Monday, 11 November 2013

Menu Monday

It’s Menu Planning Monday again even though we plan our menu from Sunday. We are trying to clean out the freezer and the cupboards in order to prepare for the move at the end of the month so not a lot of fresh cooking going on as I use up the frozen meals I have saved.

Sunday is movie night so we have nibbles or something easy we can eat while watching the movie. This week we watched the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie while eating Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches and Tortilla Chips with Salsa. To make the Buffalo Chicken I just baked some breaded chicken tenders (goujons) in the oven then put the sauce on them for the last 10 minutes or so of baking. I used Discovery brand Buffalo Wing Sauce but you can use what ever you like. I served them on hard rolls with Caesar dressing.

Monday is crock pot cooking night and this week I have made a beef and vegetable soup using up leftover bits of beef stock/au jus I had in the freezer. I added frozen mixed vegetables and some Scotch Broth soup mix (a dried mix of barley, marrowfat peas, and lentils). We are having it with French bread which I also had in the freezer.

Tuesday we are having Chilli Dogs using up leftover Chilli I have in the freezer. We top it with cheese and onions and will have chips (French Fries) on the side.

Wednesday I am making French Toast (Eggy Bread) with scrambled eggs and pineapple slices. A friend of mine and Larry’s, who recently went to visit his sister in Canada, brought us back some Maple Syrup and I have been dying to make something we can put it on.

Thursday will be Chicken and Peppers with Black Bean sauce which I made a few weeks ago and froze. I will add some more (fresh) peppers to give it crunch and serve it over rice.

Friday will be leftovers night and Saturday is date night so Larry and I will go out for dinner and the boys will eat at their Dad’s.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Holidays and Catch up

It has been ages since I have updated the blog, I have been crazy busy (aren’t we all?). This summer we went back to the States and did some touristy things. My Dad and his wife drove us from Oklahoma to Wisconsin by way of Saint Louis, Missouri, where we went to the Budweiser Brewery and to the Gateway Arch. We then made a stop at Springfield, Illinois where we saw Lincoln’s family home (before he went to Washington) and the Route 66 Museum. We spent some time in Wisconsin just chilling and visiting with family and then it was on to Chicago for the educational stuff, i.e.; the History Museum and the Planetarium. We ended the trip in NYC where we went to the Native American Museum, did the Water Taxi tour and spent as much time as we could on 42nd Street. Larry and I loved it so much that we plan to go back again and stay right down-town.

I've managed to get a great job which I love! I did a three week temporary contract which led to a full time position as a Legal Secretary. It is a great job that keeps me busy both physically and mentally. Everyone I work with is really nice and, since it is a small firm, it is like a big family. The only down side is we are not allowed to use Facebook or write/update any blogs using their computers and they don’t have WiFi so I can't do it on my phone. I have found my way around the blog thing by typing it up as a word document, on my lunch break, and then emailing it to myself to upload once I am home. Hopefully this way I can keep up on the blog and not go so long between posts.

The other big news is that Larry and I are in the process of buying a house. The mortgage has been approved so now it is just a matter of waiting for the loan papers to get to our Solicitor. We are planning to move in the last week of November and I will put up lots of pictures then.

So, this is just a short update to get you all back into the loop. I promise not to stay away so long again! I hope you are all well and happy. Keep warm!
Route 66!

Here are some pictures from our holiday for you to enjoy.

The Lincoln House in Springfield Illinois
A Budweiser Clydesdale Horse

The View from the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis Missouri

This is us at the bottom of one of the legs of the Arch.
The sign from little tavern in Dundee, Wisconsin
They sold UFO beer.
Just a shot of the sea of humanity, on 42nd Street, going nowhere.
Yes, we ate here!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Holiday Fun

As you read this we are on our way to the great USA. We flew out of Edinburgh Airport (barring any delays of course) this afternoon. We will have a very short layover in Amsterdam and then it will be on to Minneapolis/Saint Paul where we have an overnight layover. We've booked a hotel with a pool so we plan to have dinner, take a walk and relax. Larry has never been to the States so everything we see and do will be new to him.  

