Monday, 30 May 2011

Meal Planning

All the food blogs I read agree: meal planning is the way to go if you want to avoid food waste, daily shopping trips, lack of inspiration and general cooking malaise.

For the last few weeks I've been kicking around an idea for a meal planner that takes a list of possible meals, along with a points value based on healthiness, ease of cooking and opinion (so for example something that is complicated, unhealthy and not really popular would get three points, whilst something that is quick, healthy and delicious would get one) and then generates a weekly meal plan with a maximum of fifty points per week, ten per day.

That was the plan. When I sat down at my computer to create the spreadsheet I had envisaged, I hit a problem. I had absolutely no idea how to do it.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week: Sunday Lunch

Sunday lunch is such a traditional British meal: a roast joint of meat, roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy. But it isn't just meat eaters who can enjoy a traditional Sunday meal. My mum and I are both vegetarian, my stepdad a meat eater, and we eat a Sunday lunch every week.

A winter-time Sunday lunch (sprouts and parsnips)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Leek and Mushroom Pie

This pie is one of my mum's recipes, and I hadn't actually tried making it before, but it's so simple to do and you can change it to any other vegetable and it'd work fine! Sorry for the poor picture quality, this was taken after a night in the fridge and it looks a little sad.

Friday, 27 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Macaroni Cheese

I've been wanting to try this recipe since before I bought my rice cooker, but my family are not big pasta eaters apart from me, so it's taken until now to get round to it (and I'll probably end up eating it myself for the next four days).

Macaroni and cheese has become such an incredibly American food that I bet some people wouldn't even think of it as being Italian, but it is! It's thought to be medieval in origin, and was a very upper class dish! I wonder what Kraft Foods would make of that?

Anyway this meal didn't really bear much resemblance to the bright yellow powder of the instant packets or the cheese and pasta casserole of medieval Italy, but it was delicious nonetheless.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Home-made Pizza

Pizza is one of the country's favourite foods (I've got no statistics to back that up with, but I'm sure it's true) and it's one of my favourites too! When I go out to a restaurant I usually just order a margarita, or maybe a mushroom if I'm feeling particularly wild, but at home we like to pile our pizzas high.

My piece of the finished product - we bake square pizzas

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Vegetable Curry

Today's recipe isn't a recipe exactly, because it is a great way to use up left-overs! The vegetables in this curry were cooked on Sunday – half were roasted for our Sunday dinner (more about that at the end of the week) and half were boiled and kept in the fridge.
So, left-over vegetable curry. I cheat and use a jar of curry paste, because frankly life is too short to be mixing your own.

It wasn't as orange as this in real life! Not far off though.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Pasta Bolognese

I really love pasta. Filled pasta with a creamy sauce, macaroni cheese, spaghetti, gnocchi, any kind of pasta with any kind of topping. One of my no-time-to-cook standbys is pasta with tomato ketchup and grated Cheddar (but don't tell anyone, it's my shameful secret).

Vegetarian bolognese with tricolore pasta

Monday, 23 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom risotto is one of my favourite meals, both to eat and to cook. I love it because it's got a reputation for being difficult but - here's a secret I don't tell everyone - it is so easy.

The recipe I use comes from Vegetarian Kitchen by Sarah Brown, but I have adapted it for use in my rice cooker, which makes it easier than ever. If you don't have a rice cooker (and aren't tempted to buy one after my glowing recommendations) then you can still make this with a few small adaptations.

I'll admit, I was so hungry I forgot to take a photo until I'd eaten some

National Vegetarian Week Starts Here!

Let's get cooking!
It's officially the first day of National Vegetarian Week. Here in my corner of the UK it's a wet, grey day without anything much to inspire people to cook but that's ok, you can get your inspiration right here in the warmth of your own home!

I've been pre-preparing some of my recipe posts, because whilst we do eat vegetarian meals every day, not all of them are very interesting - some nights we have fried eggs, baked beans and chips, some nights we just boil a load of vegetables and eat them with a baked potato. The first recipe will be published shortly and it's one of my favourites...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Packing Lunches, Part Two

Last time I spoke about how my mum's idea of a packed lunch was sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a slice of cake or fruit loaf. This is basically what I took to school with me as a child, except I didn't normally get the cake - and the bread we ate then was the heavy, wholemeal, home-made bread which I hated. Usually my lunch came home with me, uneaten.

I know lunches can be more exciting than this, because I read blogs about them. All over the blogosphere there are women, and some men, creating interesting packed lunches for themselves and their children. This blog began as an attempt to emulate them, but quickly ran out of steam because I didn't really have any need to make a packed lunch while I was at university.

The Water Challenge is Over!

Friday the 20th May finally arrived and the water challenge finally finished! The thing is, I wasn't actually all that bothered. I was aware of the date and I mentioned its significance to a colleague (more on that in a minute) but I still reached for my water bottle when I was thirsty and at dinner I drank water out of habit.

Half way through the meal I suddenly thought "I can drink squash again!" and I sprang up to fetch the bottle of summer fruits squash which has been patiently waiting on the countertop for the last four months - my parents don't drink it, so while I was in France it was untouched and of course I started the water challenge as soon as I got back.

It was vile. Too sweet, too strong, even with added water to dilute it I didn't want it. My mum noticed my look of horror and laughed at me. My stepdad pointed out that I'd just eaten a sticky treacle pudding, which was so sweet itself that the squash didn't stand much of a chance, but I think the fact of the matter is that I've gone off the taste of sweet, sugary drinks forever. As I said at the table, only half in jest, what have I done?!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week

National Vegetarian Week
National Vegetarian Week has been around for almost a decade, and this year it falls on the 23rd-29th May. Of course, for me every week is vegetarian week, but I still enjoy the buzz and all the recipes, events and information packs which come with the official event.

Packing Lunches, Part One

I've recently started volunteering at the same place my mum works, so we've been travelling in and out together and also meeting for lunch. She is an early riser and I am very much not, so while I'm dragging myself out of bed and trying to wake up, she packs our lunches.

It's a good arrangement because at that time of the morning I would probably forget that lunch even existed, but the problem is that my mother is of the "lunchtime means sandwiches" school of thought, and I am of the "sandwiches are boring" school of thought. It doesn't help that we rarely have anything more exciting that cheese to put into them. I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade her to include left-overs from the previous day.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Water Challenge Update - Nearing the End

It's ten days until the end of my one-month water challenge and I thought it'd be good to update on how it's been going. There hasn't been a single mishap - which I put down to the fact that I've allowed myself a hot chocolate in the evenings if my parents are having one and I'm sitting with them. This might seem like it's rather ruining the point of the challenge but the fact is that until I started doing this, I would drink fruit squash, fruit juice or hot chocolate whenever I was thirsty, and if I was out in town I would buy a fizzy drink. Now, I'm drinking water for 90% of my drinks and that one hot chocolate is a luxury instead of a habit.
Image by DeathByBokeh used under Creative Commons Licence