Find out how I feed my family on a shoestring budget.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sage toothpaste and other frugal toiletries

I haven't spent a full week at home for ages so my weekly shops and meal plans haven't been weekly recently, but I thought it was about time for another post.

And I definitely have something to talk about. . .

My last post was about frugal house cleaning and this post is about frugal self-cleaning (sort of) and so I'll start with my favourite topic of the moment - sage toothpaste.

S's Mum has given us a tub of toothpowder she made from sage, myrrh and bicarb and I'm telling you, it's amazing. You just wet your toothbrush, dip it in and brush. My mouth has never felt so fresh. I tested my teeth with disclosing tablets before
I started using the powder and then again after a week and the results are astounding. Before I had a lot of plaque left after brushing, after a week of use twice a day my teeth were sparkling!

This toothpowder is cheap - sage is not expensive (particularly if you grow your own), bicarb won't break the bank and I've just checked online and you can get 12.5 g of myrrh for 61p. The recipe came from James Wong's second 'Grow Your Own Drugs' book - so I'd better not post it up, but find the recipe if you can and try it.

I try and steer clear of personal chemicals and say no to parabens (although I do use a nasty plasticy brand name shampoo. I used to use a good no chemical one but the manufacturers no longer make it). I use a crystal stick deoderant (pricey initially but they last forever, proividing you don't drop them) and I use cotton wool and water for N's bum. We use plain glycerine soap in the bath and shower (we don't use anything in N's bath except a couple of drops of lavender oil) and generally steer clear of other products. I do splash out on a moisturiser from Pure Nuff Stuff, but at £9.25 per pot, it's not an excessive expense.

There's a world of homemade beauty products out there to try. I've tried a papaya exfoliator (honey and papaya), vinegar hair rinses and oat scrubs to name but a few. All worth a go if you ask me - cheap and much more pleasant a pot filled with chemical nasties! And do try the toothpowder it really is amazing.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wednesday bargains

I was coming back from an exercise class earlier and I needed some bread. I tried to use the co-op but having driven round the block twice there wads definitely no where to park, so I gave up and went to Tesco (I hate Tesco so this sticks in my throat).

On this occasion though Tesco was the right place to go. I bought

A spelt and sunflower bloomer
Two organic avocados
A bag of wild rocket
A six chocolate teatime cakes

This cost me a grand total of 32 pence!

I did need the bread, but the other items were impulse buys. Still at 14p, 9p, 4p and 5p respectively I think I can justify the spends. And actually I spent half of what I would on the co-op bread. Nice.

So going to the supermarket at 8pm is obviously a winner!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

No Knead

My Dad made this bread and it was yummy. He makes a loaf a day, but uses a 'no knead' recipe. Kneading bread puts me off a bit - I find it hard work, so this is a good answer. Sure the bread is slightly dense, but what a tonic compared to the steam inflated supermaket loaves. It makes great toast and smells good when it's cooking.

Here's a recipe from the New York times (seeing as I'm thinking too lazy to knead, then I'm too lazy to write the recipe out when someone else has done the work).

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Virtues of Vinegar

Oh, I’m a bad blogger. I’ve missed weeks and weeks, how does it happen? Oh well, here’s my latest offering. I’ve included my meals for the next week, but this blog post is going to focus on cleaning. Yes, that’s right cleaning. Our weekly shopping budget includes all our cleaning and toiletry products as well as our food. I’ll cover toiletries some other time, but this time I’m going to let you into how I manage to buy all our cleaning products (as well as our food) in our £35 a week budget.

First, this weeks meals:

Saturday – Spaghetti Sorentina
Sunday – Stew and dumplings
Monday – Cauliflower cheese, new potatoes and peas
Tuesday – Chips, nut cutlets and baked beans
Wednesday – Creamy mustard pasta
Thursday - Stroganoff
Friday – Pizza (this is just for S – N and I will be away at my Mum’s)

So back to cleaning. How do can we possibly clean effectively given the miniscule amount we spend on cleaning products? The simple answer is that we rely on some clever cloths and lots of vinegar. Yes, that’s right vinegar, one of the most versatile products in my cupboard. I use white distilled vinegar for a whole host

of cleaning jobs.

