Category Archives: Food

Lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches!

lunch ideas

A while ago I found myself stuck in a sandwich rut, but since then I have compiled a list of lunch ideas that we love and all without a sandwich in sight.

1) Eggy pittas – scrambled egg mixed with grated cheese & chopped red pepper/tomato stuffed into a wholemeal pitta bread with cucumber on the side.

2) Mini roast (without the meat) – Yorkshire pudding, stuffed with steamed carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and drizzled with gravy. I make my own yorkies using this recipe.

3) Yummy – cheese & sweetcorn scones – recipe here.

4) Warm sliced wholemeal pitta bread – team with humus cucumber and carrot sticks.
Continue reading Lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches!

Baking with toddlers – Rock cakes

Today is  a delightful day….if you are a duck. On rainy days I can find it hard to entertain 3 excitable toddlers, but the mere mention of the word “cake” gets them fired up and ready for a baking session. I haven’t had rock cakes in years so I thought I’d give it a whirl, this recipe is so simple and made 8 delicious rock cakes.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to get messy so deep breathes and remember that you will be able to sit with a cup of tea and a yummy rock cake at the end of it! Continue reading Baking with toddlers – Rock cakes

Meal planner – A whole month of dinner ideas and recipes

I have always been a firm believer in meal planners, they save money and also allow me to plan healthy meals. I have always planned my meals over a week, but someone suggested doing it for a whole month. It took me about an hour to plan everything for the month, but it was well worth it. On John’s pay day I bought all of our meat for the month and froze it, which allowed me to take advantage of the meat offers that so many shops have such as 3 for £10 or half price items such as a whole Salmon for £8 from Ocado.

Anyway, I thought I would share our meal planner with you. We don’t eat meat everyday, but on the days we don’t we will always get our protein from elsewhere such as eggs, cheese or pulses so this is worth bearing in mind. Also, a lot of these recipes include wine, but I would always just top up with stock. Hope you find it useful 🙂

Week 1

Monday: Lentil Shepherds Pie (Looks a bit weird, but honestly it’s delicious!)
Tuesday: Beef Stew x2 (will freeze one for later date)
Wednesday: Bean enchiladas
Thursday: Hot dogs – I love the Helen Browning Organic Hot Dogs from Ocado.
Friday: Tuna pasta bake
Saturday: Homemade pizza – I use the pizza dough setting on my bread maker but here’s a good recipe.
Sunday: Roast chicken dinner (buy a larger chicken than you need so you have some leftovers)

Week 2

Monday: (leftover) chicken and ham pie
Tuesday: Salmon & pasta
Wednesday: Butternut squash curry
Thursday: Eggs and beans on toast!
Friday: Spaghetti bolognese x2 (freeze one for later date)
Saturday: Fish and chip takeaway
Sunday: Beef stew

Week 3

Monday: Pasta & pesto
Tuesday: Sausage casserole
Wednesday: Tomato & herb chicken pasta bake
Thursday: homemade pizzas
Friday: Spaghetti bolognese
Saturday: Cheesy bean burgers and salad
Sunday: Vegetable lasagne

Week 4

Monday: Meatballs
Tuesday: Mediterranean vegetables with tomato sauce & pasta
Wednesday: Chicken stir fry
Thursday: Toad in the hole
Friday: Fish fingers and chips
Saturday: Chilli
Sunday: Roast chicken dinner

Happy eating!

The joys of weaning triplets!

The lovely Shona at Wriggly Rascals very kindly asked me to write about my experience of weaning the boys and although it was quite a while ago now, the mess that they create is still just as bad.

Read the full article here:

No sugar, no salt, just yummy tea bread!

 

I LOVE this recipe, it is an adapted recipe from the one in my bread machine book. It is a lovely alternative to sandwiches and because there is no sugar or salt in it, this cake is also perfect for your toddler to enjoy.

Ingredients

450g Mixed dried fruit of your choice
100g Chopped cherries (I use dried or frozen)
300ml Strong tea (caffeine free if preferred)
75g Butter
3 Medium sized eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda

Method

Heat oven to 200 degrees.

Place all fruit, strong tea and butter together in a microwave safe mixing bowl. Heat the mixture for 3 minutes in the microwave until the butter has melted. You can also do this over the hob.

