Thursday, 23 August 2012

Refried-bean wraps

These are completely delicious! Technically they are a vegan (or vegetarian if you want to include some cheese) meal, but I added some leftover meat to one version and that too was delicious! Basically this is a super-quick, no fail recipe. It also only takes 30 minutes from start to finish and reheats in the microwave at work for a great lunch. The vegan variety also comes in as a really cheap meal at just 45p per serving, probably cheaper if you buy cried beans and cooked them yourself! What more do you want from a recipe?

So anyway, here is my version of a recipe that is probably all over the internet. No photo because all I have is a photo from my lunch earlier in the week, which just makes it look crap! However, I absolutely suggest you give this recipe a try.

Re-fried  beans in a a wrap

Serves 4
Preparation:  10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Cost: £1.82 (£0.45 per serving); £6.43 with leftover meat and cheese (£1.60 per serving)

1 tbsp olive oil (or equivalent for frying)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin
400g tin kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp paprika
4 large or 8 small flour tortillas
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
a little olive oil
Non-Vegan options:

100g halloumi, grated (optional)
100g cheddar cheese, or equivalent, grated (optional)
Soft cheese or sour cream (optional)
leftover roasted meat, any variety (optional), processed to small pieces in a food processor (not completely ground up)

First, fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil on a medium/high heat for 2 minutes. Add the cumin and kidney beans and a splash of water. Fry for another 2-4 minutes until the beans are heated through. Add the paprika and If you are using the halloumi and/or meat, add these now and fry for a further minute. Remove from the heat and gently mash to break up the beans slightly.

Make a quick salsa buy combining the chopped tomatoes, red pepper and red onion and stirring through with a dash of olive oil (yes it is a cheats-salsa).

Heat a griddle or frying pan (I actually have a flat sandwich press which is a great, quick way to do this). Fill the tortillas with a small spread of the cream cheese/sour cream, followed by the bean mix and the cheddar if you are using it. Finish off with a small sprinkling of the salsa. Wrap up the tortilla and place on your griddle. Gently brown, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve immediately with salad, or allow to cool and eat cold, or microwaved to piping hot.

The bean mix can also be frozen before adding the cheddar, salsa and soft cheese.

N.B. The cost of the meal is calculated on the day that this blog entry was published, using Sainsbury's online groceries as a reference for pricing. Each item is costed by weight used not by the total cost of a bottle/packet of that product.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Meal planning for 22nd - 28th August

You might have noticed a little bit of a silence around here recently. Sorry, I've just been completely snowed under at work, and I haven't even managed to stay on top of my community association work. One thing I do need to do is a meal plan to make sure Mr PTC and I at least eat in the next 7 days. This week I am trying to keep it super-simple and using up some of my frozen meals to reduce how much time I need to spend in the kitchen. This also means a tiny shopping trip which is good news for both my busy schedule and my wallet!

I do have some other blog posts to share with you, but none of the projects are finished so I'm afraid they will have to wait for a short while. Hopefully soon I will get some of my time back.

For now, here is my meal plan for this week.

Meal plan 22nd - 28th August

Wednesday 22nd August
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Cullen skink (from the freezer) (fish)

Thursday 23rd August
Lunch: Ham and salad sandwiches
Dinner: Vegetable stir fry (vegan)

Friday 24th August
Lunch: Ham, tomato and cheese wraps
Dinner: Chinese coconut chicken soup (from the freezer) (chicken)

Saturday 25th August
Lunch: Tagliatelle with cheese and tomatoes
Dinner: Lemon, herb and cheese encrusted fish with salad (fish)

Sunday 26th August
Lunch: Salad
Dinner: Roast chicken (chicken)

Monday 27th August
Lunch: Leftover roast chicken thighs with salad
Dinner: Chicken Caeser salad, using leftover roast chicken (chicken)

Tuesday 28th August
Lunch: Salad and ham wraps
Dinner: Risotto (vegan)

Both the soups are from the freezer this week (I just need to add noodles to the chicken soup). All in all this is a really simple week. I also have to confess I have deliberately chosen dishes where I have everything in except the fresh salad (I have whole chickens in the freezer, lots of cheese in for some reason, wraps and everything). My shopping should just involve a quick trip to the farm shop for salad and vegetables and I will be done! However, just in case anyone else is using these plans I have posted my 'shopping list' below anyway.

