Category Archives for Kitchen Tip Bits

The 12 tips of Christmas

This year, at the ripe old age of 38, I hosted my first ever Christmas at home.  It was nerve-wracking, exhausting, exciting, fulfilling and well, wonderful.

We didn’t have a big crowd so I was eased in gently.  My brother and his girlfriend joined us on Christmas Eve for some festive fizz and a gorgeous baked ham (can I call it gorgeous if I cooked it? Oh well, my blog, my rules!)

Then on Christmas Day, after a simple breakfast and some stocking opening, they left and both lots of parents arrived – bringing with them many and varied offerings towards the day’s eating and drinking.

Only 30 minutes later than originally planned, we all tucked into our roast turkey and trimmings.  Plates were cleared, so I take that as a good sign. Although there are several tweaks I will make next year.

So what did I learn?  After much pondering, I have decided that there are 12 key things that I’ll take away for next year.  The 12 tips of Christmas if you will…

Those of you who are seasoned Christmas hosts may smile wisely at these and please feel free to add more of your own in the comments!

Before the big day

Christmas

1) Plan for space invaders

Before you plan your Christmas food extravaganza, make sure you actually have both the fridge and oven space to cope with it all.  If, like me, you only have one oven then it makes things trickier – it’s not impossible, but careful planning is required. Thankfully, turkeys can rest for a good hour or two without any harm coming to them so you can do all your potatoes and parsnips etc once the bird is out and relaxing in its foil.

Fridge-wise, if you have a garage or shed then make use of these for veggies etc. Those of you with any outdoor space can fill a bucket or crate with water and leave it outside with all of your drinks.

Oh, and before you buy your ridiculously expensive turkey, for goodness sake, make sure it’ll fit in your oven! Just sayin’..

2) Do what you can in advance

Of all the Christmas feast and festivities, there is very little that cannot be at least partly prepared beforehand.  Puddings and cakes – obvs.  Perhaps less obvs, prepare all your veg the day before.  Potatoes need to sit in water once peeled and chopped, then just pour out and give fresh water when you’re ready to par-boil. Carrots, parsnips and sprouts (or most other veg) can be peeled, chopped and stored in freezer bags in the fridge quite happily for a day or two.

Check your recipes and where possible, make what you can in advance!

3) Yes. You’ve done enough food

Throughout the whole process, I found myself constantly questioning whether there would be enough food to satisfy my guests.  Would the turkey be big enough (despite the fact that I’d purposefully ordered one that would serve 2 more people than were actually coming).  How many potatoes to do? How many parsnips?  The fact is, with so many different things on offer, people tend to have smaller portions of everything and chances are, you’ve done more than enough!

4) Don’t forget the non-drinkers

I come from a family of drinkers.  I’m not saying we’re booze hounds but we like our wine…and our gin…oooh, and a spot of port…and Champagne for goodness sake, it’s Christmas after all.  With that in mind, I was sure to get in plenty of supplies to see us through.  Chances are though, there will be at least someone who won’t be partaking, be it due to driving, pregnancy or infancy.  These poor folk shouldn’t feel that they’re being left out of the frivolities so make sure there’s something special for them too.  This year, I did a combination of 1 part orange juice, 1 part apple and 1 part cranberry in a large jug with plenty of ice.  It went down very well with children and drivers alike!

It may be that you and yours aren’t big drinkers and so the non-alcoholic choice is plentiful.  If that’s the case – then you should reverse this and remember to provide for your more boozy buddies!

decorations

5) Ambiance is easy

I’m not at all creative or arty but I really wanted people to arrive and feel surrounded by festive spirit and cheer.  Short of plying them all with sherry at the door, I was a little stumped.  It turns out that it really isn’t too tricky (or expensive) to create a spot of festive sparkle.  A few fir cones, a bunch of baubles and a whole table (well not quite) of tea lights and suddenly your home is like a little corner of pure Christmas.  

6) Write a timetable

I see you rolling your eyes but seriously, this will make  you feel so much more in control and will also let you know when you have free time for important things like unwrapping presents and drinking Champagne Cocktails (more on those later..)

It’s a bit of a pain to do – you need to work out all of the timings for all of the things you need to prepare.  I mean everything.  When do you need to pre-heat the oven? When does the water go on for the veg? When do you heat the fat for the potatoes?  Once it’s done though you’ll feel calmer and more relaxed – and if you’re calm and relaxed then your Christmas guests will be too.

Oh, and keep it for the following year! It’ll make life easier when you’re doing your next timetable.

The big day!

Christmas table

7) Forget the stupid timetable!

Huh?  Ok, so I don’t mean completely forget it, but DO allow yourself to be flexible.  The chances are that something will happen to throw the timetable out slightly. Don’t let this ruffle you.  The timetable is there to put YOU in control, not to control you. If a few tweaks are needed along the way, then go with it – show that timetable who’s boss!