Allow to cool slightly, add the eggs, flour and the bicarbonate of soda. Mix well.

If using a metal loaf tin (as opposed to a silicone one), line with baking paper.

Pour in the mixture.

Place in the oven for approx. 30 minutes. Use the skewer test to check that it is cooked in the middle.

Allow to cool. Spread with butter, serve with a cuppa and enjoy!

Do you have a penny pinching recipe that will help those in need?

Shockingly, 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK. Food banks offer a minimum of 3 days emergency food to help an individual or family in need. As you can imagine, the service is incredibly stretched supporting hundreds of families who need assistance.

I asked my local food bank if they provided recipe cards to their clients and upon hearing that they didn’t, I offered to put some together for them.

The food bank provided me with the following list of food items that they provide in a food parcel for a single person.

Cereal 1
Soup 2
Beans/Spaghetti 2
Tomatoes/Pasta Sauce 2
Vegetables (tinned) 2
Meat (tinned) 2
Fish (tinned) 1
Fruit (tinned) 2
Rice pudding/custard 1
Biscuits 1 packet
Sugar 500g
Pasta/rice 1kg
Tea or coffee 40
Juice 1 carton
Milk 1 carton
Extras: Whatever we have in stock we will give 2 or 3 eg Jam, packet pasta ‘n’ sauce cup a soup, salt, sauces

Between myself and some friends we put together the following list of recipes:

Fish pasta bake (enough to feed 3 people or 1 person for 3 meals)
 
1 tin of fish (tuna/salmon)
1 tin of peas
1 tin of sweetcorn
4 handfuls of pasta
1 tin of condensed mushroom soup
 
Heat oven to 190 degrees. Empty the tins of fish, sweetcorn, peas and soup into an oven proof dish. Boil water in a pan and add the pasta. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add to the oven proof dish. Stir it all together. If you need a bit more sauce to cover the pasta (depending on the size of the soup tin) you can add a bit of milk or water to reach the desired consistency.
 
Heat in the oven for 30 mins or until the top is golden/lightly crisped.
 
Optional extras
 
You can mix some parsley (fresh or dried) into the mixture, crack some pepper and top with gated cheese.
 
This recipe is flexible and you can use any other meat that you have instead of fish. You can also use any veg and any soup that you like too.
 
To make this dish for a larger family just add 3 more handfuls of pasta, 1 extra tin of fish and add some milk or water to make the soup go further if you need to. You may also need to add more veg depending on the size of the tins.
 
Porridge fingers
 
Porridge
Milk
Tinned fruit
 
Take a tablespoon and add equal amounts of porridge oats to milk eg 4 tablespoons of porridge to 4 tablespoons of milk (should make enough for one child for breakfast). Add a couple of table spoons of chopped tinned fruit or dried fruit such as raisins.
 
Flatten it all down and put in the microwave for 2 mins. When cooked the porridge fingers should be the consistency of flapjack and you should be able to cut them into squares. If it seems a bit squishy, let it sit for a couple of mins and if it’s still not set then put it into the microwave for a further 1 minute.
 
Tips
If your tinned fruit is in juice (rather than syrup), keep the juice, dilute it with water and drink it. 
 
If you want to make a sweet option add chocolate chips or chocolate chopped into little pieces instead of fruit.
 
Tomato sauce for pasta, pizza or anything really!
 
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
dried herbs (optional)
garlic (optional)
 
If using all of the above ingredients – crush the garlic and heat it in a pan with a little oil until softened. Add the tin of tomatoes and bring to the boil. Add a teaspoon of herbs. Allow to simmer for approx 30 mins until the sauce has reduced (thickened) or until you have reached the desired consistency.
 
If just using the tinned tomatoes then just add straight to the pan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer as above.
 
You can then use the sauce with pasta or as a sauce base for a pizza.
 
Casserole
 
A tin of tomatoes
Tin of veg (mixed veg or carrots are a good option)
Tinned pork or ham
Tin of new potatoes
 
Add all ingredients to a pan/slow cooker/casserole dish. Cook slowly for 1-2 hours on a low heat. If you have some bread, it makes an excellent mopper upper for the sauce.
 
