Thursday 25 February 2016

Slow Cooked Bolognaise

This is another throw-it-all-in and do as much or as little cooking as you want at the end of the day. You can do a whole slow-cooked lasagna, but I’m not quite brave enough to try that one yet, and we never have spaghetti (pasta) bolognese, so that’s what I’m going to use this mince for. You could make it into a lasagna, or change the flavours slightly for a more Taginey feel. Simply add harissa, chopped apricots, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and honey instead of the red wine, mixed herbs and tomato puree.

I ground my own mince earlier this week, seasoned, and divided and froze suitable sized portions. So once I’ve remembered to retrieve it from the freezer, all will be well! If you’re super organised, this is a really good one to use your Prep. Ahead skills on. Finely chop celery, onions and carrots and bag up ready. I did this whilst preparing the veg for the wraps – let the little ones get chopping using a safety knife on some pepper, celery and cucumber strips, whilst you complete the chopping for the rest of the week. Again, you could freeze mixed bags of these to whip out the night before and simply stir in.

Fry off the beef mince, throw in the slow cooker with the veg, glass of red wine, tomato puree, salt, pepper and mixed herbs and a can of chopped tomatoes. Add a small teaspoon of sugar to take the acidity from the tomatoes. Top up with beef stock, making sure the liquid just covers the meat and veg, but no more. You want a rich sauce, not a loose, sloppy one. Leave on low in the slow cooker for the day and serve as you will! If you don’t have a slow cooker, put on the hob and leave to simmer and reduce for about an hour – stir every so often to stop the meat from sticking.

Again, once the prep. is done, there’s noting more to do apart from put it all in the pot and leave it to do what it does best.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Wraps n Chips

How much easier could this get…I mean, really? Packed full of veggie salad stuff with a tasty dressing and oven baked chips, it’s not even bad for you!

Get your little ones to help with the prep too…this always means they’ll eat more as they’re chopping and be far more likely to try new ingredients. Make sure there are some firm favourites too – red peppers and carrot sticks in our house – but throw in a few unfamiliar ones, maybe some avocado for a change, and see what happens. You’ve got nothing to lose!

The shopping list for today suggests you buy cheese, pre-cooked chicken or ham, but really it’s up to you. Cut all your veg. into batons and long strips for the chicken. If you’re using ham, leave it in slices. Now, what turns a boring wrap into a tasty one is the dressing. I’m going for a spicy mayo, simply combining mayonnaise with some curried seasoning such as tikka powder or cajun spices. Add dash of lime or lemon juice too and some sharp red onions to the wrap for extra zing.

Either use normal or sweet potatoes, and peel and chip, or leave the skin on and wedge. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil and bake until cooked.

My little one loves these for dinner and she’s even convinced her best friend too – who’s had them every night for the past week!

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Little Dish Go Gos - review


I was recently sent three trial packs of Little Dish Go Gos, a new oaty snack biscuit, perfect for toddlers on the go! I wasn't convinced as when we were originally sent a range of 'in the process' development products, my LO was not convinced. They were too solid and 'cardboardy' so I was a little hesitant that these would be given the four year old's seal of approval...but they were! She chose the ginger flavour to try and wolfed them down. Although still rather close textured, they seemed to hit the spot and she was caught an hour later debating which flavour to try next!

go gos

The little ring biscuits have been created with the help of Little Dish’s nutritionist and are wheat and dairy free with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, or refined sugar, but instead use whole grain oats, molasses, honey and a flax and chia seed mix. And because of that, each 25g bag is filled with 3g of protein too, 20% of a 1-3 YO's recommended daily intake. They're sold as suitable for children over one and even come with a little sticker to reseal the bag, or stick on 'small t-shirts' , which is where ours went! 

You can buy them in single packs (60p) or multipacks of 5, priced at £2.50 and choose from three flavours: raspberry, vanilla or ginger, which isn't too gingery or strong. I've been looking for something a little more grown-up for my four year old, but biscuity based to combat those after school sweetness craving, so will definitely be investing in a few more packs! 