8) Delegate and accept all help gratefully and gracefully

If you’re anything like me then it will be easy to turn into a bit of a control freak.  You’ve done your planning, you’ve got your timetable and everything is under control goddamit! The only thing is, there are probably a few people there who would actually quite enjoy being involved, getting stuck in and well, helping you.  Don’t see this as showing weakness or failure.  Christmas is very much a team event.  Let people help, get everyone involved and share the fun!

Equally, people don’t like to turn up empty handed so if they ask you what they can bring – don’t say ‘oh nothing!’.  Christmas is pretty pricey and frankly, any offerings should be gratefully accepted. Your guests will feel happier that they’ve been able to contribute and your bank balance will definitely thank you.

9) Make mistakes and move on

I hate to break this to you but something will go wrong. It may be a whopper, like forgetting to buy the turkey, or it may be something so small that no one will even notice.  Whichever it is, don’t let it ruin the day.  If something doesn’t go according to plan, then change the plan, have a laugh about it and get on with enjoying your day.  It’s not about the perfection of the meal, or the beauty of the decorations.  It’s about you and your loved ones being together and sharing Christmas.

10) Use disposable foil roasting trays

Who wants to be scrubbing greasy toasting tins on Christmas Day?

11) Champagne Cocktails

This is a tradition passed down from my parents.  I’m not sure which side it came from originally but I am sure that it’s an absolute essential.  Here’s what you need:

In your Champagne glass;

Add 1 sugar cube and a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters. Cover the sugar with brandy, add a slice of orange and then top up with Champagne (or any other fizz that you have to hand).

Drink and be merry!

IMG_0081 (1) (2)

12) Enjoy yourself – it’s Christmas!

Hopefully, you’ll have spotted this as a general theme throughout.  It can be so easy to get completely caught up in the plan and in the moment, that suddenly the day ends and you realise that you didn’t speak to your loved ones apart from in barked orders or sharp retorts.  So fraught were you, that you didn’t notice your children as they frolicked with their wrapping paper.  So tense were you that you completely missed the hilarity when Dad fell asleep and his paper hat fell on to his face.

Don’t miss these moments.  Let the potatoes burn.  Let the sprouts go cold.  Enjoy your family. Love your people.  Happy Christmas xxx

7 Day Meal Plan for Busy People

Too busy to plan your meals? Looking for recipe inspiration? In desperate need of food that’s easy and quick to make but still tasty and satisfying?

Hurrah – this meal plan is for you!

7 Day Meal Plan - busy people

Planning your week’s meals can be rather fun. Browsing recipes books, looking online and daydreaming about the lovely things you could make—and more importantly, eat. 

Sadly however, the reality is that life tends to get in the way and more often than not we find ourselves desperately trying to plan a week’s meals when we have 10 minutes to spare between preparing for that meeting, bathing the kids or doing the chores.

This month’s meal plan is aimed at the busy-bees among you.  You want (no, need!) something tasty to fill your belly, but it has to be something fast and simple.  

Fan of meal plans?

Take a look at last month’s – 7 Day Meal Plan for Your Five a Day

What to expect

I’ve tried to pick a reasonably balanced selection.  You will find some meat, some fish and some vegetarian.  There are healthy options and some that are more indulgent.  A few even manage to be both!

How it works

You’ll find a selection of breakfasts, lunches and dinners for weekdays and another selection for the weekends.  There are no set days so pick those that appeal and that will work best for you and your life.

For the weekdays I’ve picked meals which are convenient but nourishing and delicious.  You’ll find quick breakfasts that will keep you going throughout the morning, tasty, filling lunches which can either be made in a flash at home or packed up and taken to the office and dinners which can be ready in around 30 minutes.   

For the weekends, meals may take a little longer (although not necessarily) and will hopefully feel more of a treat to be enjoyed with friends or family.

Download your 7 Day Meal Plan for Busy People

Let me know how you get on – I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Toddler Won’t Eat Their Food

feeding toddlersYou’ve read all the parenting books, you’ve browsed all the forums and you know EVERYTHING there is to know about weaning and what to give your growing toddler so they get all the nutrition they need to develop healthily.

There’s just one problem.

They won’t bloody well eat anything but raisins!

With this post, I hope to guide you through the minefield that is feeding your toddler and offer you some tried and tested ways to ensure that little Johnny won’t eat anything you serve him.  I realise you were probably hoping for something more along the lines of sure fire ways to get them to guzzle down anything you offer.  Sorry – no idea about that one…

1) Menu Choice

Ok, the key here is to pick foods that your toddler has already eaten and enjoyed. You know that one meal that was their absolute favourite last week? It’s got an expiry date (known only to your toddler). Try giving it to them now and I promise you, they’ll look at you like you’ve just served them up the contents of their own nappy.

