Monday, 15 April 2013

We're Moving!

I've been thinking about this for a while but finally decided to do it today: I have transferred this blog over to Wordpress, which is where my day-to-day journal-style blog is housed. I prefer the interface, and it makes sense to me to keep both my blogs together. I have also moved all of the blogs I was formerly following on blogger over to Wordpress, so if you have recently acquired a new follower then it might well be me!

The new address, unsurprisingly, is I hope you'll come and join me over there! You can still follow me through your blogger dashboard if you want to, but there is also a Wordpress reader which I personally find easier to use.

Meal Planning Monday - 15th April

It's the last full week of the Easter vacation, finally! I am falling apart without any kind of structure to my days here - today I woke up at 12.35pm having stayed up late writing my dissertation. I go away for the weekend on Friday morning so I only have a few days to plan for.

Meal Planning Monday

Today - vegetarian chili. I found this hidden in the freezer; I made it in January!
Tuesday - dinner with my friends from chapel, for which I'll be making a fruit crumble.
Wednesday - tortilla spinach pie with scalloped potatoes.
Thursday - mushroom and pea risotto.

On Sunday evening I'll finish up any leftovers, as we'll be having a big lunch before heading back from the weekend away.

For dessert I have most of a chocolate cola cake which I spontaneously made on the evening of the cookathon, and any fruit crumble that doesn't get eaten (I highly doubt there will be any left though!).

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Fruits of the Cookathon

I have to admit, I wasn't sure I would do it. I had a horrible feeling that the enthusiasm for marathon cooking sessions might fade overnight and I wouldn't get to the supermarket, or even worse I would buy all the ingredients and then lose interest until they had all gone mouldy.

But none of those things happened, thank goodness. Just under an hour of shopping followed by four and a half hours of cooking, washing up, portioning out and clever rearrangement of the freezer and I now have food for at least the next month.

Advance warning for those of you who haven't already glanced further down the post: my digital camera is broken and taking photos with it is an exercise in guesswork that I couldn't face, so instead I snapped some pictures using my truly appalling phone camera.

Spinach and mushroom lasage
The spinach and mushroom lasagne took the longest to make, both in terms of oven time (about three quarters of an hour) and also preparation. I bought a kilo of frozen spinach from the supermarket, since the market stall I usually shop at didn't have any spinach at all, and its neighbour only had overpriced bunches flown in from Spain. This meant I had to defrost the spinach before I could even start, but I spent the time wisely by standing and stirring continuously as directed by the cheese sauce mix packet, instead of leaving it to burn onto the base of the pan as I might have done in the past... The lasagne divided into six, and I had to freeze it in doubles with a piece of kitchen foil dividing the slices as I am totally out of plastic storage boxes, even after buying an extra ten this morning.

At the same time, I also made some scalloped potatoes, which is basically just cheese sauce and slices of potato, but it is still cooking in my slow cooker. I'll add photos at a later date if it seems worth doing, but I suspect you can imagine what slices of potato covered in cheese sauce would look like.

Baked macaroni and cheese
 The macaroni and cheese was made properly from scratch, rather than using a cheese sauce mix, partly because I had run out of packet mixes and partly because I felt ashamed of my laziness and the recipe looked fairly easy to follow. The recipe called for 450g of grated cheese. I did not use 450g of cheese, and not just because I didn't actually have 450g of cheese but also because no one needs that much cheese. I think in the end I used about 300g. There was so much mac and cheese that it was baked in two casserole dishes and produced six portions of the cheesiest macaroni I have ever tasted (definitely no need for the remaining 150g of cheese!).

Tortilla spinach pie
This was rather a wild-card recipe that sounded like an interesting way to use up my remaining spinach. It's a flour tortilla sprinkled with grated cheese and a layer of spinach, then a bit more cheese and finally a mixture of egg, milk, crushed garlic and a pinch of salt. The recipe also suggested all kinds of other spices which I didn't have, and in one case had never heard of, but I didn't bother with those. It looks good, apart from the singedness of the tortilla. It should have been round, but the mac & cheese pilfered the second round casserole. I divided this into six as well.

