It’s been a while since I’ve made an What’s Cooking roundup. I talked in July about my weekly shopping, but I didn’t share any recipes. So, today I’m going to talk about the last things I’ve cooked. This week I’ve been invited to the Chef Challenge at Shoryu Ramen in Manchester and I made my own Japanese bun. It was so exciting that I plan to get a steamer and make my own buns.
Besides the recipes with pictures, I baked bread a few times, I’ve made pizza using the same dough as the one for the Thick Danish Pancakes and it was delicious. I made basic houmous too, lots of smoothies. A few days ago I’ve made a cottage pie with a huge marrow (it weighted 1.6 kg), I’ve used a can of baked beans and lots of spices, on top I put mash potatoes. It was almost vegan, but I’ve added leftover cream to the potatoes (so I don’t waste the unused cream). Next time I’m making it vegan.
I love Ramen, but I’m not making it as often as I want. This week I had it twice though. I tried carrot houmous after seeing the idea in a TV show with Michel Roux Jr. called Hidden Restaurants. The cake was made for a special occassion and this time I’ve used a whole orange, boiled. The cake turned out delicious. So did the Pear cake. The last two recipes are for stuffed eggs, something both my husband and I enjoy a lot and it reminds us of our childhood, and danish pancakes. I think everybody should try those pancakes, they are so different to make, the recipe is quite unique.
I saw a blog post written by Dana about her weekly shopping and I’ve decided to write a similar post, as an alternative to “What’s cooking”. It was an interesting experiment for me too as we don’t usually buy everything we need for a week in one day. As we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, we have to go shopping quite often.
I think we spent a little more this week as I bought vanilla paste, chocolate spread, snacks and honey and I don’t buy those weekly. Those would add up to a bit over £10, so we might be in the average spend category.
This was our main shop with another couple of small top-ups. Some of the things in here will last for more than 1 week and some are not on our usual shopping list, more of an impulse purchase. The total for this is £54, considering the top-ups, it got to approximately £65 per week for 2 adults. I obviously didn’t include any alcohol and the dog’s food is not included either. That is higher comparing to the £52.20 an average household spends on food on a week (average household has 2.4 people, so the spend should be under £50 for 2 to get close to the average). I took the information from ONS, if you want to have a look.
1 year of daily smoothies, sounds like a lot. It was never my intention to do it. In June 2015 I’ve started a Colourful Smoothie Challenge with an American blogger. During that month she wasn’t as keen to keep us on track. I did the first 10 days, then the next 10 days. After that I had another couple of smoothies and I stopped.
The next year, in June, I thought I should make my own Smoothie Challenge: 30 days of smoothies, hubby joined in. I’ve mentioned about it on a forum I’m active on and went from there. Someone else said she wanted to do a similar challenge, but not with smoothies every day, but smoothie or soup. As it offered more flexibility, after I successfully finished the first 30 days of the challenge, I continued with the smoothie/soup option. I didn’t set up a target from the begining of going for 1 year, but only after 5-6 months or so. There were days when I had soup and smoothie, there were days when I had 2 soups and a smoothie.
I’m so happy I took the challenge again. This year I had more than 500 soups and smoothies. If I consider, in average, 2 portions of fruits/vegs per smoothie/soup, that means I had more than 1000 fruits and veggies. That is impressive. A small bowl of soup has 1 portion of vegetables. I would add another portion by tossing in some roasted mushrooms in a mushroom soup, for example.
When it comes to smoothies, I usually make them like this: 1 banana + 150ml juice (no added sugar) + 1 fruit or 80g of frozen fruit/veg. That means a total of 3 portions in a glass like the ones in the picture. To that I add Chia seeds or oats. As an extra healthy kick, I would add spirulina, cinnamon, turmeric, cocoa powder, pollen, hemp seeds. It’s so easy and the taste is amazing.
To celebrate the year of smoothies, I made these 7 smoothies in the colours of the rainbow. You can see all the ingredients on my food blog: Rainbow of smoothies.