2) Preparation

The trick to remember is the longer you spend in the preparation of a meal, the faster your toddler will turn their nose up at it. This one is 100% foolproof.  Anything over 20 minutes prep and you’re guaranteed to have your meal thrown back in your face. Probably literally!

3) Presentation

Now this one is likely to trip a few of you up.  All the books tell you to make your food look pretty. ‘Presentation is everything’ they’ll have you believe. Quite the contrary. A beautifully presented meal, on a clean, hygienic plate is almost bound to result in failure.  Experience has shown me that the presentation that is almost irresistible to all toddlers is food that has been left out for a while, has gone completely cold and preferably has been dropped on the floor and trodden into the carpet a little bit.  That and bugs. They love those things.

4) Feeding

Ok, now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. I urge you to keep trying to feed your toddler yourself.  They may make a grab for the spoon in a fit of independence, but hold strong and I can say without doubt, that they won’t eat a bit.  Even if you manage to get a spoonful in their mouth through a mixture of clever diversions and brute force, they’ll immediately spit it out. In extreme cases, they’ll remove the food with their hands and throw it – either at you or the floor.

NB.  This tip is unusual, in that the opposite is also true.  Allow your toddler to take the spoon and they will still get food everywhere but their mouth, but with much greater efficiency.

5) Attitude

To be sure that your toddler won’t touch a bite, you must show them that you really want them to.  If you show any signs of pleading with them, or in fact appearing to try to get them to eat in any way, you’re done for. Game over.

If you’ve read these tips and found yourself nodding your head in agreement, then you have my heartfelt understanding and condolences.  I’m pretty sure they’re all in on it.  It’s a plot, and a complex one at that. 

Stay strong. Make yourself a cocktail or some cake, keep visiting my blog, and we’ll get through this together. xx

ps. No toddlers were harmed in the making of this post

7 Day Meal Plan for Your 5 a Day

7 day meal planI love meal plans! I’m always on the lookout for magazines which include a 7 day fat buster-detox-under £5-cook in less than 30 seconds type plan. It’s just great to have someone else do the thinking for you once in a while, right?

I mean, frankly, it can all get a bit much sometimes – work reports to write, kids to herd, pets to polish, house to feed…. bleurgh!  

One less thing to think about

Fear not – I’ve compiled a simple 7 day meal plan, including delicious home cooked meals (some from the blog and some new) which help you to get in your 5-a-day with the minimum of fuss. I’ve EVEN written your grocery list for you! Can’t say fairer than that…

What you can expect

This meal plan is basically a typical week’s meals that I might do at home.  I’ve tried to keep it pretty balanced in terms of a mixture of white meat, red meat, fish, etc. It’s varied, whilst also keeping in mind that you have to actually buy the ingredients and probably don’t drive a removal van. Saying that, the grocery list is LONG. I won’t lie to you. However, it’s likely that you already have quite a lot of stuff in your cupboard, and if you don’t, well it’s all good stuff to have – especially if you’re planning on following my future meal plans, because they’re my staples! 🙂

How it works

Pretty simple really – each page is a different day’s meals.  Feel free to mix ’em up and make them work for you.  You’ll see a few breakfast and lunches repeated because, well, it’s just more practical that way. 

Download your 7 Day Meal Plan

I would really love to hear what you think – was this useful? I’m planning to put together more meal plans too, so let me know if there’s one you’d like to see!

Couponin Diva

Five things Bananaman can teach us about being a superhero

Ok, for those of you who have eagerly clicked through  to this post hoping for the secrets to superpowers, then I must confess that I’ve played a bit of a sneaky trick on you – and for that I’m very sorry.

What I’m talking about here, is how you can all feel a little bit more ‘super’ and how bananas will help you do that – see what I did there?

Just look at them – aren’t they majestic?

Bananas

The Mighty Banana

If you’re really just here to learn about how to get superpowers then no problem chum – I’ve got you covered.  Might I suggest that you click here or here instead…)

As for the rest of you – thanks for sticking with me – you won’t regret it…

Banana Superpower #1 – Super Cheeriness

There’s no good being a superhero if you’re going to fly around the place looking miserable…  Lucky for you, bananas are the only fruit which contain the amino acid, tryptophan and vitamin B6, which together, help your body produce serotonin, linked with alleviating depression. Happy days! Literally…

What better excuse do you need to start your day off with this gorgeous banana smoothie?

bananas

Banana Superpower #2 – Super Regular

Now I’ll tell you something, I wouldn’t fancy being ‘caught short’ in a Bananaman suit.  I can’t imagine they make for a very quick exit if you know what I mean… The humble banana is one of  the only foods (if not THE only one) which is good to eat whether you’re ‘bunged up’ or loose.  They are full of fibre, which can help alleviate constipation and they will restore electrolytes and potassium if it’s the opposite!