The first and most obvious use for vinegar is for cleaning windows and mirrors. I’ve tried other proprietary window cleaners and none are as good as vinegar. I use it diluted (approx 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water) for windows, just spray it on and buff it off with scrunched up newspaper but use it neat for mirrors (using the same method). Vinegar and newspaper are by far the best way to get a squeaky clean window, trust me.

Vinegar is also great for cleaning out your kettle. Just boil it up and then give it a good rinse and another couple of boils with plain water to remove scale. Much better than a chemical descaler. I also use to clean out my washing machine. I tip a bottle of white vinegar straight in the drum and put it on the hottest cycle. And while I’m on the subject of washing machines, here’s my best vinegar use – in the washing machine drawer during a wash instead of washing conditioner. No, really, try it. Don’t worry your clothes won’t smell of vinegar. You don’t need too much, probably the equivalent of two capfuls of washing conditioner will do the job. I know, it sounds crazy but I started using it when my daughter was born. Babies have very sensitive skin and I read that you shouldn’t use washing conditioner. When I was looking up on what I should use instead I saw vinegar was recommended – it’s kind to babies’ skin, keeps reusable nappies absorbent, helps keep the machine scale free and at around 58p per bottle is an absolute bargain.

Since having a baby our washing machine runs at least daily and given the cost of washing powder that can be expensive. I’m also a bit concerned about all the chemicals I’m pumping into the water supply – ok, so non-bio doesn’t contain enzymes, but even the eco stuff includes all sorts of strange ingredients I don’t really like the sound of. I did try some of those strange things that look like dog balls full of ceramic pellets. At about £15 for two they were an expensive experiment when I realised they have the stain removing potential of well, dog balls. However, I have found a BRILLIANT natural, sustainable alternative - soap nuts.

Last year I got a mama pack (like a bounty pack, but nicer and not a chemical filled marketing sham) and inside was a little soap nut trial pack. Soap nuts are actually little shells from a nut that comes from trees which grow in India and Nepal. They fall off the tree plentifully and are completely sustainable as a resource. The shells contain a naturally soapy agent and are great in the wash. You just need to chuck about 6-8 shells in (in a little muslin bag) and that’s it. You can reuse the shells for between 3 and 6 washes and so they cost around 3p a wash.

They won’t get rid of the very toughest stains and our white nappies sometimes look a wee bit yellowish (as they aren’t being washed with the bleaches in washing powder) but that’s soon resolved by hanging the nappies on the line to dry and bleach in the sun. I cannot speak highly enough about the virtues of soap nuts, but why not find out for yourself and bag yourself a free trial at

Also contained within my mama pack were some e-cloths. These are basically a microfibre cloth system. Now I can’t tell you exactly what the difference between these microfibre cloths and any others are, but they do seem to be more effective. Take a look at their website

I’ve got a couple of general purpose cloths (which I rotate) and a couple of the glass and polishing cloths. They do require you to use a bit of elbow grease for tougher marks, but they clean remarkably well and largely eliminate the need for chemical surface cleaners. So after the initial outlay for the cloths, they are a very cheap option. Also it means when N was first learning how to eat solids I could clean her highchair without leaving it covered in a layer of lemon scented chemicals which would have tainted her food.

I do use bleach down the loo, I have tried citric acid, but I have to say I do prefer bleach. We live in a hard water area and so lime scale is a problem for us. We used to use Harpic’s lime scale remover (which was a big chunk of a week’s budget), but actually a 28p bog standard (sorry no pun intended) bottle of bleach gives better results.

We also use regular washing up liquid too. The eco-stuff’s just not that good and the e-cloth sponge was not a success for us (hey maybe, I should soap nuts - now there’s an idea). I’ve used bicarb and a lot of elbow grease to clean the oven. Being veggies, our oven’s not too greasy, and I couldn’t use Mr Muscle when I was pregnant, but even so bicarb’s hardwork, so I do tend to use the scary-make-your eyes-water stuff now.