Store cupboard
To buy

Arborio rice
Two fish fillets
Cullen skink from the freezer
75g cheese
Coconut chicken soup from freezer
Salad leaves for three meals
1 onion
Salad vegetables for two meals
1 whole chicken
Cumin seeds
75g watercress
Olive oil
2 red pepper
50g breadcrumbs
Root ginger
Cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
100g thin rice noodles
2 cloves garlic
4 carrots
25g pine nuts
1 parsnip
Sesame oil
1 sweet potato
Rice vinegar
1 stalk celery
Hoisin Sauce
1 sweet pepper
Soy Sauce
4 bread rolls


So that is it for this week. And actually I need only a  few items from the right column and some milk. Excellent! 

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Oriental salad

This dish works well with either chicken or freshly cooked fish such as salmon. ideally you would use leftovers and then you don't have to spend more than 20 minutes making this. However, feel free to cook up some chicken or fish, shred it and then get on with the rest of recipe.

I made this last night for dinner with chicken and the leftovers were still fine for lunch today. However, I would only suggest doing this if you have a fridge to store it in at work.

Asian salad

Serves 4
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 0 minutes
Cost: £ (£ per serving)

2 chicken breasts or 2 small salmon fillets (about 200g) cooked, and shredded
2 cups mix of coriander and parsely leaves with soft stems

2 tsp ground coriander
Juice from 2 limes
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper

¼ red cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, thinly slice
2 spring onions, sliced
1 head lettuce (e.g. Romaine), or equivalent as salad leaves
100g cashews or nuts of your choice, roughly chopped

100g (dried weight) freshly cooked vermicelli (angel hair noodles)

Cook the chicken/fish if that isn't cooked, then shred into small bits. If you are using fish make sure to carefully remove all bones.

Make a dressing by mixing in a blender the coriander, parsley, lime juice and olive oil. Blend to a smooth consistency. Taste, and if you wish season with salt and pepper.

Finally, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, cabbage, pepper and spring onions (also known as scallions for the Irish among you). Add the dressing, serve and top with the nuts.

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Meal plan - August week 3

I'm on to week three, and so far so good! The only modification to the schedule has been having an impromptu BBQ last weekend instead of the planned risotto. Not the healthiest modification, but a BBQ was well overdue given the awful weather that we had in May, June and July.

I do have a confession to make.... the original month-plan involved fish three days in a row and no vegetarian/vegan meals. Now this is just a problem with how I set up my probability-based plan I guess. I don't love fish *that* much and it is not the easiest thing to do in 30 minutes, so i've cheated. I have two fish-based meals, two chicken meals, one lamb/beef meal, one veggie meal and one vegan. Seems like a sensible approach to every week actually!

This week I am going a step further and I'm going to include lunch in my menu. My original reason for planning our meals was to encourage me to cook and reduce how much we spent on ready-food and takeaway. I'm pleased to say no take-aways have been bought yet in August (except for a bag of chips - that's fries to non-Brits - by Mr PTC one day on his way home, but we'll just ignore that faux pas). However, it is working so well, encouraging me to cook every day and eat sensibly that I'm extending it to lunch. Lunch has pretty much been taken care of in the last few weeks by leftovers and the odd sandwich, but by adding it into the menu I hope to remove bought lunches altogether except in odd situations where it makes more sense. So here we go.

Meal plan 15th - 21st August

Wednesday 15th August
Lunch: Leftover Asian Chicken Salad
Dinner: Baked fish and lemon risotto, served with salad (fish)

Thursday 16th August
Lunch: Ham and salad sandwiches
Dinner: Vegetable stir fry (vegan)

Friday 17th August
Lunch: Ham, tomato and cheese wraps
Dinner: Lemon, herb and cheese encrusted fish with salad (fish)

Saturday 18th August
Lunch: Turkey and salad wraps
Dinner: Watercress and chicken stir fry (chicken)

Sunday 19th August
Lunch: Salad
Dinner: Roast beef (beef/lamb)

Monday 20th August
Lunch: Leftover roast beef and potatoes
Dinner: Refried bean wraps (vegetarian)

Tuesday 21st August
Lunch: Leftover refried bean wraps
Dinner: Chinese coconut chicken soup (chicken)

Oooh that all looks to me like I love wraps. Well I have to confess I do! Neither of us are a big fan of sandwiches, so wraps make a great lunch, and just occasionally and even better dinner!