What more excuse do you need to stuff down some banana loaf, when you’ve got a funny tummy?

bananasBanana Superpower #3 – Radioactivity

‘Huh?!?’ I hear you cry.  Yep – believe it or not, bananas are radioactive! Before you go running for your hazmat suit, I should clarify that this is because they contain potassium-40, which is a radioactive isotope of Potassium, but the levels are too low to cause you harm. Phewf, right!?

Banana Superpower #4 – Healing

So you’re out and about fighting crime and stuff, when all of a sudden, you’re struck down mid-hero-ing. What’s happened? I’m afraid, it’s bad. It’s a mosquito bite.  I know, I know – surely there’s no coming back from that? YES, my dear friends. Yes there is.  There is one way back and that way is the way of the banana.  Just reach for your trusty banana peel from the inside of your banana suit and rub it over the villainous bite.  The itching will cease and the inflammation will end.  As if this wasn’t super enough – you can do the same thing to cure other such heinous afflictions as warts, burns and splinters.  There’ll be no stopping you now!

Want to celebrate your newly found invulnerability? Then I recommend one of these rather lovely banana daiquiris! 

banana

 

Banana Superpower #5 – Superhero Smile

So you’re happy, you’re regular, a teensy bit radioactive (which I believe it juuust the right amount of radioactive to be) and you’re invulnerable.  Only problem is, when the cameras are flashing, your smile just isn’t.  I think you know by now what the answer is? Toothpaste? Dentist? ‘Pah’, I say! Pah! The answer is banana. Get that banana peel and rub it over your teeth for two minutes each night and within a couple of weeks your teeth will be whiter than white.

So go, buy bananas. Eat them, rub them on you and enjoy your new superhero life 🙂

If you know any other wannabe superheroes then why not be a pal and share this with them? I for one would be SUPER grateful!

 

Five Cool Foodie Ideas From Pinterest

Get your foodie inspiration firing and your taste buds zinging with my cool foodie ideas from Pinterest!

I’m a little bit addicted to Pinterest.  It’s one of those dangerous places where you can innocently go while you have a spare 5 minutes, only to realise 2 hours later, that your children are unfed and your washing un-cleaned…but hey, you’ve got some bitchin’ ideas on what to do with that funny space under the stairs!

Those of you who already follow me on Pinterest may have come across my ‘Cool Foodie Ideas’ board.  This is where I pin away all those clever little culinary tricks that I spot while browsing for inspiration.  Today I want to share a few of those gems on my blog.

(By the way, if you don’t follow me on Pinterest, then for goodness sake put that right now!)

Follow Eat Drink Cook’s FABULOUS Pinterest boards

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into the wonderful world of Cool Foodie Ideas from Pinterest!

1: Watermelon Ice from Taste & Tell

This is such a simple concept but I’ve never thought to do it before! This summer I will definitely be giving it a go. Doesn’t it look refreshing?

cool foodie ideas

Image from taste and tell

2: Nutella & Banana Sushi from Paging Fun Mums!

I LOVE this! How cool do this little sushi look?  Another super-simple idea that produces really fun and exciting results.

Nutella-Banana-Sushie (4)

3: No Washing Up Ham, Egg & Cheese Bread Bowls from Recipe Tin Eats

This takes one pot meals a step further, using no pots at all! I’m all for it.  These would be great for taking on picnics don’t you think?

cool foodie ideas

Image from Recipe Tin Eats

4: Frozen Banana Bites from She Knows

These little guys look absolutely amazing! I think they’d make great little treats to serve guests with a cup of coffee after dinner. 🙂

cool foodie ideas

Image from She Knows

5: Pineapple Infused Vodka from My Baking Addiction

Ok, so this one is more of a ‘Cool Drinkie Idea’ than a foodie one – but it still definitely deserves a place on the list because it sounds delicious!

cool foodie ideas

Image from My Baking Addiction

So there they are – pretty cool I think you’ll agree!  Let me know in the comments what other cool foodie ideas you find 🙂

Five Ways to Five-a-Day

You need never be unhealthy again!

So, Summer is creeping slowly and frankly, rainily (is that a word??) to our doorstep once more and I for one have started the annual ‘oh lord, I’d better start eating a bit better so I can fit in those shorts’ thoughts.  Not only that, but I live in endless cycles, of ‘I must eat more healthily’ followed by ‘oh, I’m too tired, I don’t care – I’m getting pizza‘.  I actually LOVE fruit and veg so I really have very little excuse not to get my five-a-day, and yet… somehow I very often don’t!