Oh and I nearly forgot, essential oils – well two in particular. I use tea tree oil in with the nappies and in the nappy bucket and lavender in the wash if I fancy a bit of a fragrance. And bicarb, another favourite of mine. I make it into a paste to clean the fridge. It gets rid of fridgey smells and is nicely abrasive. So really all I buy is washing up liquid, vinegar and bleach, all of which make a pretty limited dent in our weekly budget and keep our chemical footprint down.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

What’s the Point of a Fishless Fish Finger?

This is an old blog post saved as a draft I've just published. I no longer eat quorn as it contains egg.

This week I bought a box of Quorn fishless fish fingers. I also have a packet of Quorn ham in the fridge, veggie sausage mix in the cupboard and soya mince, fake frankfurters, veggie bacon and veggie sausages in the freezer. I know what you’re thinking, “just what sort of vegetarian is this woman”. If you are a vegetarian yourself, you might be disgusted that I am eating these processed foods which are designed to resemble meat and if you eat meat you might be wondering why, if I am prepared to eat something parading itself as meat, don’t I just eat meat itself.

So here’s my answer. I am under no illusion that my veggie sausages are anything like real sausages (having said that a fellow mum didn’t realise the sausage rolls at N’s birthday party were actually vegetarian) and I don’t care. I haven’t eaten ‘real’ meat for 25 years. I know I used to like the taste of meat (I became a vegetarian for ethical and financial reasons not for culinary ones), but I can’t actually remember what meat tastes like. I do know I don’t like the smell of meat now, so I am personally quite glad that ‘fake’ meat isn’t too close to the real thing. Fake meat does however, lend protein and variety to my diet and is sometimes a welcome short cut.

I do like lentils, nuts, rice and beans and curiously, if cooking for non-vegetarians these are the sort of ingredients I’ll stick to. I only very rarely and with extreme caution give them ‘fake’ meat because although I do know some meat eaters who eat vegetarian sausages and mince through choice (it tending to be lower in fat than its meat counterparts), why compete in a losing race – I can choose meatless cuisines from all over the world that were designed to be that way rather than trying to trick people who'll look unfavourably on the imposter.

I am also quite wary of other people offering me 'meaty' alternatives. A few years ago, in Peru, I was served up 'Quorn' while in the jungle by someone who confessed they didn't agree with vegetarianism and had tried to feed me soup with the chicken fished out. I never asked where he managed to purchase such an ingedient in the Amazon. Instead I chose to disbelieve him and discretely passed the 'fake' Quorn to my companion under the table before taking the drastic action of knocking my front teeth out - ok so the last bit wasn't part of the 'not eating his food' plan but it was very effective at getting me out of tricky meal situations.

Anyway, back to the point: S really likes fake meat. He was a confirmed vegetarian long before we met, but he came to it at an older age than me and he’s not keen on cooking; he’d happily eat veggie burger and chips every day if I let him. I don’t, but cooking for a family’s is about compromise, so this week fishless fish fingers are on the menu.

Speaking of which here is the menu this week:

Saturday – Chiara’s mozzarella pasta and tomato, red onion and cucumber salad (with enough for the freezer)

Sunday -Steamed suet pudding (or stuffed marrow if there are any when I go to the allotment) with roast veg (parsnips, potatoes, carrots and beetroot)

Monday – Mixed pepper fajitas and guacamole

Tuesday – Fishless fish fingers, chips and peas

Wednesday – Veggie sausages, mash, veg and onion gravy

Thursday – Baked potatoes with cheese and baked beans

Friday – Pasta with (veggie) herb and meatballs

Crikey, there’s a lot of comfort food in there. I suppose that’s a feature of the nights drawing in!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hearty Harvest

Photos still on my camera I'm afraid, which is a shame, because N and I made a cracking crumble. N loves blackerries, so off we went blackberrying on Friday (trying to teach a one year old about picking blackberries above the dog pee line challenged mny reasoning powers). I had some cooking pears S bought home from a garden he works in (with the blessing of the owner I should add), so we added these to the blackberries, had great fun mixing them and making a very rough crumble mix. It tasted great and I was dead chuffed to have cooked with my toddler. Anyway, there are photos and I will post when I download them.