Minneapolis/Saint Paul

Our morning flight to Oklahoma City leaves pretty early so we will be there by lunch time. My daughter, Leah, will be meeting us at the airport and I can't wait! While in Oklahoma we will be very busy but I hope we can get to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I am really happy to be in the US for the Fourth of July this year because for some reason it just isn't a big deal here in the UK. I can't understand why, you would think they would celebrate being rid of us! We have a family party on Friday, with a big barbecue afterwards at my brother and sister  in law's house. My brother is a fabulous cook so I know everything is going to be beyond delicious!  It will be the first time my brother, my sister and I will be in the same place, with our parents, in probably six years or so. It will also be the first time in at least three years that all of my children will be in the same place at the same time. 

We will be leaving OKC on Monday and driving back to Wisconsin with my Dad and his wife, Linda. Well, Larry and I are riding with them, Cameron and Connor will be driving back with my eldest son, Collin, and my sister, Kaye. We are going to be travelling by way of Saint Louis, Missouri, so Larry can see the Gateway Arch

When Larry and I planned this trip, I asked  him for a list of what he considered his must see places. He picked Chicago and NYC, of course, and locally to Wisconsin, Title Town Brewing, in Green Bay, and Eddie's Alehouse and Eatery, in Sun Prairie. Because we spent so much time in OKC, we only have a few days in Wisconsin so that we can do Chicago and NYC.  We will be spending two nights in Chicago, and then heading to NYC where we will also be spending two nights. From NYC we will head back home. We don't really have set itineraries for those two cities yet, we will work on that later. 

It's a whirlwind of a trip, considering everything we want to do. I don't know how much blogging I will get to do while I am on holiday but I will definitely do multiple posts about the trip when I get back. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Monday Meal Planning

This week is going to be crazy busy. We are leaving for our summer holiday (back to the US for three weeks) on next Monday. I have to pack, which means going through everybody's clothes to see what we have and what is (still) needed, and making sure no one wears anything they want to bring after Thursday because Friday is the last laundry day before we go. I have to clean the house from top to bottom, not only because we are giving Larry's mum keys to the flat so she can keep an eye on it while we are gone and I don't want her thinking she needs to do anything, but also because we have a terrible damp/mould problem in our bathroom and the contractor is supposed to come sort it out while we are gone. We arranged it for then so it won't matter if they have to tear the bathroom apart and it is unusable for any amount of time. 

It's meal planning Monday and the meals this week are planned to use up what I have on hand as well as keeping leftovers to a minimum. So, tonight we are having grilled lamb chops that I marinated in some of my home made salad dressing. As a side, I am going to make a baked mashed potato casserole to use up some potatoes and bacon I have in the fridge. Basically it's twice baked potatoes, but in a dish. Just make some mashed potatoes, using your favourite recipe, add some cooked, crumbled bacon, sour cream, and some grated sharp cheddar cheese, spread into a greased baking dish and then top with some more grated cheese, bake until hot all the way through. You can add chopped green onion or anything else you want. We will have a green salad with this to use up the rest of the dressing. 

Tuesday is fish day and I have some tuna steaks in the freezer.  I am going make a spicy grilled tuna and serve it with spinach and fried potatoes, made using some boiled potatoes I have left over from making the baked potato salad last week. I have some strawberries (400 grams) I got on sale so I am going to slice them up and add some balsamic vinegar (@ 1/4 cup or 60 ml) mixed with honey (@  1.5 tablespoons) and a grinding of fresh black pepper. You can serve this with good vanilla ice cream or plain Greek yoghurt, it is delicious. I know it sounds weird but be brave and try it.

Wednesday I am making home made bagel dogs. I am going to make a few changes by skipping the seeds on the outside and putting a slice of smoked Bavarian cheese on top of the hot dog before I wrap it up in the bagel dough. We will have these with oven fries and sautéed green beans. 

Bagel dogs, recipe and photo courtesy of
Circle B Kitchen
Thursday we are having egg and chorizo wraps.  To make them I fry up some sliced chorizo sausage and diced onions add beaten eggs, 2 per person, and cook until the eggs are cooked through. Serve on tortillas/wraps with grated cheddar cheese and salsa. I am going to serve carrot sticks with these.

Friday will be whatever is left in the fridge/freezer.  Larry's mum is coming by to pick up keys and spend time with us before we go so I will try to make something nice but it will just be using up bits of this and that, most certainly involving eggs. I'll keep you posted on what it turns out to be.  

