Hello again :)

Um…wow! What a long time it’s been since I’ve been here! I did the odd Facebook post last summer, but I’ve really missed writing here for the last few years

What’s been going on?

There have been LOTS of changes in our lives since January 2015 (when I last posted, eeek!). Most importantly – we have a son 🙂 Eli William Dunlop was born in December 2015 and is now only a couple of months off his second birthday. Being a mum is the hardest, but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done (which is such a cliche but really there is no other way to say it).

When I was pregnant we bought our first house and left our tiny kitchen which had featured here so many times. Our (not so new anymore) house has a much bigger kitchen, room for an actual dining table and, you guys, we have a GARDEN. With a greenhouse, vegetable patch, mature fruit tress and bushes, and CHICKENS. Three lovely ladies called Agnes, Martha and Betty.

Dave has also changed his career. Having been a manager in the care field for a few years, he’s decided to retrain and is now a smart meter fitter, which he loves and is much better for his mental health.

Another big change

So we have another big change coming our way, and it’s that I’m currently working out my notice period at my job, having been back from maternity leave part-time for about nine months.  My last day is next Wednesday and then I’ll officially be a stay at home mum 🙂 

I can’t wait to spend every day with this gorgeous wee face, but of course making this decision has some financial ramifications which mean that budgeting/frugality is definitely forefront in our minds at the moment – a big part of the reason I’m looking at this blog again. 

Since Eli started eating solid food last spring, I’ve enjoyed cooking for him so much I started up a new blog, www.babyledbites.co.uk, which I write at on and off. I hope to keep writing here on cooking for babies and toddlers much more regularly, but life’s changed a lot for me of late and I’ve been craving somewhere I can write more widely on all the things going through my head. 

Rather than start a third blog, I’ve decided to revive this one and (fingers crossed) run it alongside Baby Led Bites, since I should have a bit more free time once I finish up at work at the end of this month.  

Now I know that Chilli Sage and Lemon was pretty much focused on frugal cooking before, but as I said, I’d like to widen the focus a bit. I’ll still be writing about frugality but won’t limit this to just cooking (although this will remain a big focus – but a lot of cooking content may go on Baby Led Bites instead). I’ll also be writing a bit about gardening, knitting, eco-friendly/green living and minimalism, simplicity and motherhood in general – basically anything that catches my interest! 

 

 

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Mealplan 11/01

It’s been a good week but a busy one – so tough getting used work again after nearly two weeks off! We mostly stuck to the mealplan but ended up making a fry up for dinner last night when I burned the bottom of the planned curry (luckily just at the beginning of the sauce making stage so not TOO much wastage). Just to show that even people who cook all the time have kitchen disasters. Moral of the story: don’t cook while trying to make phone calls and return messages in the other room.

We bought a couple more things last week and did a ‘big shop’ today so I’ll get the spending page updated tomorrow. No time tonight, I’ve been rushing about making lunches for the next few days (noodle soup for me to use up leftover beansprouts, and sausage rolls for Dave for tomorrow to use up leftover sausagemeat).

As usual, FF on the mealplan means I’ve already made it and it’s from the freezer.

Mealplan

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Sun 11 – homemade hotdogs (yes I made my own sausages, post to follow on this!)

Mon 12 – Singapore-style noodles with pork mince and prawns

Tues 13 – baked potatoes and veg chilli (FF)

Wed 14 – spaghetti with walnuts, pumpkin seeds and spinach

Thurs 15 – soup and bread

Fri 16 – beef tacos (meat filling FF)

Sat 17 – hummous and salad and pittas

For breakfasts:

For me – porridge with apple or a banana chocolate milkshake

For Dave – cereal (Alpen at the moment) or sausage egg frittatas (if I get round to making them tomorrow night)

At the weekend – I didn’t make pancakes or beans last week so might this week. Bacon roll for Dave usually

For lunches:

For me – noodle soup x3, I have lentil soup in the freezer and have made cheese pastry rolls too for the other days

For Dave – homemade sausage rolls tomorrow, then tuna salad and tuna or ham sandwiches, with tinned fruit

Ham joint and meal prep

I know lots of people struggle with cooking after work, which is why it’s always a great idea to do some batch cooking and prep work when you have the time to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen. Tonight, I cooked the gammon joint I bought at the weekend for dinner tonight and prepped it for the next few meals.

