Friday, 29 June 2012

Still pregnant! Five days late and counting...

Well, it looks as though our baby is going to keep us waiting until the very end before making an appearance!  The due date has come and gone, and the baby is now five days late... and counting!  I'm starting to feel slightly impatient and fed up now, I'll admit!

We go to the ante-natal clinic on Monday to start the ball rolling with a bit of encouragement to get the baby moving.  If that's not successful, we'll be booked in to have my labour induced.  One way or another, we should see our little one by the end of next week!

I'm still hopeful that the baby will decide to arrive of it's own accord - but with each passing day, it's looking less and less likely!

We're now into the school holidays here in our part of Scotland so I have my little lady for company for the next 6 weeks.  She's working on her list of "activities" she'd like to do during the holidays - the first one is to go and get her ears pierced!  I have been promising her throughout Primary 2 that she could have her ears pierced in the summer - so all being well, we'll be heading to the shops today to tick this off the list!  One very excited little girl!

Thanks for reading and I'll keep you all updated with baby news which will hopefully come sooner, rather than later!

Best Wishes

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Garlic Breaded Turkey Escalopes...

There's not many gluten free-breaded products available to buy in the supermarkets.  Fortunately, it's easy and affordable to make these sorts of things at home, and probably a lot healthier too!  Yesterday I came up with these: Garlic Breaded Turkey Escalopes.  I made mine gluten-free, but of course you could use any type of breadcrumbs you like.

Here's how I did it!

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Dried parsley
  • Garlic salt
  • Salt and pepper
  • An egg
  • Flour
  • Turkey breast steaks

I made my breadcrumbs by hand; I grated a gluten-free roll into a bowl using a hand grater.  I added seasoning, parsley and garlic salt for flavour.

Then I beat the egg into another bowl and set up a third bowl with some gluten-free flour in it.

I dipped each turkey steak into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, ensuring they were evenly coated at each stage.  Then I placed the steaks on an oven tray lined with tin foil.

I baked these in my fan assisted oven at 170C for 15-20 minutes until golden.

There were five turkey steaks in the pack, so I prepared them all and the remaining three have been frozen for another day; I'll cook these direct from frozen as required.  Tip: open-freeze the escalopes on a chopping board first - this keeps them flat, so they can then be wrapped individually or stored in food bags until needed.

We served ours with potatoes and vegetables on this occasion.

Tasty, healthy and easy to make!  And a real treat to have breadcrumbs when you have coeliac disease!

Best Wishes

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Cake...

I bought a fresh pineapple last week and yesterday we had a go at turning it into Pineapple Upside Down Cake at the special request of my husband.  My daughter helped out with the photography for this blog post - and of course she licked the spoon afterwards!  Well, she is only six!  I'm sure you'll agree, she did a great job snapping away whilst I did the mixing and making.

Here's how we did it!

  • Rings of pineapple
  • Glace cherries
  • Golden syrup
  • 4oz sugar
  • 4oz butter (we used Flora Light today)
  • 8oz self raising flour (we used Glutafin white mix)
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten

We greased an 8in cake tin and drizzled golden syrup over the base, before arranging the pineapple rings and cherries.  Then we simply whisked together all the cake ingredients using an electric hand mixer, and poured this carefully over the fruit.

We baked the cake for 30-40 minutes in the centre of the oven - 160C (fan assisted).

Once cooked, we sliced the dome off the top to give a level surface.  We tasted this "spare" piece of cake for quality control purposes (of course!).  Then we carefully tipped out the cake onto a cake stand and left it to cool.

The syrup at the bottom of the cake tin made the top of the cake and the fruit caramelised and sticky.  Yum!

The final result - sweet and delicious with a lovely light and fluffy sponge.  Delicious and so easy to make!

Best Wishes

Updated: Glutafin liked my recipe so much, they added it to their website here

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Banana and white chocolate muffins

My mum gave me some bananas that were too ripe for her.  My first thought was "banana bread!" but since I make this all the time (recipe here), I decided to give banana and white chocolate muffins a whirl.

This is how I did it; although I made it up as I went along to be honest!  The muffins ended up more cake-like in texture than muffin-like - but still, perfectly delicious nonetheless!


2 very ripe bananas, mashed
6oz soft butter/margarine (I used Flora Light)
6oz sugar
2 beaten eggs
100g bar of white chocolate (I used Tesco Value)
8oz-9oz self raising flour (I used Glutafin gluten free white mix)
1.5 tsp baking powder

To make the cakes:

I creamed the butter and sugar together and added the two beaten eggs a bit at a time along with some of the flour.  My little lady mashed the bananas with a fork whilst I did this!  Then I added the remaining flour, the baking powder, the mashed banana and the chocolate, which I'd cut up into small chunks.  My daughter mixed this all together for me.  You may need to add extra flour depending on how wet your bananas are!