My ‘Five Ways to Five a Day’ series attempts to offer a few friendly tips on how we can all make life a little easier  and a little healthier for ourselves.  Plus, it’s my opportunity to present to you my FIRST ever vlog – you have no idea what technical hoops I (and my patient hubby) had to jump through, manoeuvre around, upload and reformat…

So, without further ado, I bring to you, Smoothie Packs – and I’m not talking facials here…

Enjoy, be kind, like and share! 😉

No. 1: Smoothie Packs

Five smoothie packs, so that you have a quick, healthy start to the day from Monday to Friday. No muss, no fuss.

The five smoothies that I’ve chosen were aimed to use the same selection of fruits so that you’re not going out and buying a million fruits and letting loads go to waste.  The great thing with smoothie packs though, is you can just chuck in what you fancy!

My other yummy smoothies

Banana Smoothie

Pineapple & Coconut Smoothie

Top Tip: to get extra goodness in there, why not pop in a handful of green leaves, like spinach or kale?

The Final Touches

  • Add the contents of your frozen smoothie pack to your blender
  • Now, add your chosen liquid – here are a few examples…
    • Milk
    • Fruit juice
    • Coconut Milk
    • Almond Milk
    • Ice cubes
  • Blend until smooth and enjoy 🙂

 

My 10 Store Cupboard Essentials

There are days when I get home from work and optimistically open the fridge, looking for inspiration, only to be faced with the cold (pardon the pun), hard truth.  I haven’t been shopping and the cupboard (ahem, fridge) is bare…

It’s on those days that my store cupboard essentials come into play. They are the stalwarts of the kitchen, the supporting players of the pantry…too much?

So what qualifies as a storecupboard essential?

I’m talking about the type of ingredients that can just sit happily in your cupboard for weeks or months on end, just waiting patiently for that moment when the fridge is bare and they can save your bacon (and no, bacon isn’t one…)

Dairy

NB – probably best not to leave these for months but I just had to include them because, well they’re essential.

1 – Eggs

I often marvel at the many uses there are for eggs.  These humble little guys are an absolute MUST.  You can have them soft boiled, hard boiled, poached, fried, scrambled… but on top of that, think of all the other deliciousness that wouldn’t be possible without them! Omlettes, fritattas, tortilla, CAKE for goodness sake! ‘Noeuf’ said…. (get it?)

Pasta/Rice/Noodles

Couldn’t actually think of a separate category to put these under so forgive the repetition.  I think these guys are worth a bit of repetition anyway!

2 – Err…Pasta/Rice/Noodles

Ok, I’ve cheated a bit here and lumped this little lot into one (no – that’s not a recipe suggestion!) – but I figured, it’s my blog so I get to make (or break) the rules! Anyhoo, these guys are your friends, your buddies, your chums.  Bit of boiling water, short 10 minute wait and you’ve got yourself the base of any number of lovely little meals. Try some spaghetti with garlic butter and chilli flakes, or noodles cooked in chicken stock with soy sauce and sesame oil or some fried veg and bacon chucked in with a bowl of rice.  Simple, quick, but delicious.

Tins

3 – Tinned tomatoes

Another fantastic, but under-rated ingredient.  Whack in some basil and you’ve got yourself a little pasta sauce, use it as the base for a pizza, whizz it up with some veg and enjoy some hearty soup, not to mention the number of stews and casseroles they form the heart of. Love ’em.

4 – Tinned tuna

When I was at uni, tuna pasta was a favourite of mine.  It incorporates two other of my staples too! Cook some pasta, fry some onion, chuck in some tinned tomatoes and tuna.  If you’re feeling fancy then why not treat yourself to some sweetcorn in there too? My son on the other hand prefers another tuna based treat – tuna mayo sarnies.  Also very good, very quick and pretty good for you too!

5 – Coconut milk

This one’s slightly more exotic than my others – but sometimes, I want something a little more exotic to eat!  Using the spices below and maybe a tin of tomatoes, you can make a lovely little curry sauce to add to vegetables or chicken or fish or even lentils or chickpeas! Beautiful.  Don’t forget my lovely Pineapple & Coconut Smoothie for a quick breakfast too!

pineapple & coconut smoothie

Pineapple & Coconut Smoothie

Dried Herbs & Spices

6 – Chilli flakes, Turmeric, Cumin, Thyme

A rather eclectic mix here but I had to lump them all together or they wouldn’t fit in my list of 10 and I certainly couldn’t miss any of them.  Chilli flakes – perfect for adding some extra pep to any dish (especially good when you have kids who would prefer NOT to have any extra pep and you can just spice up your own plate separately).  Turmeric and Cumin are my most commonly used spices and make the base for any number of little curried dishes if you’re feeling like something a little more exotic from your store cupboard essentials (for this, see also number 5).  Lastly, thyme is probably my most used dry herb and brings to life chicken, fish and steak alike.  If you don’t have any fresh stuff about then this will do the trick nicely.