The bounty that is provided by the early Autumn is probably one of the reasons my shopping bill was only just over £28 this week. I've got potatoes, onions, beetroot, (a few) carrots, leeks and strawberries (I know I can hardly believe it) from the allotment. S has a friendly client with a surplus of runner beans and the most beautiful pears I've ever eaten and another client with apples and peppers. Added to that we've got tomatoes, watercress and salad leaves in the garden and blackberries galore from the hedgerows. It's a very good time of year for reduced shopping bills.

Our dinners this week have been and will be:

Saturday - Butternut squash risotto (I bought the butternut squash)
Sunday - Leek and potato soup (our own leeks and potatoes) followed by blackberry and apple Eve's pudding
Monday - Vegetarian stroganoff (a firm family favourite and very quick to make)
Tuesday - Curry with rice and naan bread (using curry from the freezer)
Wednesday - Lasagne (from the freezer) and garlic bread
Thursday - Pizza (I bought the bases this time as I am working away from the home all week, but we'll add the toppings)
Friday - Stew and dumplings (made with the remaining butternut sqaush and swede)

The soup and risotto has taken care of our lunches for the early part of the week and I am looking forward to my cream cheese, tomato and watercress sandwiches tomorrow.

The recipe of the week is the blackberry and apple Eve's pudding.

1 cup of blackberries
2 medium cooking apples
2 eggs
4 oz butter/marg
4 oz sugar
4 oz self-raising flour

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5
2. Wash the blackberries.
3. Peel, core and roughly chop or slice the apples.
4. Mix the fruit together in an oven proof dish.
5. Cream the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy.
6. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar mix.
7. Fold in the flour.
8. Pour the sponge mix over the top of the fruit and bake for about 40 minutes or until risen and done.
9. Serve warm on it's own, eith cream or ice cream or (like us) with custard.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Crikey, it's been a while!

Well well well, after a frenetic but shortlived start to this foray into the world of blogs it all went ominously silent. Ah, well there are a million excuses: I wanted to do some 'proper' design work so it looked good, I had lots of other things to do, I was too damn busy making meals from scratch and boiling vats of jam to actually blog.

These excuses are all true and valid, but if I let them stall me then my whole idea of 'Trudie's Food' unravels. So I am back. My blog might not look the way I'd like it to, my posts may not be as sharp as I'd like them to be, but as long as I get up some meal ideas and recipes then I'll be able to cross off 'blog' from my to do list.

And what's more, I can reveal a new insight into budget food shopping:

Write your list and send someone else!

I sent S to do the shopping this evening. He spent just under £25 – wow, hats off even from me. Now it’s true that this is the best time of year to have an allotment and have lots of fruit growing friends. There’s very little in the way of fruit and veg we need to buy at the moment, but still, a jolly good shop.

So what will be eating based on this bargain shopping list:

: Vegetarian lasagne, tomato, red onion and cucumber salad and garlic bread - We’ve an abundance of toms at the moment and the garlic bread is left from yesterday (and so last weeks budget)

Sunday: Shepherds pie - I made this today using allotment potatoes and served with donated runner beans

: Crunchy pie, veg and mash - A freezer special from a few weeks ago

Tuesday: Stuffed peppers and courgette fritters - I saw someone making courgette fritters on Come Dine With Me last week and thought I’d copy as I’ve got plenty of courgettes right now.

Wednesday: Chilli and rice - From the freezer

Thursday: Stroganoff - Ah, a firm favourite.

Friday: Spanish omelette - I will need to buy some more eggs, but there’s plenty of slack in the budget.

I will just share my recipe for tomato, red onion and cucumber salad. There are no real revelations in there, but S (a self-confessed salad denier) loves it.