Portioned out and ready for the freezer

Every time I cook a big batch of food I'm convinced that I will never be able to fit it into the freezer. Today I was genuinely worried that there wouldn't be room for even half of it, and there really isn't any room for the potato bake, but somehow I managed to rearrange everything and cram the new boxes in with millimetres to spare. The only casualty was a single serving of chilli which I made in February and which is now defrosting in the fridge to be dinner at some point in the next few days. The potato bake might have to be kept in the fridge and eaten fairly soon because there absolutely isn't space for it now.

Once I've made a bit of a dent in the current contents of the freezer, probably by eating up a few of the more processed things like potato waffles and Quorn fillets, I will cook a batch of spaghetti "meat"balls as I have some blue cheese maturing in the fridge, and maybe a shepherd's pie. Thankfully the "meat"balls and meatfree mince are already in the freezer, so it will be more a case of replacing than trying to find additional space.

The final thing I cooked today was a miniature fruit crumble. I discovered that I had an entire crumble's worth of topping frozen in the "spare crumble topping" tub but only a handful of frozen berries and not another piece of fruit in sight, so I just did a single serving in one of my dinky little individual pie dishes and ate it for lunch with the leftover cream from the mac and cheese sauce. I'm looking forward to making a rhubarb crumble soon, the first local stems have appeared on my favourite market stall but I (thankfully!) decided not to bother today.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Optimistic Cooking Plans for Saturday

For some reason I have been overwhelmed with the desire to cook lots of new recipes. Today I attempted to make spinach lasagne, only to discover that the spinach I defrosted far too far in advance had gone brown and icky. Feeling rather disgusted with myself, I had to chuck the whole packet into the bin.

So tomorrow bright and early I'm off into town to restock and then coming back for a morning of cooking. One of the things I'll need to buy is another ten plastic storage tubs, as I've filled almost all of mine already - in lieu of the lasagne I make a delicious sausage casserole, and I've also made two Quorn, mushroom and leek pies in the last week. Along with the usual bolognese sauce, pasta bakes and other items already in the freezer, that's about used up the supply.

New to the menu next term, assuming tomorrow goes to plan:
  • Baked macaroni and cheese
  • Spinach tortilla pie
  • Spinach and mushroom lasagne
  • Slow-cooker scalloped potatoes
  • Fruit crumble (I had a dream about rhubarb the other day, but I think it will be a mixed berry crumble)
Once that lot's done, I have a couple more things to make, namely "meatballs" and spaghetti sauce and a shepherd's pie, and then I should be set until June. I need to beware of cooking too much, since in a couple of months I'll be moving a hundred miles north and I doubt my frozen meals would survive the journey!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Three Things In My Fridge

I was just reading this post about three things which are always in the author's fridge, and it got me thinking. Now, if I were to answer that question it would be very boring. The three things which are always in my fridge are milk, cheddar and olive oil spread, and sometimes I run out of one of those. I just did a quick count and my fridge currently contains fourteen items: milk, mayonnaise, cheddar, tomatoes, mushrooms, olive oil spread, eggs, mayonnaise, two types of jam, honey, lemon juice, tomato ketchup and some cranberry sauce left over from Christmas. I consider that fairly well-stocked.

Don't forget, I also have a freezer. That's where most of my food is: already cooked and portioned, ready to be defrosted and heated up each evening. Things which don't need to be kept cold live in the kitchen cupboard. I'm not starving to death by any means.

But I do wish I had more food in my fridge, because that would also imply that I had more people eating it, and more time to cook it. I would love to have a fridge bursting with fresh vegetables, left-overs from last night's dinner, snacks and treats and things that will get eaten before they become sentient. A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about my short-, mid- and long-term goals and realised that they can all be summed up by the desire for a kitchen. Short-term, a kitchen with fewer than 14 people using it. Mid-term, a kitchen with just me and my family using it. Long-term, the kitchen of my dreams. All my other hopes and ambitions are embodied in those dreams.