Disclaimer: Although I was sent complimentary products, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Monday 22 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday–22nd Feb. 2016

This week is a real mix with little cooking as it’s made up from an occasional left-over from previous weeks! Therefore, there is no shopping list as it’s mostly heating stuff that’s already been ready.

Monday: Shop-bought Piri Piri Chicken, Potato Dauphinois and Veg (leftover from husband’s roast dinner yesterday!)

Tuesday: Shop-bought Chicken and Chorizo Paella (frozen from Valentines meal that we never ate)

Wednesday: Hake (a nice chunky piece from Paul, my fish man who arrives every Wednesday evening) with butter and sage, wild rice and asparagus

Thursday: Sausage, Chorizo and Pepper pasta (for me and F as OH is out)

Friday: Out with friends

I’ll post the Sausage Pasta recipe as it’s one of the tastiest pasta sauces, and again, one of the simplest.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Steak, Salad, Coleslaw & Potato Dauphinois

More of an assemblage of stuff on a plate for tonight! Especially since I buy the potatoes frozen! I can never find them in Tesco, but Lidl has them in fours in the freezer (under their prestige range) and the local farm shop sells them frozen too. If you’re local, you’ll know Lathcoats Farm well anyway!
What I’ll focus on in this post is the coleslaw, since I’m fairly certain you can all pan fry a steak to your own liking and shove frozen potatoes into the oven! I watched James Martin make a dijon mayonnaise at the weekend and he made it look so simple, I thought I’d give it a go! So, this is the recipe I used … it’s a combination of the one on th video and the James Martin one online and makes quite a thick mayo, which I think is nice, especially if you’re eating it over a couple of days as the water from the veg. always loosens it anyway.
  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • 200ml/7fl oz rapeseed oil
  • 50ml/3½fl oz olive oil
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Watch it here on YouTube

Basically, in a processor, pop in your egg yolks, vinegar (cider or white wine) salt and dijon and blend until smooth. Gradually pour in the oil, drip by drip, until thickened. You may not need all the oil. Either grate or finely slice your veg: I used the traditional carrots and white cabbage but added red onions for a sharper taste. I slice everything on the slicer attachment on the processor for ease and speed. Combine everything with the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. It really was this easy. I ran the processor a little longer after adding the oil, just to thicken it up further, but the quantities worked a treat. I’ll definintely be doing it again…mayo without xanthan gum, stabilisers and preservative? Yes please.
This should be a fresh, crispy coleslaw to serve with a steak of your choice!

Monday 15 February 2016

Meal Planning Monday–February 15th 2015

It’s half term so I’ve got a little more time on my hands, but don’’t really want to use it all for cooking! With that in mind, I bought prok, beef and chicken on Friday and spent a good hour or so mincing, seasoning and sausaging ready for the week. We have several playdates arranged for F and only one day free, so I’ve had to consider lunches as well this week.

Monday – Wraps and Chips

Tuesday – Steak, Salad, Coleslaw & Potato Dauphinois

Wednesday – Homemade McDonalds Chicken Burger

Thursday – Slow-cooked bolognaise

Friday – MacCheese & Sticky Sausages

So, you’ve seen the Chicken Burger before and the rest is fairly simple. Having made sausages and minced beef already, it really is a case this week of cooking or assembling. Quick, simple, tasty and easy family meals with fresh ingredients. Even the MacCheese has spinach and courgette. And I’ve got a speedy and simple coleslaw recipe too where you can choose to make your own mayo or not…it’s up to you.

Your shopping list link is here. Enjoy. 

Tuesday 9 February 2016

February 8th Meal Plan

This week's an easy one for us as there's so much in the freezer. It's the last week before half term too so I'm planning on using that time to batch cook and freeze so when baby comes there may be an odd meal around! 

Monday: Charlie Bigham fish pie with peas and sweet corn
Tuesday: Toad in the Hole with homemade sausages frozen last week
Wednesday: Chilli from the freezer, homemade and slow cooked last week
Thursday: Homemade fish and shop bought chips
Friday: pesto salmon, brown & wild rice plus veg.

A nice easy week with nothing to #prepahead as its all already been done...perfect.

Enjoy your week. 