From this mixture I filled 12 muffin cases and 12 fairy-cake cases (muffins for the adults, fairy cakes for the kids!).  I baked them in the centre of my fan assisted oven at 160C for about 20 minutes.

After they cooled, I melted another 100g bar of white chocolate and added a dollop to the top of each cake.

The only downside to these muffins - the white chocolate chunks sunk to the bottom; not that this was a huge problem, but next time I think I'll chill the bar of chocolate first, and grate it rather than cutting into chunks, to see if this will allow the chocolate to be more distributed throughout the cakes.

Very tasty!

Best Wishes

Iced banana cake...

I'm a big fan of banana cake and have made it many, many times in different forms - as regular readers of my blog will know!  If you missed it first time around you can read about my other efforts here - Banana muffins and Banana loaf cake. Today I made a banana cake in a square cake tin rather than a loaf tin, and I drizzled some icing on top once it had cooled.  The end taste is pretty much the same, but as I was planning to take this to work I thought I'd enhance the presentation!

This is the recipe I used this time.  All quantities are doubled, as I made this in an 8in square tin - but you could easily halve the quantities and use a 2lb loaf tin instead.  I opted for the bigger cake as I had a lot of bananas to use up!

4 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 large eggs
300g self-raising flour
2tsp baking powder
110g butter
200g sugar

The whole lot goes in a big bowl and is whisked together with an electric hand mixer before pouring into the cake tin.  An hour in my fan-assisted oven at 160C did this cake just nicely.  I left it to cool before drizzling over some plain glace icing.

As always, I made a gluten-free version, so I used white mix in place of flour, along with gluten-free baking powder.  The white mix I'm using at the moment is supplied by Glutafin - it's great for Coeliacs as it's fortified with calcium and folic acid.  You can read about the product here in more detail if you'd like to know more - one of my readers enquired about this mix the last time I mentioned it.

The butter I used on this occasion was Aldi's "Beautifully Butterly" - their version of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" - simply because the last food shop I did was at Aldi!  Generally I buy whichever butter spread is on offer.

After my husband and I had completed the necessary "quality checks" and were satisfied that the cake was fit for consumption by others (not that I ever really doubted it would be) I split the cake in two and boxed them up, ready for one to go to work with me. 

Every now and again I like to take in treats for my colleagues!

Best Wishes

Chunky leek and potato soup...

I picked up some leeks the other day - reduced to 45p for three.  I used up two of them today making chunky leek and potato soup, along with some Maris Piper potatoes - currently on offer in Aldi as part of their "Super 6" - 2.5kg for 69p.  This soup is so easy to make - here's how I did it!

Firstly I prepared the vegetables; I chopped up an onion, two leeks and a few potatoes and gave them a rinse.

I then added the vegetables to a large pan along with a knob of butter and some salt and pepper.  I popped the lid on and left the vegetables to sweat over a very low heat for about half an hour.

Then I added two beef stock cubes and water.  I brought the soup to the boil and simmered for another half an hour.

Three tubs of soup for the freezer and a bowl of soup for me for lunch!

Simple to make, tasty, cheap and filling!

Best Wishes

The return of spring... fingers crossed!

As we are now in May, I'm hoping that today marks a change in the weather and the return of spring!  We've had so much rain these last couple of weeks, it was a welcome change to wake up to sunshine this morning and to be able to get washing out on the line.  I made the most of today's sunny, blustery day and got our bed linen stripped, washed and out on the line.  Here's our washing billowing away in the breeze!

I'm pleased that my violas have survived the recent weather and are blooming!  They bring welcome colour and cheer to my patio!

With good luck, the rest of the week will stay dry and then we'll be able to give the grass a much-needed cut at the weekend!  The ground's just been too soggy of late to even attempt it.

Mr Frugal's seedlings are coming along and the tomato plants in particular seem to be doing really well.  It looks like we'll have an abundance of radishes and beetroots too!  The spring onions don't seem to have made a start - perhaps its just been a bit on the cold side for them.  We grew them so easily last year!  So I think we'll sow some more and see what happens.

As always, the children have been lending a hand with anything remotely related to mud!

Best Wishes

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Supermarket shopping - keeping it under control!

I work hard at keeping our spending under control, and one of the biggest spends (after bills) in our house is food shopping.  Here's how I keep supermarket shopping in check and make sure we're not only getting good value for money, but how I ensure everything gets used up and nothing is wasted.

Meal Planning

I write a meal plan for the week ahead and this helps me plan what needs to be purchased from the supermarket.  Before I settle down to do this, I check out the contents of the fridge and ensure that anything needing to be used up is either incorporated into the meal plan, or is frozen.  I can't bear to waste food by throwing things away!  I also check out what I have in the freezer so that I can include what's in there.  I only have a small under-counter three-drawer freezer, so I have to practice strict freezer stock management!