Tomato, Red Onion and Cucumber Salad

Equal amounts red onion, cucumber and tomatoes.
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Calamata olives (optional)

Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into chunky cubes.
Slice the onion (I cut it in half first to make slicing easier)
Toss together, dress with slurps of vinegar and oil.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

I'm back with a record breaking shopping list

Sorry folks. I have been faithfully photographing my dinner, but haven't got round to posting anything. I guess that's the trouble with cooking from scratch and veg growing - it takes a lot of time and doesn't leave much left over for blogging.

Anyway, I'm back and with a record breakingly mimimal shopping list. I sent Steve to do the shopping this week and so I had to write out a complete list, which he stuck to (almost) faithfully. This resulted in a grand total spend of £28.76. He only bought a small block of cheese so I will need to buy some more of that, but nevertheless I think he did a great job.

Here's the list in full:

1. Crisps 0.71
2. Bananas 1.42
3. Full fat milk 0.89
4. Crinkle cut oven chips 1.50
5. Soya milk x 2 1.18
6. Tinned tomatoes 0.33
7. Vitamins for N 3.57
8. Cauliflower 1.26
9. Spring onions 0.64
10. Semi-skimmed milk 0.89
11. Cornflakes 1.42
12. Wafer biscuits x 2 0.80
13. Lemon squash 0.29
14. Red kidney beans 0.17
15. Peanut butter 0.67
16. Veggie beans and saus 0.70
17.Baked beans 0.29
18. Orange squash 0.28
19. Orange juice 0.65
20. Wholemeal bread 0.60
21. Net of satsumas x2 2.00
22. Bag of pears 0.71
23. Cream cheese 0.61
24. Cheese 2.00
25. Bag of apples x 2 1.42
26. Curly Lettuce 0.67
27. Baby plum tomatoes 1.00
28. Mixed peppers 1.00
29. Cucumber 0.80

He didn’t buy the all fruit snack bars we give N, so instead I’ll make her some flapjacks with honey and raisins. There were o luxuries in this shop and chips were the only item that will go over one week, so I expect the shop will cost a wee bit more next week.

And now for the bit you’ve been waiting for – our dinners next week and recipe one.
Saturday – Spaghetti Sorentina (Trudie style)
Sunday – Cauliflower cheese, new potatoes and veg
Monday – Chips with homemade veggie sausage rolls (I made these a couple of weeks ago)
Tuesday – Spaghetti with lemon and peas
Wednesday - Orange cobbler (frozen) with veg. I made this a couple of weeks ago using butternut squash, swede and carrots.

Thursday – Turkish Stew (frozen)

Friday – Chilli and rice

Spaghetti Sorentina
This is one of my favourite meals. It’s quick, easy, surprisingly filling and suitable for vegans. It was the first thing I cooked Steve and he was slightly perturbed at how greasy it is, but loves it now. In the real Italian version you would use sundried tomatoes and garlic, but the first person to make this dish for me used spring onions instead and so that’s what I stick to. I don’t usually add pine nuts but I had some in the cupboard and fancied them.
1. Spaghetti
2. Olive oil
3. Sundried tomatoes (I used 12 for me, Steve and N)
4. A bunch of spring onions
5. Pine nuts (optional)
• Boil a kettle a put enough spaghetti for all of those eating in a pan.
• Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Put to one side.
• Meanwhile chop the sundried tomatoes into bite sized pieces and the spring onions into short lengths.
• Pour the boiling water on the spaghetti and simmer.
• Put lots of olive oil in a frying pan and heat. Add the tomatoes and spring onions and fry until a little charred.
• When the pasta has cooked, drain and add to the frying pan with the tomatoes etc.
• Add the pine nuts and toss together. Add more oil if necessary. Think of the oil as a dressing. You will need to keep mixing the dish on your plate to ensure the spaghetti is well coated in oil.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Last week and this week

My task for yesterday evening was to post up last week's recipes, but as I went to bed at half past six before the baby I missed that task. I did make a very nice chocolate fudge pudding on Friday, but I'll save last week's recipes for another time.