Now for the shopping lists! This took some patience I tell you... lots of new recipes this week so I did a lot of planning. Hopefully thought by the end of September I will have nearly 40 quick mid-week meal recipes (or at least that is my aim, tried and tested and generally just good food!

Store cupboard
To buy

Arborio rice
Four fish fillets (two varieties)
2 lemons
75g cheese
3 onions
Salad leaves for four meals
12 clove garlic
Salad vegetables for four meals
3 chicken breasts
Cumin seeds
75g watercress
Olive oil
2 red pepper
50g breadcrumbs
Root ginger
16 plain wraps
Salt and pepper
100g thin rice noodles
Baking margarine
1 lime
150g cashew nuts
1 tin coconut milk
Sesame oil
125g fine green beans
Rice vinegar
1 stalk celery
Hoisin Sauce
1 carrot
Soy Sauce
8 tomatoes
Tamarind paste
Cream cheese
Fish sauce
2 heads pak choi
Soft brown sugar
2 bread rolls
100g cashews

Chilli flakes
1 tin kidney beans
Coriander leaves
1 red onion
150g tagliatelle

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Home Organisation 101 at A Bowl Full of Lemons

Just a little update...

Lovely Toni at a Bowl Full of Lemons is going to be hosting a masterclass in organisation from September. 14 weeks, 14 challenges. Sounds like my cup of tea (with a biscuit naturally). So I will be joining in! Wish me luck!

Visit A Bowl Full of Lemons for the full low-down!
Oh and just little aside... organisation or organization.... I'm British so I like my 's's. Is that sad?

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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

How to make your bed perfectly every time

I love my bed. Yes I really do. I love the soft, tucked in, perfectness calling me every night. I love having two sheets neatly tucked around me (and the fact that having a second sheet means I don't have to wash my duvet cover every week - who wants to fight with that?). And I love my mattress.

So I thought I would share my bed-love with you all right now! Sorry, if this is too much sharing... move right along.

Anyway, down to business. Over the years I've taught various flatmates how to make a bed and each and everyone has been surprised at the difference it makes. I never realised it was such an art-form! My Mum taught me when I was so young I can't remember and I still love going to stay with my parents and finding the spare bed made up just-the-way-it-is-supposed-to-be! So here it is - how to make the perfect bed each and every day, just like a hotel!

So first things first, it might not be fashionable, but two sheets are the way forward. Yes I know I've already said this, but believe me it is so much more comfortable. You should also use a mattress protector or an old sheet. This doesn't need to be laundered every week, instead about every month or so when you wash the duvet cover. You also don't need to worry about ironing your sheets unless it is for presentation. Pulling them taught and having high quality sheets makes a far bigger difference to comfort than ironing in my opinion. I hate ironing the sheets as it take sooooo long and I'm awful at ironing... but please feel free to do it and someone tell me how to make it easier!

Anyway, here are my steps to the perfectly made bed!

1. Hoover the mattress. I also flip the mattress monthly but not every week. This means that not only am I rotating the mattress to keep it in good condition but both sides get hoovered to reduce dust and debris build up.

2. Add a mattress protector or old sheet. This is simply to keep your mattress in good condition. If you mattress is on the old-side consider getting a mattress-topper which pads out the top for an extra-luxurious feel. To be honest though new mattresses don't really need them in my opinon.

3. Put on your bottom sheet. Fitted or flat doesn't matter. Fitted is easier, but flat is just fine (follow the tips in steps 5-7 if you are using a flat sheet). Smooth it out and pull it tight to remove wrinkles.

4. Place the second flat sheet on top. I line the top of the sheet (usually identified by the larger border along that edge) level with the top of the mattress. The rest of the sheet gets pulled out to fall over the bottom of the bed (you can see my footboard holding the sheet up from the mattress) and down each side. This may be obvious, but make sure it hangs down each side in equal amounts.

5. Get perfect corners. Take the piece of sheet directly below the end of the mattress at the foot of the bed (as shown in figure 5).

6. Place this piece of the sheet on top of the mattress and straighten.

7. Tuck the foot of the sheet under the mattress. Yes it is now looking very messy and very complicated - but give it a go and you'll see how easy it really is! Don't forget to do this on both sides at the foot of the bed.

8. Tuck the sides of the sheet under the mattress all the way up to the top of the bed. You will now have a wonderful Christmas-parcel-like fold at the foot of the bed. You might need to tweak, but it is really easy and it stays-put all night long!