I usually write my meal plan for the Friday to the following Thursday and use this to help me write my shopping list.

Writing a Shopping List

I have a list based on my meal plan for the week and I have a list for things that I have run out of and need to be bought next time.  I never go into the supermarket unless I am armed with a list - and I try to avoid impulse buying!

Searching out Yellow Stickers

If I need just a couple of items I tend to pop into our local Tesco Metro for these - and I usually try to time this visit for between 6pm and 7pm, when all the short-dated items are greatly reduced in order to clear them.  Sometimes I can pick up some really good yellow sticker bargains and incorporate them into my plan for the week ahead.

Using Vouchers and Coupons

I cut out coupons and vouchers from free magazines and leaflets and keep these in my "Shopping" file.  I also use Tesco Clubcard vouchers and recently Tesco have been issuing a lot of till receipt vouchers too.  When I write my list for the week ahead, I check my vouchers to see if I have something relevant and I'll use that on my next shop.  For example, I had a coupon for 35p off Hellmans mayonnaise.  This week jars of Hellmans are half price in Tesco; so £1.39, with a 35p coupon, made this a good deal.

Taking Advantage of Offers

If there's a multibuy or half price offer on something we use regularly, I will stock up on this whilst the offer is on.  For example, Branston beans were on a really good offer (£1 for 4 tins) in Asda recently, so I stocked up on them.

Supermarket Delivery

At the moment (being 8 and a half months pregnant!) I am getting my shopping delivered to save me pushing a trolley around the supermarket.  I'm using Sainsburys as I received a special introductory offer of 3 shops delivered for free.  But I'm registered with Asda and Tesco too, and I tend to use whichever one I can get a free delivery code for.  Failing that, I'll get my shopping delivered at the cheapest possible delivery slot for that week.

Getting shopping delivered is also saving me on impulse buys! 

Shopping Around

I'm pretty flexible and take my money where the best deals are.  I usually head to Aldi for all my fresh fruit and vegetables, and take advantage of their "Super 6" offers.  This ensures we are getting a variety of different fruits and vegetables in our diet but also means we are getting a great price (usually 39p or 69p) for them.  I also check out the latest offers on the My Supermarket website to see what the big supermarkets are offering.

Going Value

Most of the time I avoid the big brands and stick to the value and basics ranges in the supermarkets.  For the most part there's no difference in the quality or taste, and when you're cooking from scratch there's really no difference in a tin of tomatoes for example.  Yes, you could pay more for a fancy tin with the garlic and herbs already added - or you could add these at home yourself and pick up a basics tin for much cheaper.

My "Big Shop"

At the moment my "Big Shop" is delivered fortnightly and anything in between is a "top-up" shop.  This is working really well for us as it gives us the right amount of fresh items such as yogurts, ham etc for lunches, meaning the "top-ups" are kept to a minimum - mostly for bread and milk.

It sounds like a time-consuming process but it isn't really - I'm well into these habits now and I find it comes as second nature.  All these steps save me a fortune on impulse buying and food waste!

Do you have any tips to share?

Best Wishes

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Another finished quilt!

Yesterday I grabbed the bull by the horns so to speak and decided I wasn't leaving the kitchen table until I had finished off my yellow cot quilt!  I've been working on this one for a while but after a set-back the last time I was sewing it up, I put it away again (fed up!) and I've been trying to decide whether to unpick part of it or carry on as if that little mistake wasn't there!

I decided to carry on as though the mistake wasn't there - after all, it's ok for the quilt to look homemade - isn't it?!

The backing fabric and the binding came from this lovely Laura Ashley tablecloth I picked up in the Salvation Army charity shop for £1.99.  A good wash in the machine and it came up a treat.

I really liked the pattern on the tablecloth and there's plenty of fabric left over for another project.

I used an old fleece blanket as the "filling" for this quilt. The stripy outer sections came from a pair of cotton curtains (£1.75 from the charity shop) and the central stripes and squares came from eBay (99p).  I bought the stripes quite a while back, before I had my own cutting mat and rotary cutter.  I can make my own strips of fabric now!

I added some teddy ribbon tags too.

I'm happy to have this quilt finished and have learned from the mistake I made with this one! 

The next quilt I start will either be pink or blue - once we find out whether our baby is a boy or girl!  Just a couple of weeks until my due date now, so not too much longer to wait!

Best Wishes

Friday, 8 June 2012

In the right place - at the right time!

Along the road from us there's a wee Tesco Metro which is handy for popping into on the way home for things like milk, bread etc.  Also, they often reduce their stock down to pennies at the end of the day, so there's the opportunity to pick up some real bargains.  I got lucky last night when I popped in - here's some of my yellow stickers...

