some chilly days but the summer, and the delicious produce it brings, is well and truly here.

My favourite produce in summer, apart from fresh salad greens, is berries.  My family and I cannot get enough of them.  We grow strawberries and raspberries in our back garden and forage for blackberries.  Our plants cannot keep up with our demand for berries so we inevitably traipse off to buy some.

I was delighted to be invited along to a Summer Berry Food Experience evening at Tesco in Hatfield to learn more about where their berries come from and the production process.

We were offered champagne or smoothies on arrival and treated to more berries than we could possibly eat.  In between devouring delicious British berries we were told where the berries were grown, how the berries are picked, graded, packed and transported.

Tesco employ a Berry Technologist, a job I would love to do, to research berry varieties and ensure quality is maintained.  They also have have long-term trading relationships with all of their growers.  All berries are in shops a maximum of 24 hours after being picked.

Did you know:

Strawberries and raspberries do not ripen after being picked.

There are about 200 seeds on a strawberry.

You should store your berries in the fridge but take them out about an hour before serving so that the berries can come to room temperature.  This allows the flavours to fully develop.

Strawberries come in all different shapes and sizes:


Tesco will be stocking new berries to delight out tastebuds this year.  

Mac Black Raspberries – a darker colour, larger in size and sweeter in taste than traditional raspberries.  In season during June and July.

Aronia Berries – look similar to a cranberry and best used in smoothies and cooked in summer puddings.  In season late August to September


Kiwi Berries – these are the size of a grape and can be eaten whole with the skin on.  In season during September.


If you would like some delicious ideas and recipes using British Berries check out Tesco Real Food.

I used some of the contents of my goodie bag to make a Summer Berry Tart.  Spread the inside of an all butter pastry case with a little lemon curd, fill with whipped cream then pile on the berries.  Perfect for a quick but impressive dessert, especially if unexpected company calls around for dinner.



I was the guest of Tesco Real Food, who paid my travel costs to the event.  I was given a goodie bag including store vouchers.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to blog the event as a condition of attendance.  

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Cheddar and Chive Scones


Scones are quick, cheap, versatile and tasty - all the things I need an impromptu picnic feast to be.  I baked these to take to our allotment after school for a hastily arranged picnic and watering session with a friend and her children.  The chives are from our back garden, you could use a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves or a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs or dried thyme instead.

Cheddar and Chive Scones

450g self-raising flour
75g butter, diced
90g mature cheddar, grated – plus extra to sprinkle on the top
1 Tblsp chopped fresh chives
375ml buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Stir through the grated cheese and copped chives..

Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined.  I use a bread and butter knife to mix the dough.  If necessary, use your hands to bring the dough together.  You want to handle the mixture as little as possible.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Use the palm of your hand to gently press out the dough to about an inch/2.5cm thick.  Use a round 6cm wide pastry cutter to cut out approximately 12 - 15 scones from the dough.  Put the scones on your prepared tray, about 1cm apart.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes or until the scones are golden and sound hollow if you gently tap the top.  Cool on the tray for a few minutes then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

These scones are delicious served when still slightly warm and spread with butter, homemade chutney  or red onion marmalade.


Summer Berry Tarts



I baked these delicious morsels in an effort to cheer myself up whilst battling the lurgy.  They are delicious, slightly faffy to make, but really worth the effort.  You could use any berries you like, I just  happened to have rather a lot of strawberries to use up.

I used the shortcrust pastry recipe from this post, feel free to use shop bought pastry or a ready made pastry case.  I also used redcurrant jelly from a bottle given to me at a recent food blogger event. If you don't fancy making crème patisserie just use a really thick custard, either homemade or store bought.

Crème Patisserie

3 free range egg yolks
20g plain flour, sifted
65g caster sugar
250ml milk
1 or 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Put the egg yolks, flour and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and pale.  Combine the milk, remaining sugar and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Strain through a sieve into the beaten egg mixture.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.  If you put a clingfilm on the surface of the crème it will stop a skin forming on the surface.

Assembling the Summer Berry Tarts

I made the Crème Patisserie and left it to cool completely then kept it in the fridge until I was ready to use it.

I lined 4 loose based mini quiche tins with shortcrust pastry then blind baked them until the pastry was golden and completely cooked through.  Once the tart cases had cooled completely I brushed the inside with a little melted chocolate to stop the pastry from going soggy once the tarts were filled.

Put enough crème patisserie into each tart case to 2/3 fill it.  Lay the strawberries on top.  Gently heat the redcurrant jelly until smooth, brush/pour over the berries then leave to set.


I am submitting these tarts to the Classic French Challenge by Jen from Blue Kitchen Bakes.


