Frugal February week 4

Where has this month gone? I can’t believe it has flown by so fast and we’re in our last week of Frugal February. This week is going to be slightly different, as the hubby and I are going away for a couple of nights by ourselves, the first time since before our daughter was born. In fact it’s going to be the first time in her (almost) four years of life that we’ve ever left her overnight with anyone! Some friends of ours from church very kindly bought us a couple of nights away as a Christmas present. We’re so blessed! We’re all very excited, as are my parents who are driving five and a half hours to babysit for us! Anyhow, I only need to plan two meals this week as a result:

Monday: Throw it all in veggie mac & cheese. Using up veggies left in the fridge, a simple homemade cheese sauce and crispy breadcrumb topping.
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Tuesday: Roasted veg and salmon tray bake. Using half a side of salmon we have in the freezer and veggies already in the fridge.
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Wednesday & Thursday we’re away.

Friday: Kubbah hammute. I made extra and froze them last time I made them, so mum is going to make the soup and poach them for when we arrive home.

You might notice I haven’t put any prices on, the reason being I haven’t actually had to buy anything, so actually in one sense this is an extra frugal week, although no doubt hubby and I will enjoy a couple of meals out while we’re away.

What will you be eating this week?

Pancake Day!

Shrove Tuesday! Arguably the best Tuesday of the year, unless of course Christmas happens to fall one.

We love pancakes (crepe style if you’re reading this from across the pond) in this house.  Drizzled with warm maple syrup, smeared in raspberry jam or simply sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice. Delicious!

I use a bog standard recipe of 2 eggs, 100g flour, 50g melted butter and 300ml of milk, although I trippled it as we had friends over this afternoon and a church leaders meeting, which is actually starting in an hour, so I figured I’d make a big batch this morning to reheat as needed. 

I don’t know whether you’re aware of the pancake art craze that’s happening at the moment? There are some truly amazing pancake artists out there! Have a look on You Tube. Anyway, here’s my feeble attempt… Comment below if you can tell who it is!

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I had a happy three year old! Happy Shrove Tuesday!

Whole baked cauliflower cheese

For me, a Sunday roast just isn’t a Sunday roast without a cauliflower cheese. Usually I segment the cauli, but yesterday decided to leave it whole.

I took the tough outer leaves off, leaving the more tender smaller ones in tact, and steamed the whole head for around 12 minutes. 

While it was steaming, I made the cheese sauce by melting a generous knob of butter in a saucepan and whisking in a couple of dessert spoons of pain flour to form a roux. Season with pepper and a small pinch of salt (the cheese is salty, so don’t go overboard). Then I whisked in milk, stiring continuously until I had a smooth and thick sauce. At this point I threw in a large handful of strong cheddar.

I set the sauce aside and removed the cauli from the steamer, letting it dry off a little.  While it was drying, I made a simple crumb by blitzing a piece of wholemeal bread up with salt and pepper. If you have any parsley and pine nuts to hand you could throw them in too. Mix with a bit more cheddar and some parmesan.

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Put the head of cauli in a large oven proof dish and pour the sauce over it. Sprinkle the crumb over the top and bake for about 35-40 mins in a 170oC oven.

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Slice to serve and spoon over some of the delicious sauce. 

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Frugal February week 3

Well hello again.  Where is February going? I don’t know about you, but to me it seems to be flying by.

Our oven packed up yesterday, half way through cooking a beautiful roast dinner for friends! Thankfully, the top oven was still going well enough to finish everything off, but obviously this week we’ll be eating things that can either by done on the hob, grill or slow cooker while we wait for a new one to be delivered.

Monday: Tonight’s dinner was rather bland and uninspired I’m afraid. I didn’t even bother with a photo. Pb and I had slow cooked chicken pieces while Ste had boring packet veggie sausages with veg and boiled potatoes. I worked it out to be roughly £3.80

Tuesday: Shrove Tuesday! My favourite Tuesday of the year! Before the  obligatory stack of pancakes (crepe style if you’re American) smothered in maple syrup or vanilla sugar and lemon, we’ll have a little bowl of healthful leek & potato soup to get some goodness into us! £2

Wednesday: Half side of salmon with pesto, and vegetable infused cous cous. Salmon was in offer today in the supermarket. I got an entire side for £8 which will do two meals for us, so I froze one half of it. This is the most expensive meal this week at about £6.50

Thursday: Quorn & vegetable spaghetti bolognaise. £2.90

Friday: Friday night curry. Thai I think. Prawn for Ste and chicken for Pb and I. I managed to pick up a couple of packs of organic chicken pieces for £2 each today. Half a pack will do the two of us, and we’ve already got the rice and spices in, so all in, it will prob only cost us £3.50. Much more economical than a take away. I’ve been useless this week when it has come to photos. Largely because I’ve simply forgotten, but here’s one of the curry. I used my Nutribullet green Thai curry paste recipe. It says delicious!
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I haven’t planned for the weekend yet.  What’s on your menu this week?

The day my husband gave another girl a Valentines…

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I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  On the one hand we certainly don’t need a designated day to tell our nearest and dearest we love them, but at the same time it reminds us to pause, take stock and be thankful for all the love in our lives in whatever way, shape or form it may take.