Here's the dinner menu for this week.

Saturday - Veggie bacon chowder
Sunday - Vegetable hot pot and brocolli
Monday - Red lentil tart with boiled potatoes and peas (a pre-cooked frozen tart)
Tuesday - Pasta with broccoli and walnuts
Wednesday - Lasagne and garlic bread (pre-cooked and frozen)
Thursday - Crunchy pasties (my Mum's secret recipe she'll kill me if I give the recipe away) with veg and new potatoes (pre-cooked frozen pasties).
Friday - chick pea broth and parsley dumplings.

Veggie Bacon Chowder
Oil for frying (I used olive oil)
Some bacon
Some sweetcorn
1 medium onion
1 large potato
Half a pint of vegetable stock
Half a pint of milk (I used soya milk)
2 tbsp of cornflour.

1. Chop the onion and bacon and saute in the oil.
2. Chop the potato into bit sized pieces and add to the pan.
3. After tossing the potato around for a bit add the stock and sweet corn, simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile make the cornflour into a paste with a wee bit of milk.
5. Add the cornflour mix and the rest of the milk and simmer until the potato is cooked.
YUM. N loved this.

Vegetable hot pot.
Whatever veg you fancy
Oil for frying
Handful of red lentils
Handful of pearl barley
Handful of veggie mince
Squidge of tomato paste
Spoonful of marmite
1 large potato cut into thin slices
Butter, milk or cheese for the top

1. I used onions, carrots and celery in my hotpot. I fried the veg off then added the pulses (pearl barley is amazing, if you haven't tried it buy some NOW).
2. Then I added some water (just enough to cover everything), the tomato paste, the marmite (yes, yes, love it or hate it that's right - well I love it and it gives veggie food a savoury taste) and the veggie mince. Personally, I'd prefer it with more lentils and pearl barley and no mince, but Steve likes mince.
3. I bought the whole lot to the boil and simmered for a while until it thickened and the pearl barley was nearly cooked. I checked on it every now and again to make sure it hadn't dried out and burned.
4. Transfer to an oven proof dish and cover with slices of potato.
5. Ideally you would paint the potato topping with melted butter so it goes golden and crispy. I couldn't be bothered to do this, so I poured a bit of milk on top and cooked it at gas mark 6. I decided the potato was going a bit black at the edges and not golden in the middle half way through cooking (after about 20 minutes) so I grated a bit of cheese on top instead.

These are the two recipes I've cooked this week so far and it's getting late, so I'll call it quits here. More recipes and photos later in the week.

I blew the budget

Okay, well it was bound to happen, I just wish I'd been a few more weeks in this blog adventure before I showed myself up as a fraud. Yes that's right I blew our shopping budget this week - I spent a whopping 20% over budget (and that's not including mid week top ups). The thing is I went to a really cheap supermaket, so I think I need to add a new rule:

"Do not throw melons into the shopping basket because you're in a discount store".

Yes, that's right. I'm blaming my overspend on the honeydew melon I splurged on. Well, the melon and the mega pack of crisps, all the extra yummy looking fruit, the bucket of yoghurt (Lidl Greek yoghurt is lovely and plentiful), the luxury muesli (it's the only brand they stock), the extra custard creams (because Steve loves them and what's the point of shopping in Lidl if you're not going to have a treat), the creme fraiche, the proper marmite and the thirst pocket kitchen towels. On examining my receipt I realised that things like tinned tomatoes are no cheaper in Lidl than the cheap ones in Asda and because they have fewer own brands, I bought brand names I wouldn't normally. For example, although marmite in Lidl is cheaper than in the big supermarkets, I wouldn't normally buy marmite, I'd buy yeast extract.

After discussing this with a wise and equally frugal friend I realised that Lidl and Aldi (both small continental supermarkets focusing on smaller ranges and generally cheaper products than the big guys for those of you who haven't come across them) can be great for particular items (e.g. Greek yoghurt), but you need to pick and choose.