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First I boiled the gammon joint – well, I actually cooked it in the pressure cooker for around 25 minutes, then smothered in mustard and a little maple syrup (no honey left) and roasted in the oven for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I roasted some carrots, parsnips and swede, and made some creamy mash to go with it.

For the sauce, I reduced down the ham stock made by boiling the ham (with the peelings from the veg chucked in while it bubbled away) for a bit. Once it had cooked away, I melted some butter in a small saucepan, added a spoonful of flour to make a paste and thinned with a couple of ladlefuls of the ham stock. I cooked it, whisking regularly, until thickened, then added wholegrain mustard and cream. Delicious 🙂

After dinner I had the following leftovers to work with:

  • About half the cream & mustard sauce
  • A small portion of mash and a tiny handful of roasted veg from dinner
  • Just short of 500g potatoes cooked in their skins (I’d cooked extra on purpose and put them aside before making the mash for dinner)
  • Most of the joint of ham
  • The leftover stock from cooking the ham

Here’s what I did with it:

  • I made gnocchi using a double batch of this recipe but with added defrosted and chopped spinach. My one fear is the gnocchi will fall apart because I added too much spinach, but I’m sure it’ll be nice anyway 😉 I froze half of it and left half in the fridge for later on in the week.
  • I sliced half the ham thinly. The sliced ham was individually bagged into 11 sandwich-sized portions, which will do Dave for the rest of the month (he had ham sandwiches 2-3x a week).
  • The rest of the ham I cut into small cubes. I used some of this with cooked pasta and cooked frozen sweetcorn, spring onion, mayo, a little of the leftover sauce for the ham and mustard to make two days worth of pasta salad for Dave’s lunches. The rest of the ham has been frozen to be added to pie fillings, fried rice or whatever else might come up.
  • Withe stock, I just boiled right down til really concentrated, then poured into an ice-cube tray to freeze as homemade stock cubes
  • Finally, there was a little bit of mash and veg left from dinner, so I mashed it all together with some of the ham cubes to make a potato cake and fried, to have as my own lunch with the rest of the leftover sauce and some salad tomorrow.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to this evening. Bit tired now after spending half the evening in the kitchen but it was definitely worth it to be organised 🙂

Does anyone else prep food for the freezer, or make their lunches in advance? I hate not having lunch ready the night before because otherwise it’s a total rush to make them in the morning.

New Year’s Mealplan

Soooooo, a New Year’s resolution: blog more! I’ve done plenty of exciting cooking and thrifty mealplanning since I last blogged, but have just struggled to get the time to post. I miss blogging though so I’m determined to make more time for it.

Like everyone else, I’ve been eating pretty randomly for the last couple of weeks – I’ve been lucky enough to be off work throughout Christmas and New Year so it’s been a mix of celebration meals and constant grazing. I have cooked the odd blog-worthy meal though. I got a meat grinder/pasta maker from Dave for my Christmas so got that out on Hogmanay to make my own fusilli 🙂

I’m really looking forward to getting back into regular meals, meal planning and generally healthy foods, so I was excited to come up with the first mealplan of 2015.