Pb and I came downstairs this morning to this little array of treats, lovingly laid out for us:

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Two cards, two bunches of roses and two lovely little boxes containing two very pretty little necklaces. I was moved.  Not only had DH very thoughtfully bought me gifts he knew I’d love, he also bought our three year old presents as well.  This was much more than just material gifts though.  We want our daughter growing up knowing what it feels like to be cherished by a man.  We want her to see how she deserves to be treated by her spouse. We want her to learn that although marriage isn’t always a bed of roses, with the right person, kind hearts, a bucket load of forgiveness and an unwavering commitment, it can be a beautiful thing.  We don’t want her to settle for anything less. As her parents it’s our responsibility to demonstrate this for her. Her expectations of men will be created largely by how she sees her daddy treat me, and of course by how her daddy treats her. That is a big responsibility on DH’s shoulders.

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Today is tinged with sadness for us too, as it’s the day our twins would have been due to make their entrance into this world, but as I watched my husband lovingly fasten the necklace up for our daughter, I reminded myself that we are blessed. We are loved. We are cherished. We have each other. We have God.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Chocolate and vanilla valentines heart cookies

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A friend of mine recently posted a link to Eugenie Kitchen Rainbow Heart Cookies on my Facebook page and I was intrigued.

How on earth did she do it? Was it worth the effort? Could I recreate them at home?

Well, never one to shy away from a food challenge I thought I’d give it a go, but simplify the process by only using two colours, a light pink vanilla dough for the outside and a chocolate heart centre.

I made the cookie dough exactly how Eugenie does it on the video up until she tips out the crumbs to bring them together to form a dough. At this point I split the dough in half and added two tablespoons of cocoa powder to one half.

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Bring them together to form two balls of dough then knead some pink food colouring into the plain one.

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Now roll out the chocolate one and stamp out small hearts using a small cookie cutter.

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Stack the hearts on top of each other to firm two pillars, sticking each heart together with the leftover egg whites. 

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Now wrap in cling and put them in the freezer for half an hour. Once chilled, roll out ‘snakes’ of pink dough and stick them to the heart dough using the egg whites as a glue. 

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Roll the dough gently to smooth it out.

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Wrap it in cling and put it back in the freezer.  Now do the second stack. After they’ve had about half an hour to chill, take them out, slice about half a cm thick and bake at 180oC for about ten minutes.

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Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy… Or give them to someone you love!

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Easy homemade sweet and sour sauce

Sweet and sour is one of those dishes most of us love to eat, but few of us know how to make from scratch. The good news is its actually very easy using a few cheats such as good old ketchup!

For the sauce you’ll need:
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1tbsp light soy sauce
2tbsp tomato ketchup
A medium sized can of pineapple rings in juice cut into chunks.
1 tbsp light brown sugar 
2tsp cornflour mixed with a little cold water.

Heat the vinegar, soy, ketchup, pineapple juice and sugar gently until the sugar dissolves, add the cornflour paste and bring to a gentle simmer stiring constantly. Take off the heat and add the pineapple chunks. Leave to infuse while you stir fry whatever veg and meat/fish you want.

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When the meat/fish/veg and done to your liking, taste the sauce, add more sugar, vinegar, ketchup or soy if needed and pour the sauce over the veg.  Serve with rice or noodles. 

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Frugal February. Week 2.

Welcome to the second week of frugal yet satisfying, (mostly) home made meals. If you missed last week, you can have a look here. Otherwise, here is our menu this week (please note all costings are approximate, and I haven’t accounted for things we’ve already got in the cupboards):

Monday: slow cooker vegetable curry, rice & naan using vegetables we still have in the fridge. £2.60. I loosely followed this recipe although I left out the Coconut milk as I didn’t think it needed it, cut back on the curry powder for Phoebe’s sake, and added in yellow pepper, courgette, frozen spinach and half a carton of passata instead of fresh tomatoes, oh and of course a couple of dashes of lemon juice. Oooh, and I used white kidney beans because I’d run out of chickpeas. It was lovely.
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Tuesday: Assyrian macaroni using quorn mince. £2.80
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Wednesday: Vegetable bake. £3.50
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Phoebe was especially excited about tonight's dinner and polished it off in about five minutes!


Thursday: Sweet & sour prawns, stir fried veg and rice. £4.00
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Friday: Cheat (aka shop bought) pizza for the hubby & little one as I’m out at a local charity fundraiser. £3.50
Saturday: Valentine’s Day… I’m hoping my DH will give me the evening off!
Sunday: Good old Sunday roast with all the trimmings. I’ll see what offers there are on meat at the supermarket tomorrow.

What’s on your menu this week?

Bakewell Tart

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I love a good Bakewell Tart. Pastry, jam, sponge and icing all rolled into one delicious treat. 

For the pastry you’ll need:
200g plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
100g cubed cold unsalted butter
Two tablespoons of ice cold water.

In a processor pulse the butter, sugar and flour together and drizzle in the egg and water mixture very slowly until the dough just about starts to clump together.  Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and gently bring it together into a disk shape. Wrap in the cling and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface to about 2-3mm in thickness and line a large flan tin with it. Prick the bottom with a fork, line with greaseproof paper and baking beans, and blind bake for about 20/25 minutes, removing the paper and beans after about 15 minutes.

While the pastry is baking make the filling by beating 200g unsalted butter with 200g caster sugar until fluffy, then beat in four eggs, one at a time, before adding 100g plain flour, 150g ground almonds, and a teaspoon of almond extract.

When baked, spread a generous helping of seedless raspberry jam over the base of the pastry case, then spread the frangipane filling over it. Bake for 30 minutes at 180oC or until the top is golden and the sponge in relatively firm to the touch. 

Allow to cool completely, ice with thick consistency icing and sprinkle over flaked almonds and the obligatory glace cherries if you have them (I’m not a fan of them though so ommited). Enjoy!

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