Monthly Archives: November 2013

Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

As much as I would love to be able to, I simply don’t have the time to make my own meatballs, from scratch, when I want to cook them for the family. So to keep it convenient and easy to make, I buy frozen Swedish meatballs from Lidl.

They are individually frozen so that they don’t clump together, making it easy to take out the portion that you want from the bag, and leave the rest. It also means that they cook nicely from frozen, as there aren’t large lumps of frozen meat to cook.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 400g frozen Kottbullar Swedish meatballs
  • 1 jar Combino mushroom pasta sauce.
  • 1 can Aldi Sweet Harvest sweetcorn.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 250g chopped, white mushrooms.
  • 300g straight spaghetti.

 

Add the sauce jar to the cool slow cooker, and turn on to high. Fill the jar to half way with hot water, and stir into the pot. Add the carrots and mushrooms to the sauce, stir to coat them and then add the meatballs in on top.

The meatballs should simply sit on top of the carrots and mushrooms-they should not be stirred in. If they sit covered in the sauce all day, they may well become too soft, a little mushy even. Allowing them to cook on top keeps them firm but wonderfully tender, without them falling apart.

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Cook on high for one hour then low for six, or on low for eight. Add the drained corn on top at the same time as you put the spaghetti on.

The spaghetti unfortunately cannot be cooked in the slow cooker. Instead it must be boiled as per the packet instructions (typically 15 minutes or so) until cooked.

Once the spaghetti is cooked to your liking, drain and serve with the meatballs, sauce and veggies on top.

Cooked as described, this meal has 700 calories.

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Slow Cooker Carrot and Corriander Soup

With the winter closing in, having easy to make, hearty soups on hand  will make for a delicious hot lunch. These soups can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a couple of days, or can be frozen for use at a later time. Or they can be put together in a morning to be ready for lunch time, as they only take a few hours to cook.

Slow Cooker Carrot and Coriander Soup

  • Approximately 300g of carrots (peeled weight) chopped into small, even pieces.
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces.
  • 2 OXO cubes-any flavour of your liking.
  • 30g of split red lentils.
  • 500ml of boiling water.
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dried coriander.

Preheat your slow cooker on high for ten minutes. Throw in the carrots, onions and lentils, sprinkle the coriander into the pot. Pour the stock over the vegetables, stir and cover with the lid.

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Leave to cook on high for 3 hours. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup till smooth. Add hot water as needed to reach the consistency for the soup that you like. Serve immediately with bread and butter-crusty bread being the nicest for dipping!

This soup costs a tiny 22p per serving, and has 70 calories. Despite the low calorie count, it is very filling and satisfying.

I used beef OXO for my soup, and hence the colour is darker and more brown than many carrot and coriander soups.

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Garlic Butter Chicken

This simple dinner is incredibly tasty and easy to make, and both cheap and satisfying.

Garlic Butter Chicken

  • 500g Farm Foods Frozen Mini chicken breasts.
  • 30g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.
  • 5ml olive oil.
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes, chopped into chips.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 400g broccoli.
  • 5 cloves of garlic.
  • 20ml of olive oil.

Heat the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and the olive oil in a large frying pan, crush and add the garlic (you can use less if you want a more mild flavour). The olive oil is important as it helps to prevent the spread from burning, by increasing it’s smoke point. Once the garlic is starting to brown, add the frozen chicken mini breasts, and gently fry. These will take around 35-40 minutes to cook, unless you chop them into smaller pieces as they cook. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Put the broccoli and carrots on to cook. Allow 30-35 minutes if steaming, or 25 if boiling. Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil all over the chips. I use a basket called a ‘quick chip’ to cook our chips like this, but you can use whatever baking tray, rack or pan that you have. Pop into the middle of a preheated oven at 180 degrees, for 30 minutes, checking a couple of times to make sure they don’t over cook. If using a pan rather than a rack, you will need to turn the chips about half way through.

Once the chicken is all starting to cook (and hence no longer frozen), it can help to cut it smaller. I do it by lifting it from the pan with a fork and cutting with a pair of kitchen shears. This saves dirtying an extra chopping board, and keeps the clutter down.

The chicken is cooked when all of the meat is white or brown-there should be no pink remaining at all. Once cooked, serve immediately with the chips and the veggies.

When prepared as described, this meal has a total of 576 calories, and costs £3.50 in all-just 88p per serving. Adapt for baby-led weaning by using unsalted light butter instead of the spread.

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Dinner Mama’s New Challenge

With the budget challenge out of the way, I’ve come to the realisation that I need to start a new, and more personal challenge. I’m somewhat of a hoarder when it comes to food, and with Christmas coming, I need some cupboard and freezer space.

I have a large pantry, and I have two freezers. All are full. If I see something on sale and it’s something that we like or use, I have to buy it. Often in bulk. And that means that I currently have far too much of certain items in my possession, and that they are taking up too much space. Space that I need to clear in order to store a turkey, and a duck, and certain other items for our family Christmas.

So my challenge this coming week is to not buy everything that we need, but to instead use up what we have in the freezer, and in the pantry. I’ll be making “make do” dinners instead, to free up that space.

Anyone who reads this-do you also struggle with over buying things, just because they are a bargain? How do you resist the urge?

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Chicken Pasta Bake

Tonight’s dinner is using the last portion of chicken from the slow cooker whole chicken that I did at the start of the week. It was frozen for a few days to keep it fresh, and added defrosted in the fridge over night ready for use today.