The weekend is going to be meals out because we won't be home at all. It is the nineteenth annual Dundee Blues Bonanza. It's three days of fabulous music with musicians coming from all over the world and not to be missed (by us anyway). Larry and I went last year and we had a great time. We hope to see some of the same acts as last year and maybe find some new ones to add to our list of favourites. Part of the fun is in seeing various friends every where we go. Last time there were people we knew at each of the venues and I would expect it to be the same this time. Last year we had to cut our Sunday fun short because Larry had to work on the Monday. This year we can dance into the wee hours because, while we do have to be up early for our ride to the airport, we can sleep all day on the plane if we need/want to. My plan is to have everything packed and ready to go except for the last minute things, like toiletries and meds, by Friday night so the weekend is free for fun. Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Where's the baby?

Look at those eyes!

Sixteen years ago today I gave birth to my youngest child. I can't believe how fast the time has gone! Being the youngest of a large group of (mostly) doting siblings, Connor was very spoiled. Despite the dire warnings and predictions of many, he has grown out of this and become a caring, sensitive and thoughtful young man. I am so proud of him. He has the best sense of humour and really enjoys a dry wit.  He has made me laugh so much, the best part is when he is making a joke but trying not to laugh himself, he cracks us both up.  He gets such a goofy grin on his face when he does that.

The Cheeto King
Connor would do anything for a Cheeto or two.

The (American) Football picture was taken in 2010 and the final picture was taken last November.  Quite a change . . .

As mentioned in my last post, the birthday person gets to pick the menu for the day. Connor has chosen spicy chicken wings, baked potato salad and brownies. I am throwing in some salad (his choice) just to make the meal a bit healthier. As promised, here is the brownie recipe. These are thick and fudgey, not cakey, and are really yummy.

Fudge Brownies

Preheat oven to 350f or 175c
lightly butter an 8x8 or 9x9 tin

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup golden castor sugar (or regular white sugar is fine too)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter, melted, or oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, stir together, cocoa powder, sugar and butter/oil. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla. In a small bowl sift together the remaining ingredients. Add to the bowl of liquids, stirring just until mixed in, do not over mix! Spread in prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted near the centre comes out with just a bit of crumb and not wet. You can add chocolate chips or whatever you want to the batter, and/or top these with frosting or powdered sugar after baking, but Connor prefers them unadulterated, with a side of ice cream, and since it is his birthday, he wins. Also, this recipe is easily doubled and baked in a 9x13 baking dish, adding a few minutes to the baking time. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

This week's menu.

It's meal planning Monday so here is this week's menu. We are getting ready to go away for three weeks in July so I am trying to use up what we have in the house so the fridge will be as empty as possible.  I'm also giving up on most desserts between now and then.  I have lost enough weight (finally all the holiday weight has come off) that my dress for the wedding fits and I don't want to sabotage that with extra baking.  

Monday we are having chicken enchiladas made using leftover chicken from our roast chicken last Thursday. I will slice up some bananas and mix them with cinnamon for a side dish.  

Tuesday, Cameron is bringing his girlfriend, Magda, over for tea. We always have fish on a Tuesday so I am making Basa Fish Cakes to serve with salad and boiled red potatoes. The original recipe for this came from Curtis Stone and Cole's.

Wednesday is Connor's 16th birthday. The birthday person always gets to pick the menu on their day so we are having spicy chicken wings, Rachel Ray's Loaded Baked Potato Salad and green beans. This is the only potato salad that Connor will eat and we owe our love for this recipe to my Mom. I cut the recipe in half because the original makes enough for a small crowd.  This is not a low calorie recipe but it certainly is a treat!  We will be having brownies, per Connor's request, for dessert. I'll give you the recipe for them on Wednesday.

Thursday the boys are eating at their Dad's so Larry and I will just have a nice big Greek salad. I make my own dressing and you can find the recipe here. I use a combination of whatever vinegars I have on hand so don't be worried if you don't have exactly what I used in the original recipe. This most recent batch has apple cider vinegar and balsamic.  I also used some oil, and added some cheese, from a jar of seasoned feta cheese cubes instead of the usual olive oil. To make the salad I just put a big serving of mixed greens in a bowl and top with whatever vegetables/pickled vegetables I have on hand.  This time it will be tomato, red onion, green and black olives, pickled hot peppers, shredded cheddar and parmesan cheeses and croutons. Simple but delicious.