9. Add your duvet. Obviously put your duvet cover on your duvet if you happened to have just washed it! Then pop the duvet on the bed. If you have a foot-board on your bedframe tuck the duvet in along the bottom - it makes all the difference and keeps the duvet in place all night.

10. Tuck the sheet over the top of the duvet. This is the final touch; take the top top sheet and tuck it around the top of the duvet, then re-tuck the sheet in at the sides. This keeps the sheet always around the duvet and completes the-all-tucked-in experience when you climb under the sheets!

Finish with your choice of pillows and accessories. I'm not allowed to use scatter cushions in the bedroom. According to Mr PTC they are unnecessary and pointless (I can still get away with them in the spare room thankfully!). But finish off your bed with your choice of pillows and cushions (and don't forget to wash your pillows from time to time!).

Leave your duvet folded back during the day to help reduce dust mites.
When you aren't making your bed from fresh sheets I recommend pulling your duvet back during the day to air the sheets and mattress. I started doing this after reading an article that showed that unmade beds (basically beds that allow moisture to escape and air) are healthier because there are less dust mites. It can still be neat and tidy, but by folding it back you allow the bed to breathe, moisture to evaporate (yes I know its gross but we all sweat in bed) and the dust mites to dehydrate and die. So pull back your duvet when you get out of bed in the morning. I tend to get changed when i get home from work, and at the same time I re-make the bed following steps 3 to 10, just straightening the bottom sheet.

The bed gets fully made (including a vacuum of the top of the mattress and pillows) once a week when I wash all the sheets and pillow cases. The mattress is turned, hoovered on all sides (top, bottom and sides), the mattress protector and duvet cover laundered about once every month, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on time, but never more than 8 weeks apart. I have yet to figure out how often to clean my wash my pillows though!

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Leftover's quiche

Oooh yesterday was quiche night. I love quiche, especially when I made it advance so essentially last night was a no-cook dinner! Fabulous. What is even better is that despite making this up it was absolutely wonderful. So wonderful in fact that by sharing this recipe with you dear readers I am making sure I have a copy of this recipe for the future. Yum.

So my plan had been to make a Quiche Lorraine (why Lorraine, why not Lucy or Lola?). But 1. I didn't have enough eggs and my local egg-lady (my lovely neighbour) was out and 2. I didn't have enough 'normal' cheese. I also happened to have lots of random bits of salad leaves/lettuce and half a pack of bacon in the fridge that needed using.

This may seem like quite a lot of work, so unless you can prepare it in advance then don't do it mid-week! I've had quite good results in the past freezing my uncooked pastry so you could try this and then it is just a matter or making the filling. It still isn't quick, but mainly because of the cooking time.

Leftover's quiche

Serves 6-8
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes + 1 hour in the oven.
Cost: £4.76 (£0.79 per serving for 6 servings), or replacing for a cheaper cheddar £3.51 (£0.58 per serving)

40g walnuts
200g plain flour
45-70ml cold water
50g baking margarine or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 rashers bacon, diced
2 cups chopped salad leaves (use whatever is growing in the garden)
1 little gem lettuce, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
100g ricotta cheese
150g cheddar (or equivalent), grated

Make your pastry. In a food processor combine the walnuts and flour. Pulse until well mixed and the walnuts and finely chopped. Add in the baking margarine/butter, using the pulse setting to produce a 'breadcrumb' consistency. Finally add the cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing until it has nearly come together. Stop adding water and turn out into a piece of clingfilm. Wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Saute the onion and bacon for about 10 minutes until the onion turns translucent. You shouldn't need oil as the fat from the bacon should provide plenty, but add some if you need to. Add the garlic and saute for a further 2 minutes. Finally add you salad leaves and lettuce, stirring for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and let it cool down (the lettuce will continue cooking).

Turn your oven on to 200C and place a baking tray large enough to take your flan tin on the top shelf of the oven.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll out and use it to line a 23cm, loose-base, greased flan-tin. Prick the base and return to the fridge for 10 minutes.

Once the pastry has chilled, remove from the fridge, place baking beans on a piece of parchment paper in the bottom and put in the oven for 20-25 minutes until just golden. Remove the baking means after 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile combine the eggs and ricotta cheese into a paste and season with pepper.

Once the pastry case is cooked add the onion and bacon mix, spreading it out evenly, then add a layer of the grated cheese and finish by pouring over the egg/ricotta mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 200C (180C fan oven) until the top turns golden and it is just set.

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