Friday 5 February 2016

Peri Peri Chicken Pot (Homemade Pot Noodles!) Prep. Ahead Meals

20160121_195126This was a ‘staff room’ recipe from Beth, who turned up at school one lunchtime with a pot of rabbit food. Well, I say that, but actually, when I tried it, it was far more delicious than rabbit food and even had some meat in it! And what’s more, its one of the quickest recipes you’ll try, especially if you prep. ahead and get all the chopping done beforehand.


You’ll need to slice peppers (yellow), carrots and spring onions. I used the mandoline so they were super thin, but thinnish strips will be fine. Pop these into a zipped freezer bag and add mange tout, corainder leaves and baby spinach. (I told you it was a little like rabbit food!) To fill the bags, put them into an empty large mug so nothing spills. Chop some ready cooked chicken (or leftover chicken from the roast if you have any!) and add that, along with a good splash of ‘sauce’. I used Nando’s Peri Peri Medium, but you could add a dollop of Hoi Sin, or Sweet Chilli – really, whichever flavour you fancy. Remember to check the date on the chicken so you know when to eat it before. DSC_1422

I really prefer to bag these as individual portions, then they become a ‘grab and go’ dinner or lunch. And I also freeze them all, but you’ll need to remember to thaw in the fridge overnight for the next day. If I ever need a lunch, I just get one out the night before and take it with me, along with a noodle nest and stock cube.

To make the ‘meal’ you add noodles and stock. That’s it! I prefer the vermicelli rice noodles, but traditional egg noodles work just as well. I also opt for the ‘soft’ straight-to-wok noodles rather than the dry ones as they simply require heating, rather than cooking, making the dish even quicker. You can even add these soft noodles to your ready-prepped bag, but in this case, I wouldn’t freeze them. It’s just as simple to grab a nest of noodles on the day of making.

So, the initial idea with these was that you store all the ingredients in a Kilner jar, even the noodles, and simply pour hot stock over the top and eat. We all agreed, however, that the dish just isn’t hot enough like this, so I’ve found the best method to be tipping out your prepped veg. into a shallow bowl and adding the noodles. Boil the kettle and add half a stock cube to around 200ml hot water. Pour over the veg. and noodles and microwave for a minute until piping hot. It’s essentially a homemade pot noodle, I know, but with all that veg. surely the little bit of salted stock is balanced out?!

And I promise, it’s much tastier than you might think!


Thursday 4 February 2016

Slow Cooked Chilli – Prep Ahead Family Meals

I’ve never made a chilli in the slow cooker before, but have a good standard recipe I’ve always used that a colleague passed on several years ago. It’s delicious and can cetainly be prepped ahead of time.

Pop an onion, courgette and red pepper into a food processor and blitz until they’re finely chopped. Keep in a sealed tub or zipped freezer bag until the morning you intend to cook it. This was another recipe that I also used the food grinder for and again, it worked well. Since I knew I was going to slow cook it, I chose a cheaper cut of meat, braising steak, that was prechopped into chunks, and fed it through the grinder. Don’t forget to check the date on the meat so it’s still in date on the night you need it!


On the day you’re making this meal, pop the meat and chopped vegetables into the slow cooker. (If you have time, fry off the mince and brown it first – if not, don’t worry!) Add a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some chilli powder to taste. Give it all a good mix around and check the liquid covers the ingredients. If it doesn’t, tip in just enough water to cover them. As it’s slow cooked the usual ‘lid-off’ reduction won’t happen as it’ll be covered, so you don’t want too much liquid. Turn onto low for the day and leave for at least 5 hours. If it is still too runny at the end, transfer the crock pot to the hob if it’s allowed, and bubble on high until it has reduced.