Other stuff

I’m sure there must be a really good word to describe the rest of these – they’re the kind of ingredients that are part of so many recipes.  They don’t often get any recognition for the hard work they do, being over shadowed by the more showy ingredients like steak or chocolate and whatnot, but I want to show them a bit of love today.

7 – Flour

Picture the scene… you’re suddenly hit with a massive craving for White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies but you have NO flour in the house. I’m sorry to have to paint you such a bleak picture, but if you’ve learned a lesson from it then we’ll say no more about it.  Oh, and Macaroni Cheese for goodness sake!

White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies

White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies

8 – Oils – olive oil, extra virgin, sesame oil, vegetable oil

I can think of very few meals that I make that don’t require one of these guys.  My normal oil of choice is olive, but I use them all and make sure I have them all in my cupboard.  They do so much more than stopping stuff from sticking or helping stuff to brown.  They form the base of dressings, they add flavour AND they help to preserve other ingredients. Big heroes in my book!

9 – Vinegars – white wine, red wine, cider, balsamic, malt

These are often the bed fellows of the oils above.  A lovely, peppery extra virgin olive oil, with sweet sharp balsamic makes a perfect dressing for your salad.   Add in a couple of eggs with your oil and vinegar and you’ve got yourself a lovely little mayonnaise!  They pickle, they’re an essential part of fish & chips and your cupboard shouldn’t be without them.

10 – Stock cubes

Homemade stock is fab – it’s pretty easy to make, you can store it in your freezer and frankly, it tastes better than the cubes. HOWEVER, I know I don’t always have homemade stock in my freezer and I’m sure lots of you don’t either.  These days, you can get really good cubes and they add flavour to any number of dishes – soups, gravy and stews alike.  Sometimes I just whack one in the water I’m cooking my pasta or rice in and it really makes a difference. Go on – treat yourself!

As always, I could go on but I had to make the cut somewhere so here are a few of my other faves that didn’t quite make the list….

Bread – oh bread! What a love/hate relationship we have! Toast and Bovril is one of life’s great pleasures and comforts, and don’t get me started on Gazpacho! If I’m honest though, I wouldn’t want to let it sit for weeks or months…

Bulgur wheat – if you’ve never tried it then please do.  It’s so delicious and so cheap and makes a fantastic alternative to rice.

Baked beans – I really wrestled with this one! Beans on toast? Jacket potato with cheese and beans? LOVE.

Soy sauce – this stuff just adds such great flavour (it’s basically an alternative to salt – but describing it as that doesn’t seem to do it justice.) I’ll tell you this though – I wouldn’t eat my sushi without it.

Sweet Chilli Sauce – great for dips, great for marinades, great for dressing.  Just great.

I’d probably better stop there or I’ll never get anything done today!  Please do share some of your favourite store cupboard essentials in the comments below!

Oh – and know anyone heading off to uni soon?  Why not do what a couple of my best friends did and bundle all this lot into a box as a going away prezzie?  A sort of ‘Student Starter Kit’ of sorts…?

 

Weekday Suppers – 10 Steps to Success

You’re just 10 steps away from weekday supper success!

I don’t ask a lot from my weekday suppers (tea, supper, dinner – what’s it known as in your family?), just that they’re delicious, healthy, cheap, can be made with the least amount of work possible… ok, maybe that is quite a lot.. But, that should be do-able right? RIGHT!

Read on and forever more float around the weekday kitchen in a calm haze of economical, healthy deliciousness…

1) Plan your weekday suppers in advance

Plan aheadPretty common sense, but try not to do that thing where you just turn up at the supermarket and walk down each aisle picking out meals as you go.  Chances are you’ll end up either forgetting something OR buying way more than you actually need (the latter is especially likely if you go shopping hungry – DANGER, DANGER!) Decide what meals you will be having, write a list and then STICK to it.

2) Shop online

Now I like the odd leisurely mooch around the supermarket as much as the next person.  Having a squeeze of the fruit and a look at the random, assorted sauces on offer.  HOWEVER, for the most part, I find it is much less stressful and usually cheaper (despite delivery charges) to shop on line.  Point one still applies – write a list first to keep you focused.  No queueing, no fighting with the kids at the tills because they want sweets, no trying to find a parking space.   Just do it – you can thank me later.

3) Balance your meals

Weekday supper - balanced mealMy rule of thumb (and I should stress that I am no nutritionist) is to have some form of protein (eg. meat, fish, dairy), some carbohydrates (eg. pasta, potatoes, bread) and some veg (hopefully no examples required here!) in each meal.  Good balanced weekday suppers mean that you can have a guilt free splurge at the weekend!

