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Archive for January, 2012

Last week, I came upon a day where I barely had anytime to pore over a meal and take time cooking it.  Of course it was the weekend and we were inundated with family responsibilities and by the time we got home, I realised there was nothing for dinner and toast was just not going to cut it!

I had bought some salmon the day before and it was still in the fridge as I had had no time to portion it and put it in the freezer so I cut four pieces, washed a couple of cups of rice (for the children) and set about making dinner.  It took just under one hour, the windows were all steamed and I was left with an unusually messy kitchen by my own standards but the end result was a simple and delicious meal that the children ate quite happily and that made me very happy!

Why not try it yourself and see.

For the fish:

4 salmon fillets, washed

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.  Place the salmon fillets on a baking sheet or pyrex dish, brush lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Place in the oven for 25 minutes or until cooked to your own personal taste. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

For the sauce you’ll need:

1 medium green pepper, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp cooking oil

3/4 pint water

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp ground saffron

salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onions and peppers in the oil until soft, add the spices and fry for a further five minutes.  Add the tin of tomatoes plus the tomato puree, add the water and carrots and bring to the boil.  Bring the heat down and simmer until the carrots are cooked.

To accompany the fish, I chose boiled new potatoes and 250g spinach, also boiled.  The children had rice but sadly didn’t attempt the spinach!  The carrots went down well though!

Serve on a plate and top the salmon with the sauce until covered.  You can do as you like really with this dish.  Just remember to adjust cooking times for any other vegetables you might add. If you don’t make the rice, it takes even less time to cook this simple fish dinner.

Enjoy!

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I read an article today about a mother who had given her child smartie sandwiches for lunchtime.  After reading a few of the outraged comments about how this was a disgrace etc, yadda and so forth, I found myself wondering how she got the smarties to stick to the bread!

I admit this was probably not the best thing to think of but all I could imagine was that the smarties would keep falling out when picking up the sandwich, not very practical is it?  Joking aside, whilst I am of the *let’s eat everything in moderation* camp, I absolutely do not agree with smartie sandwiches.  I am not sure if this was supposed to be a fun one time treat or something but if it was, perhaps it is best left for hometime where it doesn’t get the media zapping that this mother has now received.

I don’t have a problem with school meals versus packed lunches.  My daughter has made it easy for me.  She will absolutely NOT eat a school meal and if I pushed her to do so, she will come home hungry, tired and unwell.  At least with the packed lunch, I know what is going in there, I know that she eats 85% of it at school and the rest at home and so I can relax knowing that she has some sort of *fuel* getting her through the day.

My problem is actually breakfast.

What do you give your child for breakfast to ensure that it is enough to take them through to snacktime (my daughter’s school provides fruit and milk) and how do you ensure it isn’t just empty calories and sugar?!

My two manage toast and milk.  But that’s about it.  No amount of cajoling on a school day will get them to have cereal or even a egg with their toast.  One doesn’t like porridge, the other does but won’t have it in the morning.  American style pancakes are a no no because they are *too big* and stick in the throat without the syrup and guess what…they don’t like syrup.  They WILL have cake though.  Of course they will, silly me…but I refuse to give them cake for breakfast even though I know in some European countries it is a main part of breakfast.  Perhaps if I bake it myself and reduce the sugar but even then I cannot justify a piece of cake (with some milk) to get them through 2 hours of schoolwork. 

Has anyone tried toast and fruit?

Another idea is the breakfast muffin, but essentially, that is just cake.  Savoury will not have any fans in this household so the alternatives are chocolate chip, banana walnut, blueberry and a few others.  Again, I know it is done but is it really the right thing to give?  Should I put a few things out on the table and see what they do with it or just stick to toast and milk and daily shots of multivitamins to keep them going!

I know they are very young at the moment and tastebuds take time to develop as do appetites especially when they start doing more and more at school and otherwise.  But for now, I just wish there was something else I could do that will keep them on the road of good and healthy but nice and filling breakfasts to start their day.

