Category Archives: Dinner

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.

image

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.

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

20131119_174550

Share Button

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!

Share Button

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.

Share Button

Stuffed Pasta and Veggies

Tonight I needed to make dinner in a flash. We had been busy all day so I had no time-a prime candidate for a take away night! However with the tight budget, that wasn’t going to happen, so I chose instead to do our easiest meal.

The pasta is ready made, the sauce is from a jar and the veggies are frozen. 20 minutes from freezer to table, and clean up is quick and easy.

Pasta and Veggies

  • 2 packets Danielli stuffed pasta (Lidl).
  • 1 jar Combinio onion and garlic pasta sauce (Lidl).
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix (Lidl).
  • Boil as kettle of water, add to pan (this is faster than boiling on the stove). Add veggies and bring back to boil. Boil for 10 minutes, add pasta. Leave to cook for 4-5 more minutes, and drain.

    While veggies and pasta are draining, heat sauce in the pan. Add back veggies and pasta and stir. Serve immediately.

    20 minutes and one pan to serve a meal that is significantly healthier than take away, and costs less too. With under 450 calories per serving, and a cost of £3.76 (94p per serving) for the meal, take away stops being the easiest option!

    Share Button

    Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice

    Dinner tonight will be a quick and easy fix. The chicken was cooked two days ago in the slow cooker, a chicken joint that gave us enough meat for three meals. That means that all that I have to cook is the rice and veggies, and warm the meat, beans and sauce through.

    Arguably, I could make a better, healthier Spanish chicken from scratch, using herbs and spices to taste. Unfortunately, I don’t have the spices needed for this in my pantry, and I can’t afford the buy them with our budget as it currently is. This ready made sauce jar cost just 79p, and is quick and easy to use, needing no prep and no cooking, no blending or spices, no experimenting to get a nice flavour. When paired up with the already cooked and chopped chicken, and a bag of frozen vegetables, it makes a quick and cheap dinner that should be a hit with the family.

    I have to admit to being a huge fan of such easy, cheap meals!

    Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice 

    • 250g pre-cooked chicken (left over from an earlier meal).
    • 1 can red kidney beans (Asda Smart Price, or equivalent shop own brand).
    • 1 bag of frozen vegetables (such as Lidl floret mix).
    • 300g of white rice (Aldi, or Asda Smart Price brand or similar).
    • 1 jar of Aldi Chicken Delight Spanish Chicken sauce.

    Put your bag of vegetables in to cook the steamer or a pan of boiling water. Add your rice to a pan with hot water according to the instructions on the packet-commonly with twice the amount of water as rice. Cook vegetables for about 30 minutes in the steamer, or 20 minutes in the water, or until done to your liking.  Cook rice until nice and soft, 12-15 minutes.

    Put the chicken and beans in a pan with the jar of sauce to heat while the vegetables and rice cook. Allow to heat together on a medium heat until piping hot-at least five minutes. Serve the Spanish chicken over rice, with the vegetables.

    Per serving, this meal costs just 96p, and has 537 calories approximately. Adding corn adds another 58 calories per person per 80g serving, but is delicious (and is how we did it!).  Day three of our budget challenge is over, we’re almost at the half way mark!

    If you wanted to adapt this for baby-led weaning, you would likely want to take the baby’s portion of chicken and beans out before the jar of sauce is added. As an alternative, a little tomato puree could be added so that baby has a sauce and their meal looks the same. As most baby-led weaning families will know, this is essential for stopping baby demanding your dinner instead!

    20131114_172239-1

    Share Button

    Sausage and Mash

    I’m sure that most children growing up in the UK in the last forty or fifty years will have looked forward to the nights when they were served sausage and mash. The Dinner Mama household is no different, with my children both loving this simple dinner.

    While it’s quick and easy to make, the calorie count is good enough to not scare most people. Perhaps the biggest benefit however is the cost, with a family of four being served for just £3.

    Sausage and Mash

    • 1 packet of 8 pork sausages (Aldi).
    • 1 bag of frozen floret mix (1kg bag, Aldi).
    • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
    • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.

     

    Peel potatoes and chop into evenly sized pieces. Put into a large pan and cover with water, put onto boil for about 30 minutes or until soft. Put frozen veggies in a steamer or pan of boiling water. Steam for 30 minutes or until done to your liking. If boiling, allow around 20 minutes.