4) Variety is the spice of life

The beauty of planning your meals in advance is that you don’t open your groceries and realise that every meal is chicken.  It’s surprisingly easy to do!  So you may have picked some great, balanced meals but who wants meat for every meal? (actually that’s a bad example – hubby is shouting somewhere in the background ‘I do!’)  What I’m saying is, mix it up a bit.  I try to have some meals with white meat, some with red, a couple of fish meals and maybe a vegetarian meal thrown in for good measure.  In the same way, I vary the carbs and the vegetables that I serve too.  Not so much that you’re buying 10 types of vegetables each week and only using half of each before they go off though!

5) Buy in bulk

There are two main reasons for this – practicality and cost. Generally speaking, the bigger the pack you buy, the less it will cost per unit and the less often you’ll have to replace it.  Now, if you’ve got a teeny tiny kitchen with no storage space, this may not be practical for you but buy the biggest that you can manage with the space that you have.  Multi-packs of those ingredients that you use a lot – perhaps tuna, baked beans or potatoes.

6) Cook in bulk

Doesn’t sound very attractive but you know what I mean.  Where possible (and where your freezer will allow for it) cook more than you need and then freeze portions for another day.  My freezer is mournfully small so I can’t do this as much as I’d like.  We do however, ALWAYS have some frozen foil containers of my hubby’s gorgeous ragu that he whips up every few months.  A great big, simmering pot that can be split into about 8 meals for 3 of us and probably works out at just pence for each.  Added bonus – it’s so satisfying to just grab something out of the freezer and have a delicious, homemade meal in half (in fact less) the time!

7) Get leftovers right

The chances are that you will be faced with leftovers at least once or twice during the week.  It’s a strange phenomenon that food, even food considered absolutely scrumptious at the first serving, will be regarded with scorn and distaste if it should reappear for a second mealtime.  There are a few ways to deal with this.  Possibly the most tempting (especially when faced with a kitchen to clear up) is to just throw it all in the bin and move on with your day (somewhere, my Mum has just felt a shiver down her spine).  I urge you to resist this temptation!  Think of the money AND effort spent on making the food and come up with a plan B.  Would it make a decent lunch to take to work or to eat at home while the kids are at school?  Perhaps it can be turned into a whole new meal?  Could it be frozen and then used at a later date?  Seriously, my Mum’s the queen of leftovers.  The woman can make one meal last a week.  Maybe I’ll ask her to do a guest post….

8) Save experiments for the weekend

I’m a big fan of variety and trying new recipes holds the same excitement for me as trying on new shoes does for other women (somehow the ‘shoe gene’ escaped me – although my eldest son must have it – at the age of about 4, we presented him with new shoes and his response was ‘new shoes? I want to sing and sing and sing!’ but I digress…).  If you’ve had a hard day at work or a stressful day with the kids, then the last thing you want to do is start trying to make something new.  It might go right, but it might not – you’re tired after all!  Keep the new stuff to the weekends when you’re relaxed and you have plenty of time.  If it’s a winner, then you can introduce it to your weekday repertoire.

9) Get the kids involved

So you’re tired and you just want to get the meal ready and have everyone sitting down as soon as humanly possible?  Then enlist help!  While you’re making the meal, perhaps someone could lay the table, or get the drinks or make a salad?  Obviously, this is only possible if your children are old enough to, you know, walk (if they’re not, then frankly, beans on toast is fast and both nutritionally and financially acceptable!)

10) One pot weekday supper wonders

One pot weekday supperYou can’t beat one pot meals.  Minimum preparation required, minimum washing up (or dishwasher loading), but maximum taste.  All those delicious flavours, mingling and enhancing each other.  Chuck some chicken thighs, some new potatoes and some red onion and peppers in a roasting tin.  Drizzle with oil, season and sprinkle with your favourite herb and then shove it in the oven.  Just enough time for a G&T while it cooks and then, DONE.  There are plenty of great one pot recipe books out there so if you’re lacking ideas then do not despair!  If you have a slow cooker, then even better!  You can shove everything in there, head off for the day and return to welcoming smells of supper that just needs serving and scoffing 🙂

Want more one pot inspiration?  Why certainly – here are some Delia Weekday Supper One Pots for you to try!

EXTRA BONUS POINT!

11) Keep in touch

I should add one more VERY important point and that is to keep following my blog for great recipe ideas.  If you have found this useful then please do like and share it.  If you haven’t already, then I’d love it if you subscribe to receive email updates when I add a new post.  I’ll try to keep them useful and interesting, I promise!  If they’re not – let me know what you would find useful and interesting and I’ll try my best to help.

 

Be a domestic goddess in 12 easy steps

Level up your Domestic Goddess skills in 12 easy steps…

I should begin by saying that I am NOT a domestic goddess and neither have I achieved all of the things on the list below.  Instead, these are the ideals to which I aspire while desperately trying to disguise my innate disorganisation.

1 – Give homemade gifts

Why would a domestic goddess have to buy her presents from M&S? Pinterest is a veritable gold mine of great ideas – why not type in ‘homemade gifts‘ and see what takes your fancy?