What do YOU do for breakfast? Do you have a variety of things out or do you just dish up one thing before a school day? Am I worrying too much or not enough.  I welcome your comments and I’ll try anything different!!

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Silent Sunday

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Otherwise known as Khoresht e Bamiyeh (khoresht-casserole, bamiyeh-okra) in Iran, this is a simple dish to make and extremely tasty but be warned it needs a good couple of hours to simmer away so the meat cooks nicely and is very tender.

It’s even good for the children because even though they won’t eat the okra, it oozes it’s juices and goodness into the casserole sauce, giving it a nice simple spicy flavour that they will enjoy! I even get away with mashing an okra or two up for my little ones!

 Enjoy!

Diced Lamb Casserole with Okra

700g Diced lamb (preferably shoulder, not leg)

400g firm okra, washed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp cooking oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp garlic powder OR 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chopped onions.  Fry until golden brown, then add the turmeric, garlic and a little salt and pepper.  Continue to fry on a high heat for 5 minutes then add the lamb. 

Keep stirring the lamb into the onion mixture making sure it is all covered, bring the heat down to medium and allow the meat to cook for 20 minutes whilst stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Add the chopped tomatoes, and cover with water.  Bring it to the boil then simmer for 60 minutes.

After the 60 minutes, add the okra, (putting it in too early will result in a mush of okra) and simmer for a further 40 minutes or until the lamb is nice and soft.

Serve alongside white rice and some cool fresh yogurt or greek yogurt!

 Note:  You can substitute the lamb for beef, but increase the cooking time by about 20 minutes.  If you prefer vegetarian, cook your preferred vegetables along WITH the okra for about 25 minutes or until cooked.

You can make this in the slow cooker but be aware that the flavours come from frying the onion along with the spices and meat for 20 minutes before cooking.  It won’t taste exactly the same but will still be a delicious meal all the same!

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There are a few different ways of doing The Food Shop.  The most popular is to plan your meals in advance, allocate a day to go shopping and get it done on said day.  This is great if you are highly organised and can remember the list of items that you’ve run out of other than the food items you might need for your meals.  There is also the online shop which many swear by and declare that it saves them lots of money because you are not tempted to buy any other *bits* that might be lurking down an aisle prettily decorated with HALF PRICE of BOGOF signs.

Some people buy a few bits per day.  I supposed that’s ok if you live next door to a supermarket but not really practical for most of us if time is an issue plus it can be costlier and if it’s raining and you have the kids at home…well!

I have tried all of the above (shopping for bits happened when I was single and I actually did live next door to a mini mart!). Even the meal planning which is an excellent idea has left me flummoxed (one m or two?).  I never seem to adhere to the plan either because I feel like making something else or um…because I feel like making something else.  Okay, okay, I admit I am NOT GOOD at following rules where meals are concerned, even my own.

This week, after the long period that seems dull and depressing after Christmas, I have been on a food shop pilgramage visiting my most used supermarket, my dearly loved American warehouse-type store and my favourite Asian grocer/butcher.  I have decided to shop for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!

Yes, you heard right.  I have enough provisions (apart from milk and bread) to last two weeks.  The freezer is stocked for a month (no pizza!) and the fruit and vegetables, if stocked properly in the fridge can actually last that long.  This may sound quite grand but I can assure you it isn’t.  It’s mostly all necessary stuff that we have run out of, butter, cheese, fruit etc.  The only treat in there is a cheesecake and even half of that will be going in the freezer until next week.

My other reason to be happy is my visit to the butchers.  I have portioned up everything I bought and it has made 10 meals that I can usually get leftovers with too.  These meals with vegetables, rice (or bread) all work out at around £4.50 a meal for four people.  Me Happy!

I have kept all receipts and made notes of how much each shop cost for future reference.  Hopefully by buying alot of things that will last the whole month and some that I have to replenish in a fortnight, I will have reduced the budget a little but I can only tell this when February is over. One example of an item that lasts for a while is rice.  I buy a 10kg bag for £13.00 (this month we even got 10% free!) and that will actually last this family 6 months.  I would have taken a picture for you all but put the shopping away before I remembered!