Friday will be the usual baked beans on toast. I know, we eat it every week but we never tire of it. 
I've not planned anything for the weekend yet because it depends on what we have for leftovers.  

Monday, 10 June 2013

Menu Monday

It's Menu Planning Monday again. Seems like we just did this last week . . . oh wait . . . we did . . .

We are having a pretty easy week, meal wise. Today we had croissants with ham and cheese omelettes on them. We had sliced apples and grapes as a side. Tuesday is fish night and we will be having fish cakes with mushy peas and chips. Wednesday we are having spaghetti and Italian meatballs that I had in the freezer with some garlic toast and salad. Thursday will be roast chicken with roasted balsamic sweet potatoes and a green salad. I plan to add some chunks of onion and carrot to the sweet potato recipe. Friday will be beans on toast. Sunday is Father's Day so my boys will be having dinner with their Dad which means Larry and I will just have leftovers.

Roasted Balsamic Sweet Potatoes
photo and recipe courtesy of
Rufus' Food and Spirit Guide

Monday, 3 June 2013

Menu Planning Monday

It's menu planning Monday again. I love to try new recipes and this week has two new recipes and three tried and true favourites.

Toad in the Hole (recipe found here, at the bottom of this previous post). Requested by Larry, who rarely asks for anything specific, so it is my great pleasure when he does mention a favourite meal. Today I will be using Cumberland sausages and serving it with a green salad on the side.  

Toad in the Hole
Scottish Smoked Haddock Supper- The first of our new recipes, made with smoked haddock poached in milk, served on whole grain toast with a rarebit sauce. We'll have some spinach on the side.

Guinness Burgers- I have made these once before and they were a huge hit. I use  lean steak mince and will be using smoked Gouda for the cheese this time. We will have chips (oven fries) and a green salad with these.

Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes- another new recipe for us.  I plan to make half this recipe because it makes two pans. Since my chorizo is cured I will add it half way through the cooking time and I am going to put in some cherry tomatoes and green beans as well. I will be using lemon zest instead of orange because no one, except me, really eats oranges here but I always have lemons on hand. (Connor's idea of eating oranges is to suck the juice out and leave the rest.) This is a whole meal in one pan so I will just serve it with some nice French bread to soak up all the juices.

"Gourmet" Baked Beans on Toast (recipe found here) An oldie but a goodie and one of mine and Larry's favourite quick meals.

Date night

We will be having a takeaway tonight because Larry and I are going to the Perth Races with a crowd of people from our local. We went last year and had a great time and expect it to be even more fun this year. Last year it was rainy and cold and this year it looks like it will be a beautiful sunny day. All of the girls get together and we each bring something(s) to share and we end up with a very nice picnic lunch. I am bringing dessert. I haven't decided all what I am making but I know peanut butter cookies will be one of the things.

photo and recipe courtesy of 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Catch Up Recipes From Last Week

From Dinners, Dishes and Desserts, one of our meals last week was Roasted Garlic, Chicken and Red Onion Pizza. It was delicious!  The only changes I made from the original recipe was to use the olive oil from roasting the garlic, instead of butter, to make the roux for the white sauce and I didn't have any thyme so I used Italian seasoning instead. I also divided the Parmesan cheese and put about 2/3 in the sauce and sprinkled the rest on the top of the pizza. I put onions on only half the pizza as the boys don't really care for them and I put extra cheese on their half. The recipe says six servings but we got three, plus one extra piece, and Larry and I both had salad with it.

Roasted Garlic, Chicken and Herb White Pizza
Recipe and photo courtesy
of Dinners, Dishes and Desserts

The other recipe I owe you is for Mince Rolls. Interestingly, Mince Rolls are unique to Dundee. If you go any where else in Scotland and try to order one, the server will look at you like you are crazy.  I had my first ever Mince Roll at my local pub. The manager serves food during half time of the weekend football (soccer) matches and this is one of my favourite things he makes. Thank you, Paul, for the wonderful recipe!