I'm also submitting my Summer Berry Tarts to Simple and In Season the monthly blogging linky from Ren Behan.


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Cricut Event at The Make Lounge

I recently attended a craft workshop at The Make Lounge in London to try out the Cricut Mini craft cutting machine.  The Make Lounge is a gorgeous venue and runs various crafting and cooking classes. The motto of the make lounge is: Meet people. Make stuff.  I can happily say that I did both.  It was a fab opportunity to catch up with fellow bloggers and meet others who I've tweeted with but not met in person. We all had a chance to create some lovely items to take home too.

Cricut creates cutting devices which allow a user to electronically cut shapes into a variety of materials.  For example, you can make vinyl wall decorations, cards, invitations, cake pop or treat boxes, refresh old clothing with new designs, the possibilities are almost limitless.



After a welcome cuppa and a chat with blogging friends we put the machines through their paces.  


The Cricut is easy to set up and very user friendly.  We were using the iron on sheets to cut shapes from  which come in a variety of colours including ones that sparkle.  These are a brilliant way to liven up plain t-shirts, pillowcases, aprons, etc.  Great for personalising clothing and accessories.

I was excited by the templates for treat boxes and food packaging that can be downloaded from the gallery online as well as images for party invitations, place cards and fabric party bags.  

The only niggle I had was that at the moment you can't use your own images with the machine, only the ones in the online Cricut Craft Room.  The machine comes with access to 500 images and more can be purchased via cartridge, packages of images online or individually from the Cricut Image Library.  These can be somewhat  pricey depending on the image or package of images you want.

I had a fab time crafting, chatting and of course having a delicious morning tea.  Many thanks to the lovely PRs at Ranieri Communications and Cricut for their hospitality.  I cannot wait to have a play with a machine at home, my 3 daughters are very excited indeed.

The Cricut Mini retails for around £130 and is available from Hobbycraft and Amazon UK.


I had my travel expenses paid to attend the event.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Our Family Meal Plan For Week Of 23/06/2013 - £55

This week I am really poorly with a heavy cold and chest infection which means I shall be at home all week.  Whenever I am poorly I crave loads of vegetables and comforting flavours so that is the theme this week.

My daughters are having school dinners to give me a rest and my husband and I will have dinner leftovers for our lunches.  I will also make a large batch of vegetable soup which I will freeze in single serving portions for my lunch should I need comfort food and an extra vegetable boost.

Weekend lunches will be Mini Frittatas and Vegetable Fritters.  Breakfasts throughout the week will be cereal and milk with a piece of fruit for afters.

Our Meal Plan groceries this week came to £55.09 from Asda on 23/06/2013.  As usual I compared the cost of my shopping using My Supermarket and had I shopped at Sainsbury's my groceries would've cost £62.00 and from Tesco £62.52.   

Vegetable Fritters

2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups grated courgette, or 1 tin of whole kernel corn, drained
1 Tblsp fresh mint, finely chopped (optional)
125ml cup milk
125g grated cheddar cheese
1 Tblsp vegetable oil

Beat the eggs with about half of the milk.  Stir in the flour and grated courgette (or corn) and mint. Add more milk, if necessary.  If the mixture is too runny, add a little more flour.

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan.  Put spoonfuls of the mixture into pan to form fritters.  I usually cook about 3 in the pan at once.  Once the mixture bubbles, turn the fritter over and cook the other side until golden.


Put the cooked fritters on a kitchen towel and keep warm in the oven until the whole batch has been made.

Dinners

Red Lentil Bolognese - Meatfree Monday

Vegetable Quiche with Homemade Wedges and Salads - Tuesday

Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables and Steamed Greens - Wednesday