My focus this week was on using up what we already had and getting plenty of veg in. We’ve got loads in the freezer (everything with FF after it) so shouldn’t need a big shop to do the following:

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Like my new kitchen chalkboard? It was a Christmas present. If you can’t read the photo, the mealplan is:

Sun 4 – out for lunch so just lentil soup (FF) for dinner if we’re hungry later
Mon 5 – glazed ham, roasted veg and mash with mustard sauce
Tues 6 – veggie chilli (FF) and rice
Wed 7 – spinach gnocchi with ham and tomato sauce
Thurs 8 – lasagne (FF) and salad
Fri 9 – veg-filled mac & cheese bake
Sat 10 – chickpea curry and rice

For breakfasts the plan is:

For me – porridge with apple or banana, or a banana chocolate milkshake
For Dave – cereal or toast
At the weekend – I think I’ll make pancakes one day for brunch, and maybe some home cooked baked beans if I have time the other day

For lunches:

Me – lentil soup (FF) or veg chilli (FF) with veg sticks
Dave – homemade beef pasties (FF) or ham sandwiches

Instead of listing my spending in my Sunday posts like before, I’ve created a page where I can keep all the spending for the month together – I haven’t been shopping yet, but you can find it here and I’ll update it every time I get more food.

Christmas mincemeat

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So many of you’ll have read the title and started to freak out. Relax. I KNOW it’s not even close to Christmas yet. I’m not saying you need to run out and make the mincemeat right now. But if you’re like me and find that as soon as the weather starts to get crisp and cold, and you dig out your winter boots, you start getting a craving to make lovely Christmas food, this is for you (I haven’t eaten any yet though: it really is too early for that!).

If you’re also like me in that you’re making homemade gifts, this works really nicely in a hamper. I’ll try and share this year’s recipes early enough that you have time to follow along. Because nothing’s more annoying than finding a perfect recipe for homemade chutney or limoncello two weeks before Christmas, then finding out it needs to age for six to be edible 😉

Christmas mincemeat

I’m not going to share the recipe here, because I pretty much used Frugal Queen’s recipe exactly – which is an expertly frugalised version of a Delia classic. Literally the only change I make is that the suet I can get hold of comes in 200g packs, not 250g, so I just use that. It always works fine and keeps just as long (I didn’t make any last year because I had enough from the previous year). And suet’s just fat, so no harm done by reducing it a smidge, eh? I also use veggie suet rather than beef, but you can make your own call on that one.

Like Froogs, I refuse to go out and buy a bottle of brandy just to use six tablespoons in this recipe, but I’ve used both gin and vodka before and can report success with both, so just dig out whatever strong booze needs used up.

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It’s so easy to make mincemeat – I literally just bung all the ingredients in the oven and slow cook – so if you get a moment this autumn I recommend checking out the recipe. You can give the mincemeat as gifts or use it to make mince pies. My favourite way to make mince pies is to use puff pastry squares and fold over to make pinwheels – I’ll have to blog these later on in the year 😉

Have you started making anything for Christmas yet? What’s your favourite festive treat?

Lentil pate

140927-lentil-pate-cover-photo-1000x639Once again I’ve struggled to update lately – I really need to get some kind of routine back in because I’m really missing updating this blog!

Don’t worry though, I’ve still been saving money, keeping grocery costs low and cooking as much as I can from scratch. This month I’ve split my grocery budget into separate amounts for food and toiletries so I can better track what’s going where, but I’ll do a proper round-up at the end of the month and set a target on here for October too.

I’m really looking forward to sharing some new recipes on here. Since I started my new job three months ago, I’ve gotten into a slightly different cooking and meal routine. This is partly because I’ve been exercising a lot more and trying to eat really healthily, and it means I’ve been really experimenting, especially with lunch and breakfast foods. These new recipes aren’t always the cheapest though (I don’t eat soup as much now and given my usual soup recipe was about 12p a portion I can’t get salad anywhere near as cheap!) so my next challenge is to ‘frugalise’ some of these new recipes up a bit more 🙂

Today I’ve got a quick and easy recipe for a vegetarian lentil pate, perfect for an easy lunch with crackers or pitta bread, or even used as a sandwich spread. You could also serve it for a vegetarian starter or (as I did today) as part of a mezze platter for a main course. We had it along with hummous, garlic mayo, pittas, a bulghar wheat salad and roasted veg – SO tasty.

