2018: My New Years Resolutions

  • Read more.  Aim to read at least one book per month.  If you start a book, finish it.  Even if you don’t like it…
  • Write more.  You have such a creative mind, and you’re letting it go to waste.  Write at least one piece of poetry, and one short-story per month.  Get in to the habit of writing, then when you feel more confident, start writing that book…
  • Every night, write a bullet point list containing three things that you are grateful for on that day.
  • Teach Gning how to play chess and backgammon.  At least once a month, play a game of each.
  • Start keeping the house.  Properly.  No more “I’ll do it in a minute…” – if it needs doing, do it now.  Stop leaving everything until later – it’ll only pile up, and mean more work for you.
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Happy new year! It’s confession time…

Happy 2016 everyone!  I hope you all had an amazing Christmas, and a wonderful New Years Eve celebrations.

It was slightly different than the usual in the Insanely Normal household…  We went to my parents house for Christmas dinner, as usual, however, when we got there, my mum asked if I had any meat in our fridge…  I must have looked rather puzzled, as she quickly continued with, “we can’t have the meat that your dad bought, as it’s not ‘dinner meat'”.

My dad had bought a rather large Serrano ham full leg, and although it still had the trotter on, it looked rather tasty.  Dad had sliced the smallest amount off the ham on Christmas morning, to taste it.  To say he was disappointed was an understatement.  He described it more as a “tapas meat” – the type that you use to wrap the likes of asparagus, or the like.

I had to taste it, to see what the fuss was about.  Surely it couldn’t be that bad..?

Yep.  It was.  It was like chewing on the sole of an old pair of shoes…  I think it took me almost 5 minutes to chew, and swallow the smallest slither of ham.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the slice was about 1 inch by 1 inch, and was wafer thin.  Bleurgh.

So that was our Christmas dinner…  A plate full of veg.  Thank God mum had a packet of fresh beef meatballs in the fridge…  It was certainly different, and definitely one that will be remembered for many a year to come.

New Years Eve & Day came and went…  Again, we celebrated at my parents house.

Skip forward a couple of rather lethargic days, and we’re on today.  Sunday, 3 January 2016.

After church this morning, I made a big decision.  I would pull out everything that I have stored in the food cupboard, fridge and freezer, and make a stock-list.  I would then go on to prepare a meal plan.

I bet you’re waiting for the confession part..?  Afterall, that’s the title of this post, right?  Ok, here goes.

Hi.  My name is Barbara.  In my household, we waste A LOT of food.

I’m not just talking about filling the plates up too much, when dinner is made…  I’m talking about buying foodstuffs, putting them away in the cupboard / fridge / freezer, only to pull them out again several months later to chuck in the bin.  My decision to sort and plan meals would mean that we would not buy any more foodstuffs (other than bread, milk and fresh veg – when required) until the cupboard, fridge and freezer were completely empty.  I mean, we’re bound to save a few pennies there, right?

I seem to remember making a bit of a blog post about wasting eggs earlier on in 2015…

Back to the subject.

We have one of those fridge-freezer combis…  The freezer is constantly full, yet we barely dip in there.  Our fridge is practically empty, and although we do tend to fill it up completely once every 7-10 days, most of the fresh meat ends up in the freezer.  See a bit of a conveyor belt there?

As for our food cupboard, it is full.  Full of tins, packets, sachets…  Whenever we buy tins and / or packets, we place them in front of the items already in the cupboard.  Bad habit, I know.

Anyway, I pulled everything out, and made a few lists…

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The list above, on the right, is for “Donuts'” items.

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Although cleaning out the cupboards, fridge and freezer can be thought of as a rather daunting task, I did actually enjoy making a stocktake!

After the list making, it was time to create some form of meal plan.  I made up a quick template – listing the days (Mon-Sun) reading down the left hand side, and the week (1,2,3 and 4) across the top.  I would then have the hand-written lists of produce by my side, as I carefully planned meals.

At the end of the plan, I had proposed a plan, filling 21 days for main meals, using almost everything that I have already.

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The plan was then handed to hubby-dearest, to proof-read, and to give his opinion on.  I got the “go ahead” straight away, and the above is what we come up with.

The only thing that we’re thinking about now is, “what about lunches?

So, we’re altering the above – slightly.

We’re settled on all of the above as meals, but we’re now not limiting ourselves to only having (i.e.) fish, chips, peas & carrot on Saturday for our evening meal.  I mean, what is we want the pizza, topped with extra cheese for lunch on that day too?

So, what we have now is a list of meals.  Still, 21 items, but now this will more likely last us 10.5 days instead of 21 (accounting for 1 lunch and 1 evening meal a day).  Do you know what though?  I don’t mind.  The food quantity that we are stocking is still on the decrease, and hopefully, will not be wasted!