Roast Vegetable Filo Tart with Homemade Salads - Thursday

Chicken Stir Fry - Friday

Chicken Fried Rice - Saturday

Sausages with Homemade Spicy Wedges and Salad - Sunday


Shopping List

34 items: £55.09

Packets and Cereals
1x
ASDA Smartprice Cornflakes (750g)
46p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Crispy Rice Cereal (440g)
77p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g)
19p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg)
45p
1x
Jus Rol Filo Pastry (500g)
£1.25
1x
Jus Rol Shortcrust Pastry Block (500g)
£1.25
1x
ASDA Easy Cook Long Grain Brown Rice (1Kg)
£1.78
1x
Great Scot Red Split Lentils (500g)
£1.28
Frozen
1x
ASDA Chosen by You Oriental Vegetables Stir Fry (500g)
£1.11
Tins, Jars and Cooking
2x
ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)
62p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Sweetcorn (326g)
32p
Dairy and Eggs
4x
ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)
£4.00
1x
ASDA Greek Feta Cheese (200g)
£1.27
1x
Suffolk Farm Medium Free Range Eggs (6)
£1.00
1x
ASDA Mature Somerset Cheddar (300g)
£1.50
Fruit and Vegetables
4
ASDA Red Cabbage by Weight (100g)
32p
2x
ASDA Spring Greens (500g)
£1.50
2x
ASDA Salad Tomatoes (750g)
£3.00
20
ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g)
£1.36
4
ASDA White Cabbage by Weight (100g)
32p
20
ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g)
£1.60
2x
ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg)
£4.00
2x
ASDA Whole Cucumber
£1.00
3x
ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose
£1.50
was £1.00
1x
ASDA Celery
50p
was 89p
1x
ASDA Garlic Loose
25p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)
£1.58
2x
ASDA Courgettes (3)
£2.00
1x
ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)
98p
1x
ASDA Sweet Potatoes (1Kg)
£1.31
1x
ASDA Juicing Oranges (1.6Kg)
£2.00
2x
ASDA Smartprice Apples (500g)
£1.68
Meat, Fish and Poultry
1x
ASDA Extra Special Pork Sausages (6 per pack - 454g)
£2.98
2kg
ASDA Extra Special British Free Range Corn Fed Whole Chicken
£9.96

Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 23 June 2013.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

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


Allotment Adventures


My family and I love fresh homegrown produce.  We're growing as much as we can in our small back garden, mostly in containers and a couple of huge growbags which are like canvas raised beds.  When a friend asked if anyone was willing to share her allotment I jumped at the chance.  The thought of having much more room to grow fresh produce was very exciting.

I'm not sure if we are overenthusiastic or slightly mad but not only are we sharing an allotment with another family, we're looking after the school allotment too.  The teacher who looks after the allotment and organises gardening club is retiring so I offered our services to keep it tended over the summer and beyond.  It means there's lots of gardening and growing to be done and hopefully lots of fresh produce to eat.

Gardening is great exercise and the perfect excuse to get out in the fresh air, even dodging heavy showers like we were today didn't dampen out spirits.  There's nothing like eating something you have grown yourself, there is a real sense of achievement, not to mention freshly harvested produce tastes much better than the supermarket purchased variety.

This morning we left home at 10am and spent just over 3.5 hours at the allotments.  All the beds we had diligently weeded previously but not planted anything in had weeded over with the warm and wet weather.  I almost cried at the fact our hard work last time had been lost.  

However, with determined spirits we rolled up our sleeves and weeded all beds once again, turned over the soil and broke up any large clumps to prepare the beds for planting.  We then planted out beans, peas, kale, rainbow chard, courgettes, tomatoes and a dozen lettuces.  We weeded, turned over and planted out a bed at the school allotment too. 

Once everything had been planted it was all given a good thorough water, each of us carrying a 10L watering can back and forth from the water trough.  There are strictly no hosepipes allowed on the allotment so watering is tiring and time consuming.  It does however force you to conserve water and consider whether it is worth watering quite so much if a decent heavy shower is expected.  

We staggered home with 3kg of freshly harvested rhubarb, exhausted but proud of our achievements.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Quick and Easy Chocolate Slice


When you've recovering from a migraine, and feeling really rough coming down with a heavy cold, it's not the best idea to bake with the help of 3 tired and grumpy children. However, my kitchen, sanity and children are still all intact and we made a delicious Quick and Easy Chocolate Slice.

This recipe would be fab for last minute cake stall baking, class parties or just for a treat in lunchboxes or after school. It is easy to mix, quick to cook and you can vary the icing to suit your tastes. I've added orange or peppermint extract to the icing before to make a Choc-mint or Choc-orange Slice. 

Quick and Easy Chocolate Slice

125g butter, softened but not melted
220g light soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free range egg
75g plain flour
35g self raising flour
2 Tblsp cocoa powder

Icing:
160g icing sugar
2 Tblsp cocoa powder
1 Tblsp softened butter
2 Tblsp hot water

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan. Grease and line a swiss roll tin, mine measures 20cm x 30cm. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale then add the egg. Beat until completely incorporated then sift over the flours and cocoa powder.

Dollop the mixture into the tin and spread until an even layer is achieved. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in the tin. Once the slice is completely cool make the icing.

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Combine the butter and hot water then add to the dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

ABC Loaf (Apricot, Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf)


I have had really busy week this week so wanted to bake a loaf that my children could take to babysitters or friends houses for an after school snack.  This ABC Loaf is quick to make and full of fibre with only a little sugar so won't send kids running about like mad things on a sugar high.

ABC Loaf (Apricot, Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf)

310ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs
2 large over-ripe bananas, mashed
150g white self raising flour
150g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
110g Demerara or raw sugar
120g dried apricots, diced
80g dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a large loaf tin, mine measures approximately 22cm x 10cm x 7cm.