Oven baked risotto – excellent if you have fresh veg that needs eating
 
Onion
Tinned meat (optional)
Any other veg that you have (including tinned)
Parmesan or cheese
800 ml of chicken or vegetable stock or water if you don’t have a stock cube
300g rice (any type is fine)
 
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Cook onion in butter until softened in a casserole dish/oven proof dish with a lid. Add any other veg that you have and meat. Stir in the rice until coated. Add stock and stir well. Secure the lid. Put in the oven for 18 mins.
 
If you have cheese or parmesan sprinkle this on top and serve.
 
My local food bank has asked if they can now add these recipes to their food parcels to help their clients make the most of the food that they have.
 
This is just a start and I would be grateful of any further recipes you may have. I am looking for recipes that incorporate the above ingredients and also frugal recipes that will allow their clients to reduce their food costs, while still eating healthily going forward.
 
Please try and provide recipes for meals that people could make using the ingredients in their food parcel and add them to the linky below. You can also add other balanced meal ideas that use cheap ingredients. Recipes can be added using the link below, emailed to me thetripletdiaries@outlook.com or posted in the comment box below the post.
 
If you would like to donate to your local food bank just click on the following link:
 

Thank you in advance!

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A simple toddler fish dish

This dish is so very simple, quick and also cost effective. I am not a huge fish fan – I like cod (wrapped in a batter blanket) tuna, salmon and prawns, but that’s about as adventurous as I get. Unfortunately, my lack of enthusiasm for fish seems to have rubbed off on the boys so instead of giving them their much loved fish fingers every week I like to offer them this little number, which they happily scoff because the fish is hidden!


Ingredients

Sweet potato
Your choice of fish – salmon, cod or haddock work well
Peas, beans or whatever greens your little one likes

I like to steam the sweet potato and peas and I will sometimes steam the fish or poach it in milk which I then turn into a sauce to go with the dish. I mix the fish with the sweet potato (their favourite) and I can guarantee that they will scoff the lot.

Total prep time and cooking time: 30 mins
Total cost for 3 babies: less than £2

Mini Meatball & vegetable caterpillar recipe

Richmond were kind enough to send me some vouchers to purchase and review some of their new mini meatballs. I am always a fan of time saving when it comes to making dinners without compromising on quality and these mini meatballs really hit the spot.

I was hoping to make some sort of hungry caterpillar type kebab for the boys in the first instance but figured that sharp wooden tools and toddlers probably wasn’t the best idea so instead of the wooden skewers I decided to use spaghetti instead.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is very adaptable, you can use up whatever veg you have left over in the fridge or whatever your child has a preference for.

If your child is older you can also use wooden skewers instead of spaghetti.

My ingredients


Ingredients:

For the caterpillar

  • A pack of 20 Richmond mini meatballs
  • Half a red pepper
  • Half a green pepper
  • A hand full of cherry tomatoes
  • A hand full of button mushrooms
  • Spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Chicken stock
  • Pasta of your choice (I used fusilli).
  • A teaspoon of pesto (optional)
For the sauce
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Dry mixed herbs
Prep time: If using spaghetti skewers: 15 mins / If using wooden skewers: 5 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins.
Method:
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2) Chop your veg into kebab size chunks.

3) Take 2 pieces of spaghetti and begin carefully threading the veg and meatballs along it in your order of preference. Be sure to leave a little spaghetti showing at one end as these will be the caterpillar’s ‘feelers’. Once complete place the caterpillars into an oven proof saucepan (I placed mine straight onto a plate to take a picture and then had to transfer them. Not easy!).

NB: If you have trouble threading the ingredients then try piercing them first with a shorter piece of spaghetti  and use the hole that you have created as a pilot hole when threading onto the longer piece of spaghetti. see below.
Once you have threaded all of your ingredients you should end up with something that looks like this:
In hindsight I should have just put these straight into the pan so I didn’t have to keep transferring them!

4) Now that you have your caterpillars in the pan pour over enough chicken stock to cover them. Simmer for 4 mins. This will allow the spaghetti to soften. (If using skewers you can skip this stage and go straight to stage 6)

5) Pour the stock away into a separate saucepan (this will be used to cook the remaining pasta later).

6) Drizzle over the olive oil and throw any left over veg/meatballs into the pan too. I cooked my whole pack of meatballs, but of course you can always save yours for another yummy recipe. Place the pan in the oven for approx 20 mins or until the meatballs are golden and the veg is nice and soft.