Dundee Mince Rolls

1 pound lean steak mince
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 Oxo (bouillon/stock) cubes, crumbled
1 (UK) pint (20 ounces) cold water
Pepper to taste

I take the easy way out and prep the veggies in the food processor.  I chop them all into similar size (biggish) chunks then pulse until they are the size I want. I make them kind of small so the kids don't notice them as much. Paul often uses frozen mixed vegetables and that is just as good, no chopping involved.  Brown the mince over medium heat, add the onion and the crumbled stock cubes and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the water and cook for 15 minutes. Add the carrots, peas and potatoes.  Cook until the vegetables are tender.  I like to put it in the crock pot/slow cooker after the meat and onion is browned and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Cook on low all day or on high for about 4 hours.  If the meat is too juicy you can thicken it up with gravy mix or corn starch and cold water.  I don't usually need to thicken it.  Serve on rolls.  This makes enough for 8 rolls.

Dundee Mince Roll

Monday, 27 May 2013

Menu Planning Monday

It's Menu Planning Monday so here are the meals I have planned for the week.  I know I still owe you some recipes from last week and I will do a post tomorrow with those to play catch up.  

Buffalo Chicken Wraps with home made Blue Stilton Dressing
Apple slices
Buffalo Chicken Wrap Recipe
Photo courtesy of Eating Well

I didn't make the dressing called for  
in the recipe, I made my own Blue Stilton 
dressing (recipe below). To save
on calories, I will have my wrap 
as a salad, with lots of extra 
vegetables and skip the tortilla.

Crispy Baked Basa  with Tartar Sauce
Potato Salad
Green Salad 

EASY Homemade Corn Dogs from ...You will be blown away by how simple and quick these whip up! They are delicious and make the perfect after-school-snack! #recipe #lunch
Recipe and photo courtesy
Chef in Training
Carrot Sticks
Chips (Fries)

Not really the healthiest of meals but a treat for my boys.  Corn dogs aren't known over here in Scotland and when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it. I am following some of the tips and cutting the hot dogs in half, skipping the skewers and using honey in the batter instead of sugar.

Recipe and photo courtesy
Chocolate Broccoli
Sauteed Cabbage
Green Beans

Crustless Quiche
Toasted Whole Wheat Soda Bread

Larry and I have a wedding party to go to tonight so it is just something easy for the boys.  I have some cooked shredded chicken breast in the freezer and I am going to put some barbecue sauce on it and put it on rolls.

BBQ chicken on Rolls 
Crisps (potato chips)

The boys are eating at their Dad's tonight.  It will be an easy cooking night because I will just heat up some leftovers.  If there are no leftovers then we will have fried eggs with sharp cheddar cheese on rolls. 

The Blue Stilton Dressing recipe is a revamped recipe I found online.  I cut back on the mayonnaise and the cheese and I think it is just as good for less calories.  The trick is to use a good quality cheese for the sharpest flavour, which is what allows you to get by with less. Once you start making your own salad dressings, and discover how easy it is, you will never go back to the chemical laden store bought!

Blue Stilton Dressing

3/4 cup sour cream 
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt
1/4 teaspoon (generous) garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise (I used Helmann's Light)
3 ounces (divided) of good quality Blue cheese, Stilton, or Gorgonzola, what ever you like.

In a medium mixing bowl beat together, sour cream, spices and Worcestershire sauce for about two minutes. Add the mayo and 2 ounces of the cheese, crumbled.  Mix for another two minutes or so, until the cheese is pretty well incorporate.  Add the last ounce of cheese, crumbled, and mix again until the dressing reaches your desired texture. We like some chunkiness. Chill in a covered container for at least 8 hours to blend the flavours.

Blue Stilton Dressing

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Crock Pot Refried Beans and Enchilada Sauce

My laptop was in the shop yesterday . . . so not good. I could do almost everything on my phone but I couldn't write a blog post so yesterday's post had to wait until today. Fortunately the computer only needed a new jack for the power cord. And, the computer guy was nice enough to clean the fans while he had it open so now my computer doesn't sound like a jet taking off.  

Yesterday was a milestone day for my son, Cameron.  He had his last exam and is now officially done with secondary education.  He has been offered a place at the University of St Andrews for the term starting in October 2014. We all are very proud of him.  

Last night for dinner we had bean and cheese burritos baked in the oven, smothered with home made enchilada sauce. If you were to order these in a restaurant they would be called "Wet Burritos". They were delicious and so filling. I was stuffed with one and Larry and Connor managed one and a half each. You could put less filling in each and make more of them, but I try to limit the "bread" so I use more filling and only have one tortilla. I made eight, so that left one and a half for Cameron for his lunch today, one for Larry for his lunch today, and one and a half for Connor to have for his Sunday dinner because he doesn't care for mince rolls. I cut up some Granny Smith apples too and we all had more than enough to eat.