2 – Make your own strawberry jam & scones

Imagine how impressed your chums will be when they pop round for a cuppa and you present them with a warm scone, covered in sweet, sticky strawberry jam and a dollop of clotted cream?  I think it’s safe to say you will have made a friend forever.  Both are surprisingly easy to make – here are a couple of recipes to get you started…

domestic goddess

The perfect strawberry jam – Felicity Cloake

Devonshire Scones – Mary Berry

3 – Avoid clutter

Cunning use of cupboards and boxes can hide a multitude of sins. So what if you’ve just got back from work and haven’t had time to do a full spring clean? Just shove all the surface clutter in a cupboard and worry about it later. Ta da!

4 – Enlist your children

domestic goddess

Kids actually love to be helpful – especially if they get to feel a bit grown up too. Show them an everyday task (laying the table is a great one) and then get them to do it every day so it becomes their special job. When you have friends round you can breezily ask ‘Matilda darling, could you do the table please?’ and your guests will be secretly uber impressed with your angelic children and your obvious parenting prowess!  If you don’t have children of your own then don’t worry – just borrow the children of a friend and bribe them with sugary treats to obey your every command!

5 – Roast a good chicken

domestic goddess

There’s more than one way to roast a chicken (as they say!?)  Find one that you like and become well versed in it.  It’s hard to find a red blooded carnivore who doesn’t love a beautifully succulent and flavoursome roast chicken. Which brings me to my next point…

6 – Make your own stock!

Honestly, it’s incredibly easy – how tricky can it really be to boil up a load of stuff in a big pan and just leave it to work its magic? (Admittedly, I did once forget about mine and returned to what was a pint or 2 of chicken concentrate instead of the several litres of stock I had been intending…) but I digress! Imagine how satisfying to be able to smugly say ‘oh yes, I use my own homemade stock – it’s so much better than the shop bought stuff’. People will secretly hate you but what do you care? You have homemade stock!

Here’s a recipe to get you started..

Chicken Stock – Jamie Oliver

7 – Have cut flowers in the house

domestic goddess

Ideally, grow some beautiful varieties of flower in your garden so that you can cut these and have them in your house for free.  Alternatively, just buy a couple of cheap bunches (daffodils are always great value in Spring) and put them in whatever rooms your guests will be visiting (including the loos – what a lovely surprise for them!)

Not sure what to grow?  Don’t worry! Here’s a handy article to help you along..

Top 10 cut flowers to grow

8 – Have fun

No one wants to go to dinner at someone’s house to find they are clearly stressed and not enjoying themselves.  It doesn’t matter how good the food is if the host or hostess is on the edge of a breakdown! Plan ahead, keep it simple and remember they’re your friends and they don’t care if the cake didn’t rise properly or the gravy is a bit lumpy!

9 – Be thoughtful

‘Well, DUH!’ I hear you cry. Yes, it’s obvious – but I mean really think. Do you friends have everything they want or need. Does anyone look uncomfortable? Do they feel welcome? Have all the appropriate introductions been made? If someone feels either physically or mentally uncomfortable, then it doesn’t matter how delicious the food or how beautiful the surroundings, they won’t have a good time.

10 – Less is NOT more

domestic goddess

See what happens when the wine runs out?

It’s ALWAYS better to have too much than too little. No one wants to run out of wine half way through the night.

11 – Be a good guest

A domestic goddess is gracious in other people’s homes as well as their own. Always say something nice. It could be about how someone looks, the food, the décor – whatever strikes you.  Don’t be false and just say something for the sake of it though. There must be something you like. Find that and make sure you comment on it. Equally, if someone has been kind enough to invite you to their home, then thank them or they won’t invite you back!

12 – Make a good breakfast

brunch

I don’t know about you, but quite often when we have people for dinner, they will stay the night with us too.  It can be easy to focus all your attention on the feast you will serve for dinner and then wake up the next morning, tired and hungover, and realise that all you have to offer your guests are some Sugar Puffs and some mouldy bread… Breakfast doesn’t need to be complex to be lovely.  I love a good fry up as much as the next person, but why not be a bit different?  How about some pancakes with fresh strawberries and maple syrup? Or maybe some homemade granola with honey and Greek yoghurt?  Of course if it’s more of a brunch you’re serving then there’s nothing wrong with the hair of the dog and a good old Bloody Mary…  ‘Recipes?’ I hear you cry – but of course…

American pancakes – Nigella

Eggs Benedict – Delia

Bloody Mary – BBC, Andy Pearson

Granola  – Felicty Cloake

 So there you go – just 12 simple steps to follow to become a fully fledged domestic goddess. If you know any other poor, undomesticated women who are struggling to find their inner goddess, then be a friend and share these steps with them!

What do you think?

What tips do you goddesses (and gods!) out there have to share?  I’d love to hear from you!