7) While the meatballs are cooking. Cook your choice of pasta in the left over chicken stock and heat your tin of chopped tomatoes in a pan. Once the tomatoes are simmering, add a teaspoon of mixed herbs and allow to cook for 20 mins or until reduced.

8) Dish up your pasta, with a dollop of the tomato sauce in the middle. Add a little teaspoon of pesto (optional leaf for the caterpillar to munch on). Carefully place your caterpillar on top of the cooked pasta and sauce so that it’s head is placed on the pesto.

9) There you have it! A hungry caterpillar munching on a leaf!

Check out his little feelers!
My boys agreed that it was very yummy indeed!
Oscar, Lucas and Harry with their mouths full

Harry seeing how much he can ram in

Harry trying to work out how his meatballs and veg were stuck together
We then carried on the theme and went on to read a book about caterpillars and butterflies for their bedtime story.

This post is an entry for BritMums’ Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs” http://wp.me/p3bVJd-5wB

Yummy cheese and sweet corn scone recipe

I love a savoury twist on a typically sweet recipe so when I found this recipe in the Abel & Cole cook book, I had to try it! I have adapted it slightly to use frozen/tinned sweet corn instead of fresh cobs.

Ingredients

  1. 150g of tinned or frozen sweet corn
  2. 350g self-raising flour
  3. 1tsp baking powder
  4. A large pinch of chilli powder
  5. 1tsp salt
  6. 50g cold butter cut into cubes
  7. 150g grated cheddar, plus extra for topping
  8. 180ml milk, plus extra for brushing
Prep time: 10 mins (unless you have “helpers”)
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Method
Get your helpers ready…
Lucas and Harry helping while Oscar just waits to eat!
  1. Simmer the sweet corn for 5 mins. Drain.
  2. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, chilli and salt. Rub the butter cubes into the mix until you have fine crumbs.
  3. Add grated cheddar and corn. Slowly add the milk and gently fold to make a sticky dough.
  4. Knead on a floured surface until just smooth. Divide into about 10 balls.
  5. Place onto a well oiled baking sheet and brush with milk.
  6. Scatter grated cheese over the top. Bake for 10-15 mins or until the scones have risen, are golden and should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
And enjoy! 

Bake your own bread the easy way!

My loaf from this morning

I am not a baker, but I am very conscious of the ingredients in my children’s food so when I saw all of the preservatives that go into a loaf of bread I thought I would look into making my own. I borrowed a bread maker from my mum and thought I’d give it a go. My first few loaves were dreadful, even my husband who will happily eat any concoction I put in front of him turned his nose up at them.

I couldn’t quite work out what I’d done wrong so I changed my flour to Carrs bread machine flour and WOW what a difference. Every loaf I have made since has been perfect, both white and 100% wholemeal.

I can put my machine on a timer so I can stick all of the ingredients in before I go to bed (which takes all of 3 minutes) and wake up to the smell of fresh bread (simple pleasures!). It takes on average 4 hours to bake a white loaf and 5 hours to bake a wholemeal loaf.

My key ingredients
I am now the proud owner of my very own bread machine (Panasonic SD255) and have worked out that I would need to use the machine for at least a year in order for it to work out cheaper than buying bread from the supermarket.
The cost of an XL handmade wholemeal loaf: 52p (that includes the electricity usage!)
Cost of a supermarket wholemeal loaf: £1.20
Not only is it cheaper, you can’t beat the smell and taste of a freshly baked loaf of bread. I wrap mine up in a tea towel and then place it in a plastic bag to keep it soft and it lasts for days.

I also make lovely fresh pizza dough, which only takes 45 minutes for the bread maker to prepare. You can add any topping you like and have the base as thick or thin as you like and you potentially have only spent £1.50 on a large fresh pizza!

I have been using the machine for 4 months now and in that time I have not bought a single loaf. I think if you are serious about making your own bread then a bread machine is an excellent investment and in the long run it will save you anything from £60 upwards a year on bread. You also avoid all of the additives that you get in supermarket bread.
 
You can make a whole range of bread in a machine and some have nut dispensers, jam making functions and they even bake cakes for you too! 
Happy baking!

Please note that this is not a sponsored post.