"Wet" Bean Burritos

To make the burritos:

8 flour tortillas
refried beans (recipe below)
grated cheese
enchilada sauce (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375f/190c

Heat the beans, put about 1/3-1/2 cup in each tortilla and top with grated cheese.  To roll, fold the two sides in, fold the bottom up to the middle and then bring the top down over that.  Like an envelope.  Line a pan with foil (to make clean up easier) spread some enchilada sauce over the bottom (about a cup) and then put the rolled burritos, seam side down, on top of the sauce. Top with more sauce, about a cup or so, and bake until bubbly, about15 minutes or so.  Top with grated cheese and continue heating until the cheese is melted.  Let rest about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with diced onions, salsa, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Enchilada Sauce (I doubled it so I could freeze some for another time)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons self raising flour (I don't know why self raising but that is what the original recipe called for so I use it.)
1/4 cup chilli powder, I used half mild and half hot, but we like spicy
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
14 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of salt if desired

In a saucepan, heat oil, flour and chilli powder until the colour changes to light brown.  Whisk in the rest of the ingredients and cook, while whisking over medium heat, until thickened.  

Enchilada Sauce

Crock Pot "Refried" Beans

1 package (1 pound or 500 grams) of dried pinto beans, washed and soaked overnight.  
8 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup cumin
2 large vegetable stock cubes (to make 4 cups of stock)
1-3 seeded jalapeños, cut in chunks.  Use rubber gloves while you are doing this to protect your skin from the oils.
1 large white onion, peeled and cut in big chunks
1 large red onion, peeled and cut in big chunks
1 tablespoon mild chilli powder

Put the beans along with everything else, except the water, into a crock pot. Add enough water to cover the beans and vegetables. Cook on high for two hours and then put on low until you are ready to serve, at least three hours or, if you are going to be gone all day, cook on low for 8 or more hours.  Use a stick blender to purée the beans and vegetables right in the crock pot or else transfer it to a food processor in batches to do the same.  If you want more texture to your beans you can dice the onions and peppers small before you put them in the crock pot and then use a potato masher to achieve the desired consistency.  This made enough for 8 very full burritos and about 2 cups to freeze for a side dish the next time we have tacos. 

Crock Pot Refried Beans


Monday, 20 May 2013

Menu Planning Monday

OK, Menu Planning Monday is a misnomer. We do the weekly grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday (depends on when Liverpool plays) so I plan my menus on a Thursday. But, the link party is for Menu Planning Monday, so that's the title. It is a good idea to have a menu for the week, I use a desk size diary to keep track of the boys school stuff, birthdays etcetera and the daily menu.  If you can plan for the week, you only shop once so you spend less money in the long run.  It is those little trips into the shops for "just the one thing" that really add up. Now be honest, when was the last time you got only the one thing?

Here is this week's menu. I'm not going to post all the recipes today, that would make this post a little lengthy, but I will post them throughout the week. 


Swedish meatballs with buttered pasta, and garlic green beans for Larry and the boys.  Sautéed cabbage instead of pasta for me.

The Swedish meatball recipe and photo are courtesy of Gina at SkinnyTaste.  

Skinny Taste Swedish Meatballs 

To make the beans heat a dab of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and then add whole green beans. I use frozen beans but I thaw them ahead of time. Sauté until they are cooked until almost done, what ever that is for you. We like them really well done. Add a couple cloves of pressed garlic or a teaspoon of garlic powder. If you add the garlic too early it will burn and become bitter so fight the urge! Add cracked sea salt and pepper and/or chilli flakes if you like spicy. 


Blackened Tuna Steaks with spinach and home made potato salad.   I always have whole green beans, spinach, corn, and peas in the freezer. Carrots, potatoes, celery, cabbage, salad mix, tomatoes and onions are always in the fridge.  Along with rice and pasta, those ingredients are the basis for all the side dishes/vegetables we eat every day.  If you want to eat real food you have to buy real food!  


Bean Burritos, made with home made refried beans (recipe to follow later in the week), carrot sticks and apple slices. I am making the boys Hot Fudge Pie for dessert this week.  The recipe and photo come from IslandEat. They like to eat it warm with vanilla ice cream on top.