The empty fridge, though, is an even more clear image of things I'm looking forward to changing in future. My approach to meals is keeping me healthy and nourished while I'm busy with other things, but I do get a bit tired of the sameness of eating from a necessarily limited selection of meals. There's only so much space in the freezer, and it makes sense to cook large batches of the same thing.

In three weeks, term ends and I will have a little more breathing space. I'm planning on making another lasagne or several, and a couple more pies, because those were delicious. I've got some interesting recipes lined up to try out and a few old favourites will be sticking around (spaghetti with "meat"balls and blue cheese is still one of my favourite meals). I will still not be able to spend an hour cooking each night, preparing vegetables and cooking sides to go with my main course, because at that rate I'd not be eating before 9pm. Student life is a funny old business.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Just a thought...

This whole horsemeat scandal is making me feel incredibly glad to be vegetarian. I mean, I don't have the first clue what's in my Quorn mince, but I don't think it ever trotted round a field.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

What's Cooking This Week

My freezer stash, which began the year heaving with lasagna, pie, bolognese and "meat"ball sauce, was starting to look a little sad. I've had a productive work week so far, so I took the evening off to tackle a couple of big cooking projects.

A few days ago I had set my slow cooker to work on a batch of curry, so I was already off to a good start with four portions of Quorn, potato and lentil curry (the ingredients are what I happened to have lying around). At the weekend my mum came to visit and brought with her a packet of meatball pasta bake mix, which I immediately began to crave. As luck would have it, I had both a bag of soya meatballs in the freezer and a box of pre-cooked pasta in the fridge, which I had taken out intending to eat it for lunch and fortunately forgotten.

I also wanted to make another batch of Quorn chasseur, as I had quite a lot of Quorn fillets and two packets of the sauce mix, so I tackled the two at once. It worked surprisingly well - the chasseur takes an hour to cook and the pasta bake only 25 minutes, so I managed to cook, eat, portion out the leftovers and clean up before it was time to get the casseroles out of the oven. People were coming in and out of the room to prepare their own dinner; it's always nice to have the chance to chat to my neighbours as we stir and chop.

Tonight's main topic of conversation was the kitchen food thief, who has been raiding people's cupboards - so far a bag of rice and a jar of pesto have been taken (whoever it is is very brazen - the stolen pesto was discovered, open, in the communal fridge). We aren't sure who it is, but I have suspicions. I'm not quite sure what we can do about it, other than locking our cupboards and hiding everything away. It's very depressing not to be able to trust people.

Anyway, everything went to plan this time (no melted plastic layer on top of the casserole) and I now have another eleven meals frozen away. On Friday my dad and his partner will be visiting and I will be using up the remaining Quorn fillets for fajitas, using the seasoning mix that came free in my Good Food Show goodie bag. On Saturday we're off to a food fair at a local farm, which promises to be delicious - and also provides a goodie bag to take home! I love freebies, they often inspire me to try new recipes and have even introduced me to some new brands once or twice.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Lunch: Still my Downfall

I originally started this blog as a way to motivate myself to eat more interesting lunches, or just more lunches in general. It has spiralled off into being a more general food blog, and I honestly think it has been part of the reason that I have taken far better control over my diet and learnt to cook, meal plan and shop.
But lunch is still my nemesis. Every day, I still sigh and think "what on earth am I going to have for lunch?". There are days, like today, where I have toast because I can't think of anything else, or I don't have any other food.
Once again I'm making an effort to get lunch under the same control as the rest of my life. My approach to dinner has been fairly successful, so I shall employ it again for the middle of the day: cooking ahead, and freezing portions to defrost.
So far my lunch ideas for the freezer include pasta salad, egg mayo rolls, cheese and tomato wraps and potato salad. I'm also thinking about soup in a mug sachets, and tins of soup, and some pita breads to fill with cheese and Marmite - a childhood favourite and fairly simple to make.
Armed with a shopping list, I'm off into town to stock up on lunch foods... again.