Let’s just say – it will now give me something to look forward to, and may even mean that we can experiment a little more, as we’re going to have a “blank canvas” every time we need to go food shopping.

We’ll see.

Homemade Cottage Pie – Pic Heavy x

I bought a 5kg sack of potatoes last week, and so far we’d only used a small handful out of it.  Usually when I buy spuds, they end up growing roots all over them, and sometimes I forget about them completely, and end up having to chuck them out.

I wanted to use up some of the potatoes, so I wandered around Asda earlier today, wondering what I could make with them.

There’s a shelf hidden away that stores all the reduced fresh foods…  The foods that have the “eat by” (todays) date on, and sometimes you can get a real bargain there.  In the past, I’ve managed to get a beautiful rump steak for only 60p!

Scouring the shelf this afternoon, I looked through the reduced fish, quiches, yogurts…  And there it was.  Hidden at the back, under a pile of macaroni cheese ready meals…  A 500g carton of lean beef mince.  It had a price tag of £4.99 on the carton, but a yellow sticker placed on top, saying £3.42.  Not a huge saving, but I was in a bit of a rush at this point.

The dilemma of what we were going to have for dinner was solved.  Cottage Pie.

Now, you may be surprised when I tell you that there are so many people out there who do not know the difference between a cottage and a shepherds pie (seriously – I’m not lying!!).

It’s easy to remember…  What do shepherds do?  They look after sheep!  A shepherds pie is made with lamb.  A cottage pie is beef.

So, here’s my take on the classic cottage pie.  It’s so family friendly, that even my 4 year old had seconds!!

Ingredients

Beef mince meat

Potatoes

Peas

Carrots

Beef gravy granules

Cheese (I used red Leicester)

BBQ sauce

Salt

Oil (for frying)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 200C (180C for fan assisted ovens), and get an ovenproof dish ready.
  • Peel and quarter your potatoes, then place them in a large pan.  Add a sprinkle of salt, and cover the potatoes with water.  Bring to the boil, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

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  • Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with a splash of oil in it.  I usually use my wok because of its’ size.  I love my wok, ha ha.  When the oil is almost bubbling, gently place the mince meat in to the oil, and separate with a wooden spoon / spatula.

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  • When the meat has all browned off, squirt a bit of barbecue sauce on top of the meat, and stir in well.
  • This is the part that I cheat on…  A little bit anyway.  Now you can do it with fresh peas and carrots, but due to a certain little man annoying me for his dinner, I opened a tin of petit pois and carrots and threw them in.

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  • Next up is to make yourself about 3/4 of a pint of gravy.  If you’ve never done this before (which I’m sure you have), simply add two large spoonfuls of gravy granules to a jug, and pour in boiled water, whisking constantly.  When you’ve made your gravy, pour it over the meat and veg, and stir thoroughly.

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  • As soon as the meat mixture has been stirred thoroughly, scoop in to an ovenproof dish, and set aside until you’re ready for the potatoes.

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  • Your potatoes should almost be done now.  To check if they’re ready, simply prod a couple with a fork, or knife.  If the utensil slips in to the potato easily, then they’re ready to be mashed.  Drain the excess water from the pan, add a big blob of butter (or marg), and attack it with your masher!

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  • When it’s all mashed, use a large metal spoon (or wooden – whatever you like) to scoop the potatoes on top of the meat mixture.

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  • Phew!  We’re almost there now…  If you haven’t already, now’s the time to get your cheese of choice grated.  When that’s done, sprinkle as much (or as little) as you want on top of the potatoes.

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  • Ok!  Be careful here, as I’m sure you’re aware; ovens are hot!!  Place your dish in the middle of the oven, and set your timer for 20 minutes.
  • It’s time for the waiting game now.  You can do whatever you want at this point.  I decided I was going to have a Diet Coke break (I have not been paid to advertise them, lol).

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  • What’s that I can hear?  It’s the timer!  It’s dinner time!!

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  • Enjoy!

Easy Peasy Oven Omelettes – Makes 12

I have fallen in to a bit of a trap.  I love having eggs in the house…  They always come in handy for last minute dinner ideas, or for baking; but for the past few months, whenever I buy eggs, I seem to forget about them.  Then, when I fancy one for brekkie (for example), I notice the date on them.  Well, being heavily pregnant, I daren’t eat an egg that’s out of date.

Anyway, the point I am getting to is to provide you with a really easy recipe and method to create these amazing little omelettes that you bake in the oven!  They’re fab for breakfast; lunch, served with a salad (or veg); or a side for your evening meal.  They’re great to eat hot or cold, so also great to pop in a lunch box for school / work.