I spotted the mixes made by Paul Hollywood in shops the other day. I’ve wondered if I should get them. I don’t use mixes because I don’t see the point for them. When we are away with the caravan, I would make my own mix, basically I weight in the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and put it in a zip bag or in a jar. I love baking, my husband loves baking and between us, we manage to make some desserts each day.
That being said, I’m a blogger and these are mixes from Paul Hollywood and my husband agreed with me that surely my readers want to know what are my thoughts about these mixes. With that in mind, I bought the Luxurious Belgian White Chocolate Cookie Mix and the Luxurious Belgian Chocolate Muffin Mix. I’ve decided to respect the recipe as much as possible on both, without any other additions.
I wanted to make a weekly meal plan for ages, but I get ideas and this makes me want to cook something else and I can’t stick to a plan, until now. For our last week away (well, a little bit more than 1 week), I made a meal plan and this is how I discovered How to make a realistic meal plan.
I started by thinking how much time I will have to cook. Basically not a lot, as we were away with work. I also didn’t have a lot of space to cook, as we were caravanning. I have an oven and a hob with 2 burners, a small fridge, but the worktop space is limited. Considering all these, I chose the best options available. We eat shop-bought soup, so I got enough cans for each day, making sure we have 1 of 5 a day and we also have loads of different options. I’m going to talk about the meal plan I did when we were busy, most days include only the breakfast and dinner, as at lunch time we had different things, vegan healthy bars and sandwiches most days.
Because I wasn’t at home, I prepared the rice, cornmeal and pasta by weighting in how much I would need to cook once. I also made the mix for pancakes/cupcakes, dry ingredients, to which I got to add 2 eggs and some milk. It took only 10 minutes to prepare everything. I prepared a few cans of veggies too and I took some coconut milk from home for the risotto. I didn’t want to have to go shopping often.
B – Sandwich and soup
We had sandwich, soup and cake.
L – Vegan coconut milk risotto with veggies
I made coconut milk risotto with bamboo shoots.
D – Mash potatoes and halloumi
Mash potatoes, pan-fried halloumi and red cabbage salad.
B – Pasta with veggies
We had pasta with 1 can of peas and 1 can of tomatoes, herbs and sesame seeds.
D – Stir-fry
Stir-fry with leeks, carrots, peppers, mushrooms and halloumi.
Soup. Stir-fry of peppers, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes and onions.
B – Soup and pancakes
Soup. Savoury pancakes with mushrooms and cheese.
D – Nachos
Nachos with homemade tomato sauce.
As you can see, I did pretty good. We had at least 3 servings of veggies every day. We also had some fruits, so I don’t think there was a day with less than 4 from the 5-a-day.
So, these are my tips on How to make a realistic meal plan.
Make it flexible.
I think my meal plan was a success because I didn’t think of an exact recipe. I said, for example, “stir-fry” and this meant I could do it with each ever veggies I fancied. As you can see in my plan, we had quite a lot of mushrooms because we both wanted to have more mushrooms that week.
Make it simple.
Another thing that was very important is that I kept everything easy and simple. Not too fancy, so I didn’t have to spend too much time cooking because I didn’t have a lot of it. I made plans before, but it was too complicated for the time and resources I had.
Last time I made a plan, we were away, like this month, but we were staying in a self-catering cottage, I had the pans they provided us with and again, not a lot of worktop to do what I wanted.
Make it convenient.
Use the things you know it will make your life easier and it will also make it more likely you will stick to your meal plan. I used canned soup, canned veggies along fresh veggies and some frozen mushrooms too. At home I have more time and I would cut down on the number of canned foods I would have. So, instead of asking myself to cook from scratch with fresh veggies that I bought that day from the supermarket, I chose convenience for myself. Leaving the caravan at 8.45 and getting back at 6 meant I was able to cook in the mornings and in the evening too. A few years ago I would have left the cottage at 8 and got back at 8 after going to the supermarket to get fresh food. Do I have to point out that we had pizza and pasta almost every evening? I was too tired and had other things to do too.
These are my tips. I will make another meal plan for next week, to see how well I will stick to it while at home.
Do you make meal plans?