I don't regret my trip to Lidl though. Steve prefers going to a smaller supermarket and I like to look at the other stuff they sell. We nearly bought a rotavator while we were there! And as my boss said, shopping in Lidl is a continental shopping experience.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


The aubergine layer of aubergine parmazano.

The tomatoey layer

Oops I thought I could rotate this in the blog. Anyway, this is parmazano

Here's the finished thing.

Leek and sausage toad in the hole
Steve's pizza - he likes things plain.

My pizza, I like lots of toppings. N had a bit of mine and a bit of Steve's and I had some salad with capers too - yum.

This is the strudel - you can see I'm hiding it and the insipid roasties with gravy.

Sticky cashew stir fry.

On the plate.
Here's a pictorial record of my meals so far.

Chiara's mozzarella pasta and my sweet and sour sauce

I don't know if the pasta dish is well known, but an Italian girl I used to know called Chiara taught me this one. It's easy, quick. tasty and surprisingly filling. This makes enough for 4 decent servings (or feeds Steve, N and I twice).

A punnet of cherry tomatoes (about 800g I think)
2 balls of mozzarella
some olive oil
Enough pasta for 4 people
Some dried oregano.

1. Cook the pasta.
2. Drain the mozzarella and cut into pieces.
3. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
4. Toss all the ingredients together in a large oven proof dish, ensuring it's well lubricated in oil.
5. Bake in the oven until the mozzarella has melted and is starting to brown and the tomatoes have softened.

Serve with a salad and crusty bread or garlic bread if you like. I'm sure you could throw other ingredients into this too, but I like it as simple as it is. Although I did add some capers to my portion. I'm addicted to capers at the moment.

My Sweet and Sour Sauce

There's no art to this and it suits my tastes. It's an adaption of a recipe I found on the internet - but I can't remember where I found it or exactly how that one went so this is my version.

2 tbs of soya sauce
3 tbs of brown sugar (sometimes I used pineapple juice instead and a bit less vinegar, but I didn't have any)
1 tbs of tomato paste
About 150 ml of distilled vinegar
A bit of cornflour

1. Mix the first 4 ingredients together and simmer gently.
2. Take a bit out and mix up some cornflour to a paste.
3. Add the cornflour, stirring constantly until thick. Add a bit more cornflour if you'd like it thicker (but make it into a paste first).

I used this sticky sauce to coat stir fried veg (which included radishes a nice man at the allotments gave me) and toasted cashew nuts. I served this with egg noodles.

Another week and some more food

Week beginning Saturday 14th May 2011

This is our dinner list for this week:
Saturday – Chiara’s mozzarella pasta
Sunday – sweet and sour cashews
Monday – random curry and tarka dhal
Tuesday – Turkish style new potato casserole
Wednesday – chips and something from the freezer
Thursday – spaghetti bolognaise or our version of stroganoff (Steve’s cooking, so it’ll be one of these two)
Friday – Quiche, new potatoes and side veg/mixed salad.

I spent £28.01 at Asda this week. I bought organic green beans (not sure why I bought organic, I think they were cheaper than the regular beans) and too much broccoli (I spent £2.36 on this). Sometimes, it’s hard to know what quantity of beg to get when you shop online. We’ll be eating a lot of broccoli this week, but N loves it and it’s full of calcium.

I bought celery and kiwi fruits this week – so I’ll be having some celery and cream cheese sandwiches for lunch and N will have having kiwi fruit in her lunch box too.

I also spent £2.59 in our corner shop on mozzarella and cheddar (which was £1.69 for 400g) and £3.28 in the co-op on apples, bread and cherry tomatoes. This brings my total to £33.88, so I’ll probably be just over the £35 by the time I’ve bought another loaf of bread and some eggs.

Experiments and failures

It's all been a bit stressful for the last few days. I'd planned to make a strudel on Thursday using filo pastry. I've never made a strudel before or used filo pastry. That was my first mistake. My second was trying to make something new when I didn't have much time and my daughter was a bit poorly, hadn't slept enough and was irritable.