In a large bowl combine the buttermilk, vanilla, eggs and mashed banana.  Sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and cinnamon over the top then add the sugar, diced apricots and chocolate chips.  Using a metal spoon, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.  Do not beat the mixture or your loaf will be heavy.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared loaf tin.  Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Our Family Meal Plan Week Of 17/06/2013 - £51

This week is going to be busier than usual.  I'm out for four nights this week, one meeting, one event and twice working - and I also have a day in London on top of all that - so our Meal Plan hast to be low faff.  My poor husband will be sorting out dinner and the bedtime routine on the nights I am out so I need easy, filling meals to please everyone.

Much to their displeasure, my daughters will be having school dinners this week.  Weekend lunches will be Twice Baked Potatoes and Quesadillas to fuel our work at the allotments.  Breakfasts will be cereal and milk with a piece of fruit for afters and we'll probably have pancakes one day on the weekend.

Our groceries cost £51.10 from Asda on 16/06/2013.  As usual I compared the cost of our shopping, using My Supermarket, which would've cost £58.59 from Tesco and £60.24 from Sainsbury's.

Dinners

Meatfree Monday - Quick Vegetable Curry

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed then cut into small cubes
1 onion, diced
1 pepper, diced (any colour will do)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled then finely grated
1 Tblsp oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tin coconut milk
300g frozen mixed vegetables

Put a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Gently fry the onion, pepper, garlic and ginger in the oil until softened.  Add the spices and sweet potatoes, stir well to combine everything and cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are fragrant.  Add the coconut milk and frozen mixed vegetables.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are cooked through and tender but not breaking up.  We’ll be serving ours with cooked rice.

Tuesday - Baked fish with Homemade Wedges and Coleslaw

Wednesday - Brown Rice and Vegetable Bake with Salad

Thursday, Friday, Saturday - Simmered Mince Many Ways

Sunday - Crustless Salmon Quiche with Salad

1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 free range eggs, beaten
500ml milk
75g butter, melted
415g can pink salmon, drained
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp fresh chives, finely sliced

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Put the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs milk and butter. Combine to make a batter then stir through the salmon, onion, cheese and chives until they are just combined.

Pour into a large ovenproof dish which has been greased or lined with non-stick baking paper. Cook at 180C for about 45 minutes until the quiche is set. I usually serve mine with salad or steamed mixed vegetables.

Shopping List

30 items: £51.10
Packets and Cereals
1x
Weetabix Cereal (48x18g)
£3.00
1x
ASDA Smartprice Spaghetti (500g)
19p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Plain White Flour (1.5Kg)
45p
1x
ASDA Easy Cook Long Grain Brown Rice (1Kg)
£1.78
Tins, Jars and Cooking
1x
ASDA Wild Pacific Pink Salmon (418g)
£2.17
4x
ASDA Smartprice Chopped Tomatoes (400g)
£1.24
1x
ASDA Smartprice Red Kidney Beans in Water (400g)
27p
1x
Kingfisher Coconut Milk Light (400ml)
£1.19
Frozen
1x
ASDA Chosen by You Freshly Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1Kg)
£1.00
1x
ASDA Whitefish Fillets (500g)
£2.00
Dairy and Eggs
5x
ASDA British Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints (2.27L)
£5.00
2x
ASDA English Mature White Cheddar (500g)
£5.00
2 FOR £5
2x
Suffolk Farm Medium Free Range Eggs (6)
£2.00
Fruit and Vegetables
2x
ASDA Salad Tomatoes (750g)
£3.00
20
ASDA Bananas by Weight (100g)
£1.36
4
ASDA White Cabbage by Weight (100g)
32p
15
ASDA Carrots by Weight (100g)
£1.20
2x
ASDA White Potatoes (2.5Kg)
£4.00
7
ASDA Sweet Potatoes by Weight (100g)
89.6p
2x
ASDA Whole Cucumber
£1.00
2x
ASDA British Iceberg Lettuce Loose
£1.00
was £1.00
1x
ASDA Celery
50p
was 89p
2x
ASDA Garlic Loose
60p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Peppers (700g)
£1.65
1x
ASDA Spring Onions
50p
was 74p
1x
ASDA Smartprice Brown Onions (2Kg)
98p
1x
ASDA Spinach (350g)
£1.00
3x
ASDA Smartprice Apples (500g)
£2.52
Meat, Fish and Poultry
2x
ASDA Butcher's Selection British Beef Mince (500g)
£4.00
1x
ASDA Butcher's Selection Smoked Bacon Lardons (200g)
£1.28
 Prices and special offers reflect those of the online grocery websites, and are correct as of 16 June 2013.  Prices may vary in different in-store locations.

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