After trying unsuccessfully last time it was in shops, now I managed to get my first ASDA Wonky Veg Box. They sold out in a few hours, so it’s not an easy thing to get your hands on. I wanted to get this box because I want to support the local farmers, I believe that local, in season, fresh produce is better and, of course, it’s great value for money at only £3.50 for more than 5kg of veggies. It is at least 30% cheaper than buying the same vegetables from the standard range.
If you don’t know, thousands and thousands of vegetables, perfectly good to eat, are thrown away each day because they are wonky. It’s nothing wrong with them, beside their look. The rejected veggies, that the farmers worked hard to produce, might end up on the field as fertilizer. I think that is absurd. Wonky veg, among straight and “pretty” veg, look natural and are just as tasty.
ASDA started this program as a pilot, last year and it proved very popular. As I said earlier, it was sold out when I tried to buy it last year. As my husband and I arrived early in the shop, the boxes were still in the warehouse and someone got this for us. I imagine the rest sold out in a few hours. The cashier commented on the box, that it’s a funny idea and the price is so good.
On the box it says what vegetables are inside and there is a great selection, as you can see.
Last year I’ve wrote Vegetarian Christmas, a post with 10 recipes for Christmas, some of them were mine and some were from other bloggers that I follow. This year I’ve decided to make a similar post, with 10 recipes, 5 mine and 5 from other bloggers.
I will start with one of my own recipes for vegan Brussels sprouts and Chestnuts. I used frozen sprouts because I had those in the freezer and cooked chestnuts, so prep time wasn’t an issue and cooking took only 10-15 minutes.
I sometimes make soup for Christmas and this Creamy Asparagus and Pea Soup with Coconut is exactly what I have in mind. After quite a heavy starter with cheese and hearty dips and maybe a little bit of salads with mayo, I feel the need for something refreshing and light. A vegan soup packed with green veggies and some healthy fats must be on my menu for this Christmas. Angela made this delicious looking Christmas Stuffed Butternut Squash. I like the idea a lot and it’s something I might try. The best part is that it can be prepared in advance and only baked on the day. It saves a lot of time.
She also made these cute fondant decorations for mini-Christmas cakes. Here is the recipe for the Christmas cakes. She mentioned she saw tutorials on youtube on how to make the decorations and I agree, youtube is amazing for this sort of thing. It’s how I’ve made my fondant flowers a couple of months ago. I will try to make other figurines for Christmas, as those also can be made in advance.
Last year I made a huge snowflake cinnamonbread (instead of gingerbread) biscuits, but this year I was a little more traditional with The Gingerbreads.
For starters I am making dips and salads and this Broad Bean, Pea and Mint Hummus made by Lucy sounds delicious. It takes very little time to make and it’s something different to have on the table for Christmas.
Cozonac is a sweet loaf made out of enriched dough with cocoa, raisins, walnuts and Turkish delight. This recipe was passed down from my grand-grandmother on my mother’s side. The recipe is not difficult to make if you have experience with breads. If it’s the first time you are attempting bread, make it with strong white flour instead of the mixture I say in the recipe. It’s easier to work with white flour as it doesn’t have as many fibres as the other one.
Another dessert I love the look of is this KESAR ELAICHI SHRIKHAND. Anupama posted a video recipe of this dessert that is made with strained yogurt and flavoured with cardamom and saffron. It looks lush and indulgent.
Mince pies, of course I had to mention a recipe of mince pies. This is my recipe and it’s made with apple and cranberries. I love making mincemeat for mince pies and it’s so easy to modify it so it’s more to your taste.
I should mention drinks too and Christmas Pudding Vodka must be one of the best ideas. It’s also lovely as a gift. I recently made Visinata, it’s a Romanian drink made with sour cherries and alcohol, very similar to the Chistmas pudding vodka. Both my husband and I liked it a lot and we talked about different flavours that work with Vodka, to make more infused alcoholic drinks.
The last recipe is one I made recently, Festive wreath doughnuts. I love how well they turned out and the baked doughnuts are so easy to make. While doughnuts aren’t usually on the Christmas menu, they might be a good option for Christmas Eve, easy to make and really really cute.