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Easy Peasy Oven Omelettes

I had my little chef (my 3 year old little man) do this all by himself…  Well, apart from the oven and presentation parts.  And just look how great the omelettes turned out!  Absolutely delicious, and really light & fluffy too.

Ingredients

5 medium sized eggs

Good splash of milk

Salt & Pepper

Tinned Garden Peas (optional)

Cheese (use your favourite…  I used Red Leicester)

Method

1.  Preheat your oven to 210C (190C for fan assisted ovens).

2.  Grease a 12-piece cupcake tin with butter.

3.  Crack the eggs in to a mixing bowl, add the milk, and salt & pepper to taste.

4.  Using a hand whisk, or fork, mix the eggy liquid together until it all combines together nicely.

5.  Using some form of spoon (I gave my llittle chef a 1/4 cup measuring spoon to do this), scoop out the mixture in to the buttered cupcake tins.  Do not fill to the top…  Ensure you only fill to approx 3/4 of the way up the sides.

6.  Grate your cheese (if required), and add a pinch to each cupcake section.

7.  (OPTIONAL)  Add a pinch of the peas to each cupcake section…  My little chef added approximately 7 or 8 peas to each.

8.  Pop the tray in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

9.  When done, and when you remove the tray from the oven, you will notice that the omelettes will sink.  Don’t worry about this at all…  Use two forks, or a fork and a spoon to remove each mini omelette from the tin, and present any way you choose.

10.  Enjoy, and share the recipe!

Super Easy Homemade Veggie Soup – pic heavy

After being informed that I need to increase the iron in my diet, I decided that I would grab a few bags of pre-prepped veg from Asda.  It seemed like a good choice, so I got two bags of diced potatoes, and two bags of broccoli, carrots and sprouts.  We used one bag of the mixed veg, and one bag of potatoes on Saturday, to go with a pre-cooked chicken (also from Asda – we were having a bit of a lazy cooking day, ha ha).

When I got to the fridge, early this afternoon, there was lots in there to feed me, but I realised that I needed to get the veg eaten.

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So I decided to make a veggie soup in my slow cooker (please note that this recipe can also be made in a large pan (with lid), so if you don’t have a slow cooker / crock pot, don’t dismay!!).

Ingredients

Potatoes

Mixed veg

Gravy stock (veg / chicken stock works best, but I only had beef available)

Salt & pepper

Tabasco sauce

Method

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Gather all your veg and throw it all in to your slow cooker / pan.

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Make up your gravy stock, according to the instructions on the packet.  For me, I used four heaped teaspoons of the Bisto beef gravy granules, and topped up the jug with boiling water.  In reality, this wasn’t enough, and was really watery, but I knew that once the potatoes had cooked, and when everything had been blended together at the end, it would soon thicken up.

08 09 11Pour the gravy stock over the veg, and top up with kettle water, ensuring to ‘almost’ cover the veg completely.  Add a sprinkling of salt & pepper, and cover with a lid.

12 13Turn your slow cooker on to “HIGH”, and set your timer for 5 hours.

Alternatively, if you’re using the ‘pan on the hob’ technique, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for approximately 40 minutes.  After this time, check the sprouts (or potatoes) with a sharp knife…  The knife should slip right through the veg with no difficulty what-so-ever.

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When the veg is cooked right through, grab your hand blender, and blend, blend, blend!!  If you like your soup with a few ‘chunks’ of veg in it, just be sure not to blend the soup for too long.  Give it a stir every now and again until you get to the perfect consistency for you.

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Finally, add a splash (or two) of Tabasco sauce to taste, stir in to the soup, then serve.

Enjoy!

How to cook a Christmas Ham – Repost

We have decided that we are going to my parents house for Christmas this year, however I have opted to cook the meats.  This year, we have decided on a large ham joint, and a topside of beef.

As this post has been so popular in the past few days, I thought it only right to “repost” it, of a sort, and share how I make it.

My mum has bought a rather lean, 2.7kg (6lb) gammon joint.  I don’t bother to soak my ham before cooking.  The boiling part draws out the majority of the salt, so that’s all I need.  Here’s how to cook it:

Ingredients:

Gammon joint (size is up to you, but please follow the cooking schedule carefully)

5 tb sp Honey

1 tb sp Brown Sugar

Paprika

Black Cracked Peppercorns

3 sticks of celery (optional)

1l Apple Juice / Coca-Cola* / Cherry Coca-Cola* / Irn Bru

Water

Method:

1.  Place your ham ‘standing on one end’ in a large boiling pan.  Chuck in the celery sticks (if you wish).

2.  Pour 1l Apple Juice (or Coca-Cola or Cherry Coca-Cola) over the ham, and top up with water.  Make sure that the ham is fully covered.  This will be the first time I am using apple juice to boil the meat in…  Normally, it is recommended to use Cider, but I think as I am expecting, and we have a 3 year old, we’re substituting the alcoholic part for something as equally yummy.