Again it uses a jar of ready made sauce, because this is the cheapest and quickest way to make it when you haven’t got a well stocked pantry full of herbs. The sauce is wonderfully creamy and rich, and the family love it. The bake itself can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until it’s time to bake.

Chicken Pasta Bake

  • 210g cooked chicken (leftovers).
  • 1 jar Combino Creamy Pasta Bake.
  • 300g fussili pasta.
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix.
  • 30g of Cathedral City or Lidl own light mature cheddar.

The sauce has instructions for cooking the pasta in the sauce. In the past I’ve had less than pleasing results doing it this way, so now I cook it separately. Do however you choose, but if you wish to cook it first, boil in enough water to amply cover it for about 15 minutes.

Put the veggies on to steam for 25 minutes, and add the pasta and the chicken to an oven proof dish. Add the sauce and combine well. Top with 30g of grated light cheddar.

Place in the middle of a preheated oven (180 degrees) and bake for 20 minutes from warm, or 30 minutes from chilled. Serve when piping hot and the cheese has brown, with the veggies.

When made as described, this meal has 692 calories, and costs £3.90, or 97.5p per serving.

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Challenge Day 7, Breakfast

Today’s breakfast is technically cheating, since we are using items from our pantry. However, the challenge was all food for under £50, and since the grocery items for the week came to less than £47, there has to be a little wiggle room, right?

Breakfast today was courtesy of not feel well. I’m run down, from the after effects of a lingering cold, and a weekend spent not sleeping well, looking after my little one. Wanting something that would change my mood, I had Nutella on toast. Naughty! My oldest child had the same, and the men folk of the house had Marmite.

My calories were 284 for two slices of Hovis Wholemeal toasted, with 20g of Nutella. The Marmite calories totaled 227, for two slices of Hovis Wholemeal with I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and Marmite.

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Gammon and Mash

Gammon and mash always feels Christmassy to me, no matter what time of year it is served. It was always our boxing day meal when I was growing up, served with pickled onions and veg. So it’s kept a certain comforting feel to it, that always serves to cheer me up.

Though it has a long cooking time, it is relatively easy to do, needing only topping up with water regularly. The meat can be served hot or cold, however you prefer.

Gammon and Mash

  • 1 small unsmoked gammon joint, 750g (£2.99 Aldi).
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes, chopped into boiling chunks (80p worth taken from a 2.5kg bag, Aldi).
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix (99p, Aldi).
  • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light (taken from a 1kg tub, 8p worth).
  • Pickled onions (Taken from a 440g jar Asda Smart Price, 12p worth).

Place the gammon in a pan that is big enough to hold it, plus enough boiling water to cover it. Cover the pan with the lid and leave to boil gently. Don’t have the heat too high or the water will boil over.

Cooking times vary by the weight of the joint. Allow 20 minutes for ever 450g, plus an extra 20 minutes on top. This is the minimum cooking time. Personally, we like our gammon to be really tender and so I cooked the 750g joint on a low boil for almost two hours.

Gammon is an incredibly salty joint, and though some people like that, others prefer it to be a little less so. Changing the water that you are boiling the joint in 1-2 times during the cooking will help to reduce how salty it is.

Put your potatoes on to boil 30 minutes before serving time. Put your frozen veggies on to cook 25 minutes before serving time if using a steamer-20 minutes if boiling in water.

Once the meat is cooking, remove it from the pan and drain. Cut into chunks by carving, or pulling the meat apart. Drain and mash the potatoes with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and remove the veggies from the steamer, or the pan of water and drain.

Serve altogether with some sweet pickled onions.

The total cost of this meal was £5, or £1.25 per serving. Per serving there were just 581 calories. Very waistline conscious!

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Challenge Day 6, Lunch

Lunch today was a rushed affair, as we were busy with work in the afternoon. So a quick sandwich of Philadelphia was all that we had time for-202 calories in all. We had a bag of Snackrite Bacon Rashers at 86 calories, and a conference pear at 101 calories. The lunch time total was 389 calories.

Snacks today will include popcorn, a plum, and possibly toast if it is wanted.

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Challenge Day 6, Breakfast

Our budget challenge unfortunately got derailed for a day because the youngest member of the household got sick. Between the huge amount of laundry and clean up, and the fact that he was so clingy and needy, we barely ate. Blogging about eating was just not going to happen. So the day was written off, and here is day 6 instead.

Breakfast was crumpets for the elder child and toast (with I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light) and scrambled eggs and tea for the adults. The youngest really didn’t eat. Our calories were 337.

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Nice and Easy-Hot dogs, 70p Per Person!

To finish up day 5 of the challenge we decided on an easy option. In short, we’d been busy all day and needed to cut our time in the kitchen. So we chose to have hot dogs and veggies, and an early night.

Hot Dogs and Veggies

  • 1 pack of six large finger rolls (80p).
  • 1 jar of 8 bratwurst style hot dogs (£1).
  • 1 bag of frozen veggies (99p).
  • Ketchup.

The veggies were steamed in the steamer for 25 minutes, as normal. We boiled the sausages for about 8 minutes to ensure that they were safely heated. Hot dogs are a big source of listeria, so safe heating is essential.

We split the rolls and serve the sausages on them, with the extra two sausages being split down the middle and served on the adult’s rolls. 1.5 rolls per person were served.

The total cook time was 25 minutes, with less than 5 minutes prep time. Total cost was just £2.79, or 70p per person.

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