Serve with soft tortillas, soured cream and grated cheese.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Bangers, Mash & Spinach–Prep. Ahead Family Mealtimes

Now, this is one to try if you really want to know what goes into your sausages! Otherwise, it’s always a quick and easy tea, especially if you use ready mashed mash. I hate doing mash, the phaff involved in peeling, then boiling, then mashing the potatoes, only to produce a rather lumpy dollop of something. So I’ve started buying frozen – looking at the ingredients, it has exactly what I would put in: potatoes, salt and pepper and butter, so I don’t really see the problem!
Anyway, if you use it, this becomes a super quick meal. Pop the susages in the oven for a healthier ‘cook’, microwave the mash and spinach and knock up a ‘ready made’ Bisto-type gravy. Easy.
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, then why not have a go at making your own sausages? Jimmy recently demo’ed how to do this on Friday Night Feast with Jamie, so I couldn’t wait to give it a go! My first attempt involved ‘mincing’ the meat in the food processor and using a piping bag to fill the sausage skins. Now this does work especially if you’ve got a sharp blade on your processor, but the fat needs chopping very small before beginning, so it’s not a brilliantly quick option. Also, the effort required to squeeze the meat out from a piping bag into sausage skins is incredible – and you could do with another pair of hands to be honest. And so it came about that I ordered the Food Grinder attachment for my KitchenAid, along with a sausage stuffer! And I bought skins from Lakeland rather than the ‘natural’ hog casings suggested. 
sausage making
My second attempt took just as long, but was much less effort! I used a small shoulder of pork (from Tesco, about £3) and a small pack of strips of pork belly (again, about £3) . Use a sharp knife to cut this into small strips and feed into the grinder. I’ll post a video next time I make them so keep an eye out for it. Now, some reviews had said that the grinder sometimes grinds it’s own metal, leaving a grey metallic goo in the meat (! – yuck) but I found this is only the case if you don’t keep the fat from from entangling itself around the blade and ‘grater’ plate. If you keep this are free-flowing, it works a treat. Add a good handful of dried breadcrumbs to the mix, and much pepper. A little salt also helps flavour and a selection of your favourite dried herbs. This way, you know exactly what has gone into each and every sausage. Once combined, re-feed back into the grinder with the stuffer attachment attached. Guide the mince through, leaving a little space in the casings to twist into sausages, but no air. I made between 12-14 sausages, and you could divide the batches and use different flavourings for each if you’d like.
Cook in a high oven. Use the browning juices from the tray to begin your gravy. Simply chop some onions and fry off gently in the sausage pan with a spoonful of redcurrant jelly. Once softened, sprinkle a little flour over and add water or stock to your taste.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Pesto Mediterranean Tarte

An easy weeknight meal that simply needs assembly on the night. I put a little spin on it for my daughter, calling it Pesto Pizza. Chop all your toppings in advance and store in a tub or sealed freezer bag. I chose peppers, tomatoes, mushroom, chorizo and mozarella, but you really could put on anything you fancied...grilled aubergine, seared asparagus?

Unroll the sheet of puff pastry (I've always believed life is too short to make your own puff!) and score a light border around the edge. Spread your pesto over the base, top with toppings, making sure the wetter ones, such as tomatoes, are on top so they don't make the pastry soggy, and top with cheese. Bake in a hot oven until the base is crispy underneath - you may need to cover the top with foil to ensure it doesn't burn. Serve with a crispy green salad.

Monday 1 February 2016

Prep Ahead Weekly Meal Planning - February

This week's menu might be a little more 'prep on the night', but I don't think anything took longer than 15 mins, so still fairly quick. In fact, only the duck and the tarte needed this for the assembly and the greens respectively. 

Monday: Mediterranean pesto tarte with salad
Tuesday: bangers, mash and spinach
Thursday: slow cooked chilli
Friday: peri peri chicken pot

I haven't planned for the weekend as the other half is away so me and F will grab what we fancy when we fancy it. Click on the duck for the recipe as this is something we had a couple of weeks ago. F declared she didn't like duck, then proceeded to eat two full buns of the stuff, so this week I bought four legs rather than two! The batch of buns I'd made stored well in the freezer, tho I had a panic when I got them out that they'd be very heavy. But, again, I was proved wrong and, when simply resteamed, they puffed up perfectly again! 

This week, I also used the new meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid to homemake sausages and beef mince for the chilli. It worked well, although making from scratch took me an extra 45 minutes of prep. Worth it though to know what's gone into your food. If you don't have one, simply throw the meat into the food processor, or ask your butcher to grind your chosen cut of meat. He'll do it for free. 

The shopping list is here.

Hope you enjoy the ideas this week...please comment under the posts to let me know how you got on!
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