3.  Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil.

4.  Once the meat has started to boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and follow the instructions for how long you need to set your timer for…

Weight Boiling Time
450g (1 lb) Allow 45 minutes
450g – 1.5 kg (1-3 lb) Allow 1 – 1 1/2 hours
1.2 – 2.7 kg (3-6 lb) Allow 30 minutes per 450g (1 lb)
2.7 – 4.5 kg (6-10 lb) Allow 3 – 3 1/2 hours
4.5 – 6.3 kg (10-14 lb) Allow 3 1/2 – 3 3/4 hours
6.3 – 8.1 kg (14-18 lb) Allow 3 3/4 – 4 1/4 hours
8.1 – 9.5 kg (18-21 lb) Allow 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 hours

Because my ham is a 2.7kg weight, I’m leaving mine for 3 hours.

5.  When your timer beeps, switch off the heat and remove the meat from the liquid (pour the liquid away – I know…  Such a waste).  It’s at this point that you need to set your oven to 190C /170C fan /gas 5.

6.  Pat dry the meat using some kitchen towels, and allow to cool slightly.  You don’t want to burn your fingers on the next part!

7.  Using a very sharp knife, remove the skin…  If your meat has a lot of fat, remove the majority, leaving a thin layer (approx 1/2cm).

8.  Place the ham into a aluminium / tin foil lined roasting tin and score the fat in a criss-cross, all over the top and sides.

9.  Now we need to mix the basting paste.  In a bowl, or jug, add the honey, brown sugar, 2 tsp Paprika powder and some black cracked pepper (to taste) and mix it all together with a fork.

10.  Using a basting brush or spoon, cover the mixture over the ham, ensuring to ‘get in the criss-crosses’.  Any left over honey mixture will not be used, so get rid of this.

11.  When the oven is preheated, place the ham (UNCOVERED!) in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes.

12.  Allow the ham to cool before carving…

If you’re like me, it’s best to leave it to cool completely.  I’m actually in the process of cooking my ham now (it’s in the pot, and the topside of beef is in the oven) for Christmas dinner tomorrow.  Yum yum…

Serve with whatever you like…  Potatoes, veg…  On a piece of bread…  On it’s own…  Oh my…  I’m drooling at the thought, and the smell.  Well, my house smells all Christmassy!

Merry Christmas everyone x

Does it work on little boys too..?

I’m a BzzAgent.  Don’t know what that is?  Well; I’m a member of a site called, BzzAgent.  Ha!  How ironic is that?  Ha ha…  Anyway, that means that every now and again, I take part in, what’s called, a campaign.  I receive a product to try, and I have to review and spread the word (whether it’s good, or bad) about the product.  Then, I have to feedback to the main website to say how I’ve spread the word.

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Click the bee to open the BzzAgent website in another tab

For this campaign, I am reviewing “Ariel 3in1 Pods”.

I’ve been using the Fairy gel for quite some time now, as I think the gel products are brilliant.

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However, before I had even signed up to this campaign, I was already on the lookout for something new…  Although Fairy tackled the stains, the smell was rather off-putting.

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I was so excited when I received my Ariel 3-in-1 pods through the post.  I was so excited, that I couldn’t wait for the campaign to start, so I immediately opened one of the boxes, and ‘popped the pod’ directly in to the drum of my full washing machine.

I don’t normally pay attention to what washing powders / gels / tablets look like, but these were really fun to look at.  A little clear pouch, with 3 compartments, each with a different coloured ‘gel’ inside.  I almost burst one through excitement, as I just couldn’t help but ‘squish’ them, haha.

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After the washing machine ‘clicked’, we opened the door.  Oh my word. The smell that escaped with the heat and steam was just amazing.  It not only smelled clean and fresh, but it smelled absolutely divine…  I just can’t describe it.

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As you all know, I have a (now) two year old boy, and he is always getting his clothes covered in food, drinks, mud, crayons…  Anything he can get his hands on.  This little tiny pod had no problem what-so-ever in removing all of those difficult stains, and his clothes looked like new again.

I will definitely be switching from Fairy to these Ariel pods in the future, and the best of all? I still have a few vouchers left, after handing them out to family, to stock up too 🙂

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Overall rating 10/10.  Highly recommended to everyone.