The recipe was kindly shared on the MSE forums by another user a few years ago, though I’ve very slightly adapted it below. It doesn’t look the prettiest but it’s tasty and incredibly cheap – mostly because it has no expensive ingredients in it. However, to get it so cheap I’ve been really embracing buying in bulk lately – the 2kg bag of red lentils for £2 is the one I actually have and I bought a similar 4kg bag of onions from Morrisons a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t want to invest in giant bags of these of these it’ll still be fairly cheap though.

Lentil pate (makes 4-6 lunch portions at 7-11p per portion)

  • 150g red lentils 15p (TRS, £2 for 2kg)
  • 1 pint water, just boiled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 4p (Asda, £2.89 for 1ltr)
  • 2 medium onions, about 250g, finely chopped or grated 11p (£1.67 for 4 kilos)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed 6p (90p for 4 bulbs)
  • 2-3 tbsp dried mixed herbs (you can either use a generic mixed herbs or mix in whichever dried herbs you like – I used some mixed herbs then added extra basil, oregano and thyme) 5p (Smartprice, 25p for 18g)

Add the red lentils and water to a large saucepan, bring to the boil then turn the heat down to the lowest setting and put the lid on the pan. Leave to cook for around 12-15 minutes, checking on it and stirring occasionally: you’ll need to take it off the heat when it starts catching on the bottom, but you want most of the liquid to have gone. Stir well with a wooden spoon to mash slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions gently for several minutes until starting to colour. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute or two. Remove from the heat and add to the lentils, along with the dried herbs.

At this point, you’ll need to season quite well with salt and pepper – lentils can be really bland unless you salt them well, so I used about half a teaspoon here. Leave to cool and serve with crackers, pittas or toast.

Variations – try swapping the mixed herbs for curry powder or other spices. Or use different lentils or beans, though they’ll be a little more expensive. The original recipe also suggested adding a spoonful of vinegar at the end to season, which I think would be la nice touch but I totally forgot about when I made mine.

Prices checked using Asda online delivery service.

Chocolate, banana and nut butter milkshake

photo (54)I had this milkshake for breakfast at 7.45 this morning and, no joke, I was full enough to last until I had my lunch just after 1pm. Not bad for a liquid breakfast. And despite the fact that it sounds like a dessert, this shake isn’t actually too bad for you. You can always half the quantities if you just want it as a snack. I also find milkshakes handy because if I’m running late I can chuck them in my water bottle and drink them on the bus 🙂

The oats help fill you up and thicken the milkshake, but you can’t taste them. They do add a slightly different texture than an all fruit smoothie, but I liked it – use an extra banana if you’d prefer to skip it. Oats do contain lots of fibre and slowly release their energy, preventing blood sugar spikes, plus they add a little extra protein to the shake compared with using another banana.

Cocoa powder gives the shake a nice chocolately flavour and you can vary the amount – I used two tablespoons but if you don’t want it to be quite so intensely chocolatey, one or one and a half might work better. My one complaint would be that the nut flavour is quite subtly, so up this to two tablespoons if you like.

The shake benefits from a tiny bit of forward prep the night before, but nothing too time-consuming. Just think how organised you’ll feel the next day having your breakfast part-prepped 😉

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Chocolate, banana and nut butter milkshake

30g porridge oats
1/2 pint milk (I used whole, but you can use whatever you like, including non-dairy milks if you prefer)
1 banana
1-2 tbsp cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp nut butter (I used homemade cashew & peanut butter, but normally peanut butter works too)

The night before:

Peel and cut your banana into chunks. Chuck in a food bag or tub and put in the freezer. Add your oats to your milk in another tub and stick in the fridge overnight.

The next morning:

Put the oaty milk into your blender and whizz briefly until the oats are blended in. Add the other ingredients and blend until well mixed. You may want to add the cocoa powder a spoonful at a time, to taste.