The strudel was ok, but it looked a bit funny and because I was running out of time (and have a rubbish oven where things only seem to cook on the top shelf) I turned the heat up. This meant the pototoes (what was I thinking? Roast potatoes midweek!) and the strudel weren't cooked as evenly as they should be. Still Steve said it was lovely (unprompted by me - honest). Well it was a load of veggie mince and onions wrapped in pastry and Steve likes anything mince based.

Here's my recipe if you want to try it. if you do I hope you're more succesful than me. I'll be using puff pastry next time.

Lots of onions - cut in half and then into wedges
A bit of olive oil
A handful and a half of frozen veggie mince
A handful of red lentils
A few glugs of boiling water
A squeeze of tomato paste
A desertspoon full  of yeast extract
A packet of justroll filo pastry
Melted butter (actually I used margarine as that's what I had).

1. Fry off the onions, till browned.
2. Pour over the water, add the  lentils, mince, tomato paste and yeast extract.
3. Simmer until the lentils are cooked (keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn, add more water if necessary or better still follow the instructions for the quantities of water for the weight of lentils on the packet).
4. Grease a baking tray and lay the filo pastry on top.
5. Brush with melted butter and layer up the filo - repeat until all the layers have been assembled.
6. Put the mince in the middle and roll up.
7. Brush with more butter and bake for 30 minutes (in a decent oven) at c. 200 degrees gas mark 6.

Friday's menu went out the window as we all got more tired and more irritable and an afternoon nap for everyone was in order. This meant that instead of making nut savoury with veg I made spaghetti bolognaise, which was quick and comforting.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Toad in the Hole Trudie Style

Ooooooh Yorkshire pudding is possibly one of my favourite things to ea,t and so in my humble opinion, no roast dinner is complete without a whole load of baked batter. Throw in a few sausages (and in this case some leeks) and you have heaven on a plate.

My version of toad in the hole uses vegetarian toad. I use sos-mix sausages in particular. I prefer these to Quorn sausages and I always have a packet of sos-mix in the cupboard. For all of you who don't know, sos-mix is a sort of vegetable protein sausage powder (it’s much nicer than it sounds). You just add water, let it stand for a few minutes and then form into sausages and fry. It's great for making patties or meat balls too and it's so easy to add herbs or onions to sos-mix for an extra treat.

I also like to add veggies to my toad in the hole. This time I added leek (as I've got some to use up from the allotment), but you could add anything. In fact I got the idea from a vegetarian recipe book which suggested baby vegetables. Onion, sweetcorn, carrots, broccoli and green beans all work particularly well.

Ok so here's my recipe. It's enough for us for two meals when served with veg and potatoes (we had mash yesterday).

2 eggs
3/4 cup of plain flour (sorry the batteries out on my scales so I’m using measuring cups – I can’t remember the weight in ounces).
300 ml milk (I used soya milk)
pinch of salt
6 sausages
1 leek

Make the batter but whisking the eggs, flour, salt and milk together. Proper cooks will tell you to make a well in the flour whisk the egg in and then the milk, but I don't bother. I just measure the milk in the measuring jug, add the other ingredients to that and then whisk.

You can use this straight away, but I tend to leave it to rest for a few hours in the fridge (cover it up first though). Basically I had some time to make this while N was occupied so I did.

When you're ready to make dinner, turn the oven on and preheat to 200 degrees/gas mark 6. Put a bit of oil in the bottom of an oven proof dish (I used a large oval ceramic dish) and out in the oven to get nice and hot.

While the oven's heating up make up the sausages and fry (actually I did this earlier in the day too). To make 6 sausages feed 3 people twice cut each sausage into 3 pieces to look like more in the dish. Wash and chop your veg that you're adding.

When the oil has had time to heat up give the batter a little bit more of a mix and pour into the hot oily dish. Then scatter your sausages and veg over.

Bake for about 40 minutes. I cut the bits I'm saving wrap in tin foil and freeze when cool.

Photos to follow.