My question to you is which method of food shop do you do?  Do you do a bulk month/fortnight shop and have you been successful? Or are you a meal planner and buy weekly with strict method?  Please feel free to comment below, I can always do with learning a thing or two!

 

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Admittedly I am not the best when it comes to the latest beauty products and techniques that there may be available to women out there.  In fact, who has the time to go get preened, plucked, stretched and pummeled because I certainly don’t…or do I?

I have always been *the wierd one*.  The one at school who wanted to be a goth but had no idea what colours to put together to make an impact (black and er….?) Since childhood, I had to tame long unruly hair along with wearing thick bottle lens glasses from the age of ten and a mass of freckles on my face.  I was called Duracell (copper coloured top) along with other names I won’t mention on here.  My fashion sense scaled the dizzy heights of jeans and a nice top.  Skirts?  ARE YOU KIDDING? My legs wouldn’t know what daylight was if a fish came up and slapped them with another fish.

Okay, a teensy bit of exaggeration.  I did get contact lenses at 11 years and battled on until my early twenties when all of a sudden my hair went totally and utterly straight! I became braver with colour and even now, I own a few dresses!!

Going back to having time…I do, but I procrastinate.  I say I don’t so much and invent things to do that invariably I go on for months without a hair cut (straight long hair isn’t a problem is it?!) or grooming those fuzzy eyebrows of mine. 

Well readers…today is a different day and I decided that I would, for once, stop procrastinating and just get it done!

Check out the fuzz!!

This is what I looked like this morning.  Yes I think I’m brave posting this picture too.  My right eyebrow has been messed up so much I have no arch left and am now under strict orders not to mess at all with this one in particular until it grows back…ahem…

I was recommended a place close by to my house that does threading which is a more eastern way of *getting your eyebrows done*.  The lady did offer to wax but I wasn’t sure how that would go so stuck to the threading which I’ve had before but not for at least a year or so!

No, I’m not raising my eyebrow!

It was fairly quick and painless, my forehead is now smooth and tidy and my eyebrows…well!  I’m just not the same person anymore.  I would certainly recommend threading to anyone who is thinking about it.  It’s actually quite relaxing and your skin gets a bit of a massage too.  In truth, I ended up doing a couple of other things (facial) that has left me feeling very good about myself and I am determined to go back in about 4 weeks to keep it all up and feel permanently good about myself…if I have the time!

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How old should a child be to start receiving pocket money?  My eldest is now 5, in fact, she is 5 years, 8 months and 2 days old.  I feel, she is old enough to get something, but I want something back.  Personally I feel that children should be taught the value of money and the principle of working for it but I’m a little fuzzy on the age. 

Of course I don’t think she should be out getting a job or living in the basement surfacing only to clean the house but surely even at this age there are things she can do to get some money?  I have come up with the following…

In the mornings, she is to (after she is awake) tidy her bed, go to the bathroom, get her uniform on and on a daily basis, she is to keep her room in a semi state of tidyness.  This means, after she has annhilated it by playing in there, most things need to go back where they belong and her books put back too. She does the bathroom and uniform bit anyway but it’s the keeping her room tidy bit that we have problems with.  This will earn her £2.00 a week and if I have not had to remind her, she’ll get an extra 50p at the end of the week.

I want her to learn the fun of earning a bit of money to spend on herself and then the value of spending a little and saving a little but I am worried I may not be doing this right.  How much is too much? or too little for that matter? Are her *chores* too lightweight and faffy?  I don’t ever remember getting pocket money as a child but I know I did because I used to buy comics and chocolate all the time (I thank my lucky stars she seems to want to visit Disney as opposed to the local sweet shop).

Some readers may roll their eyes at me, but this is why I have written this teeny blog, to get advice, so feel free to tell me your experiences and what you have done/implemented in your household with regards to pocket money!

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