  • Coleslaw - 6p
  • Doughnuts - 3p
  • Cookies - 1p
  • Croissants - 5p
  • Split tin loaf - 2p
  • Choc chip cookies - 1p
  • Baguette - 3p
  • Babyleaf salad - 30p

This 3p baguette became garlic bread when I got home; I sliced it up and stuck it back together with garlic butter, wrapped in foil in four sections, and popped in the freezer.  Great along with spaghetti bolognese or homemade soup.

These croissants are this morning's breakfast for my husband and my little miss!

Sandwiches made with the 2p split tin loaf are ready in the fridge to go into packed lunches today along with a choc chip cookie each.  The other bakery treats will be demolished by the kids and my husband over the weekend I'm sure!  The remaining loaf will be toasted tomorrow for breakfast.  If there's any doughnuts left and they start to go a bit stale, a quick whizz round the microwave softens them up just fine and the chocolate middle goes all warm and goo-ey!

All in a £3.21 spend in Tesco (including the milk, yogurts and tomatoes I'd went in for) so I was happy with my haul and the treats picked up.  No gluten-free goodies in this little lot though (except the salad!), so I may have to whip up a lemon sponge or something similar, just for me...!

Best Wishes

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

House Envy... and Refection!

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a friend of mine from work, and we were meeting for coffee at her home for the first time.  She lives in a gorgeous, 4 bedroom detached house and despite having 3 children, her house was beautiful and immaculate and new and clean.

I had immediate house envy.

As we chatted and caught up on gossip I couldn't help but glance around the interior of her house and thinking, "wow" - everything was so tidy and perfect-looking. 

Later, as I was driving home, I thought of my own little house.  Our three bedroom mid terrace that we bought two years past, from a little old lady who had lived in it since it was built over 60 years ago.

At first I was feeling a little inadequate that our home isn't beautiful and immaculate and new and clean.

Then I got to thinking ... well, it may not be all of those things - but it is all of these things:  Cosy and welcoming, bright and colourful, relaxed and friendly, homemade ... a home.

We've worked really hard to get our home the way we want it.  It's a constant work in progress - we're limited to the funds we have available to spend and the time we have to give to these sorts of projects.  So I sat back and had a good think about the progress that has been made - and we've achieved an awful lot in the last two years!

Let me share our bathroom as an example.

This was our bathroom when we moved in.  Yes - that really is wallpaper on the walls and the bath panel.  Not to our taste - to say the least!

It had to get worse before it could get better, of course.  Fortunately I have an uncle who is amazing at all sorts of home improvements.  He helped us install the shower (not easy, given the solid brick walls).  We couldn't afford to replace the bathroom suite so we were working with what we had as best we could.

My husband learned about tiling so he could tile the bathroom for us and save us paying a tradesman to complete the work.

We learned a lot as we went along.  Washing my hair in the sink for three weeks whilst this work was completed was testing, to say the least.

But we got there in the end!

A modern, colourful, cheery family bathroom.  Functional, practical - and fun too.  Just what we had wanted.

Sometimes it's good to reflect back on how you got to where you are, don't you think?  I certainly appreciate my home a lot more after my recent reflections!

Best Wishes

Monday, 4 June 2012

Cooking and baking!

We spent the first half of today whipping up all sorts of delights in the kitchen!  I'm trying to keep my freezer stocked with pre-prepared meals, ready for when the baby comes.  And I thought I'd sneak some treats in there too!

I've posted my recipe for Rocky Road previously; click here if you missed it the first time around!  I made the mistake of making this first this morning... so of course I spent the remainder of the day sampling a piece each time I went into the fridge!  Naughty!

My little miss kept herself busy making chocolate crispy cakes.  We're still working our way through easter eggs and easter chocolate in this house, so she used up some of these along with some "value" cornflakes to make the crispy cakes.

I made a Sultana Loaf Cake too - again, this is one of my favourites so you can read the recipe here!  This time I substituted the demerara sugar for granulated sugar as this was all I had in my baking cupboard.  I've wrapped this in foil and I'm keeping it for a day or two before cutting it - this improves the flavour and texture.

Whilst all this was going on, I made chicken casserole in the slow cooker.  Chicken thigh fillets cut into chunks, along with beef stock, carrots and onions - all left in the slow cooker to do it's own thing over the course of the day.  I scooped out the contents using a slotted spoon and thickened the liquid with some chicken gravy granules before pouring over.  All tubbed up and labelled for the freezer now.

I also made chicken tikka masala using diced chicken thigh fillets, mushrooms and onions along with a jar of tikka sauce.  A few weeks ago I picked up some jars of Tesco own-brand tikka sauce for 44p each in the "reduced to clear" section.  This was the last jar!

I was happy with our efforts this morning so we spent the afternoon relaxing at the play park and the library... total spent - £1 on a slushie for the little miss on the walk home.  A productive morning and a cheap and cheerful afternoon!

Best Wishes