    Place sausages under a high grill, or on the cooking plates of a stand alone grill (such as a George Foreman). Prick to allow the fat to drain out, and cook until golden brown all over, turning frequently.

    Mash the potatoes in with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and serve with the veggies and two sausages per person. When prepared as directed, this meal has 593 calories per serving. Each serving costs just 75p, making this a cheap and easy go to meal!

    This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using salt free butter in the mash and slicing the sausages down the middle lengthwise. Day two of the challenge is complete, 6 meals down, 15 more to go!

    Share Button

    Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (500 Calories)

    I tend to buy the biggest chicken that I can find when I’m shopping, because it works out the best value for my money. This week, with the budget being more challenging than normal, I’ve decided to cook the whole chicken in the slow cooker instead of the oven, in the hopes of losing less to drying, and because a slow cooked chicken tends to literally fall apart, allowing you to get more from the carcass.

    Cooked in the slow cooker, the chicken needs little to no attention and so will not take up much of your day. The vegetables tonight are frozen, as these are cheaper than buying fresh. The almost certainly will not look as appealing as the fresh varieties, but are far easier to use and cook as there is no prep needed. Allow 200-250g per person, and remember that they generally don’t take as long to cook as fresh vegetables would.

    Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Dinner

    • 1 Large Chicken (around 2.2kg).
    • 1.1kg of potatoes (peeled weight).
    • 1kg bag of frozen floret mix frozen vegetables.
    • 40g of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light

    Line the slow cooker with a double layer of tin foil. This isn’t essential but is a really useful step to take, as it allows you to use the foil to lift the chicken out. When cooked it will be so tender it will be literally falling apart, so trying to remove it with forks is likely to be difficult, if not essential. Preheat the slow cooker on high, and place the chicken in it, on top of the foil. Do not add any liquid. The chicken will produce lots of it’s own when cooking.

    20131112_100959

     

    Allow to cook on high for one hour. This brings the meat up to temperature more quickly, a precaution that though possibly not necessary, I prefer to take with poultry. Turn down to low, and cook for a further five to six hours. Turn to warm if the chicken is cooked thoroughly too early. You can check by piercing through the thickest part of the meat-the thigh-and check the colour of the juices that run out. If they are clear, it’s cooked. If they are pink or red, give it more time (on high).

    Once fully cooked, the chicken should be gently lifted from the cooker using the foil, and left to rest for ten minutes. I wrapped the foil around it and used this to turn the chicken over, to help the breast stay moist.

    Put potatoes on to boil, and add the frozen veg to the steamer about half an hour before serving the chicken. The chicken can be carved as the potatoes and veggies cook. You may find that the chicken is too tender to carve easily, in which case it may be better to simply pull the meat from the bones, in chunks. Take care to ensure that any small bones are removed.

    Boil the potatoes until soft, then mash with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light. Serve the mash and veggies with 50g of breast meat, and 45g of dark meat (from the thighs, drum sticks and so on) per person.

    image

    When cooked as prepared, this meal provides 500 calories per person, and costs 91p per serving. Gravy can be added, at 15 calories extra per person for Bisto.

    This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using unsalted butter, or milk instead of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light to make the mashed potatoes.

    3 meals down, 18 more to go and day 1 of the budget challenge is over!

    Share Button
    1 week's food, total cost £37.67

    Dinner Mama Budget Challenge

     

    Dinner mama has a budget that, as a family, we try to follow for our food shopping. However there are unfortunately times when our budget has to be cut, and we have to find ways to feed the family for a lot less.

    This week is one of those times. With our toddler’s 2nd birthday coming up, plus another family birthday this week, not to mention the fact that Christmas is just around the corner, we have had found ourselves needing to limit the budget a little more than normal.

    So the challenge this week will be to feed our family of four for under £50, for three meals a day, plus snacks. This will not be the healthiest week of our lives for our diet, however will continue to control the calories and keep them beneath our weight loss levels. There will continue to be fresh fruit and plenty of frozen vegetables, and a good variety to our meals.

    1 week's food, total cost £37.67

    1 week’s food, total cost £37.67

    In addition to the food purchased today there are a few other items that will be used or brought fresh, such as milk and bread. These bring the total for the week to £45.90 for all breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. It doesn’t include other essentials, such as toilet roll and laundry products, which we already have in.

    This week will see meals that your mum may have made, including roast chicken, sausage and mash, gammon, and pasta.

     

    Share Button