Roasted Garlic, Chicken and Red Onion Pizza (recipe to follow later in the week) with salad.


Gourmet Baked Beans on Toast


Date Night, no cooking.


Mince Rolls (recipe to follow later in the week), Chips (oven-baked fries) and Salad.

So, that's the menu for the week along with some of the recipes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pork Fried Rice

Today was a fast day so I made an easy pork fried rice loaded with tons of vegetables.  Because the meat is marinated you have to plan a little bit ahead but it is well worth the effort.

Pork Fried Rice

Pork Fried Rice 

Serves 5 at about 400 calories per serving, depending upon what vegetables you use. I used peas, courgette, onion and orange pepper and cooked up some cabbage separately. You could also exchange the pork for beef, chicken or tofu.

For the pork:
400 grams (about 3/4 lb) lean diced pork (or chicken, beef, tofu etc)
4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes and/or black pepper to taste

Combine the above and let marinate for at least a few hours.

For the Fried Rice:

2 tablespoons wok oil, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 bunch scallions (green onions) thinly sliced, whites and green tops separate
450 grams (3.5 cups) cold cooked rice
3 cups very small pieces of vegetables of your choice (peas, carrots, shredded cabbage, onion, pepper, courgette (zucchini), etcetera)
1/2 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
pepper to taste

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large non-stick frying pan. Add the beaten egg, swirl the pan to make a thin even layer and cook until set. Use a spatula to chop the eggs as they cook, remove from the wok and set aside. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil into the wok and add the pork with marinade and the white parts of the scallion and fry until the pork is cooked through. Add the 5 spice powder, stir to combine, then add the last tablespoon of oil along with the veg. Cook just until the vegetables start to soften but aren't soggy. Add the rice, and the egg. Stir until fully combined and cook until hot. Sprinkle the green tops of the scallions over and serve with extra soy sauce on the side, if desired.

We really enjoyed this and it was a very filling meal for not too many calories.

Pork Fried Rice

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Steak and Guinness Pie, Beer Bread and Snickerdoodle Blondies

Today is a grey, wet and dreary day. Or, as they say here in Scotland, it's dreich, pronounced dreek but with a very wet k sound from the back of your throat, like loch. So, we are having some lovely comfort food for tea.  Steak and Guinness Pie, Steamed Carrots and Beer Bread.  Dessert for the boys is Snickerdoodle Blondies with ice cream.  

Steak and Guinness Pie

Steak and Guinness Pie

Oil or butter for browning the steak and onions
750 grams (1.5 lbs) steak cut in chunks, cut off any large bits of fat
1/4 cup seasoned flour I used garlic and chilli seasoning in a grinder which has salt in it too.
2 medium onions, diced
3 beef Oxo (bouillon) cubes
500 ml boiling water
1 can Guinness or any strong flavoured beer
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 package all ready rolled puff pastry or your own recipe
corn starch and water or Bisto granules if desired to thicken gravy
egg wash for pastry

Dredge meat in the seasoned flour and brown in the oil or butter in a hot pan. Don't over crowd the pan or you will steam the meat instead of brown it.  I did mine in three batches.  Remove browned meat to slow cooker/crock pot. Brown the onions, adding more butter or oil if needed, then add to the meat. Pour the boiling water into the pan and add the Oxo cubes. Using a spoon or a scraper to get up all the lovely crispy brown bits, dissolve the Oxo in the water.  Pour over the meat and onions in the crock pot.  Add the beer and seasonings.  I added more chilli and garlic seasoning as well but you could add plain black pepper if that is more to your taste.  We like spicy.  Cook on high heat until the meat is fork tender, about five hours.  I start mine on high for about two hours and then put it on low to continue cooking for the rest of the day. When the meat is tender, thicken the gravy with cornstarch and water, or Bisto granules, if needed. 

There are two ways to finish off your pie.  I pour the hot beef and gravy into a baking dish and cover with pastry.  You can either put one big top on, cutting vents to release steam, or individual rounds of pastry, one for each person. Following the directions on the pastry package, brush with the egg wash and bake the pie in the oven until the pastry is done.  Or, if you want an easier way, cut the pastry into serving size pieces, brush with the egg wash and, again following the directions on the package, bake on a tray until done. Portion the beef and gravy onto plates and top with the baked pastry.  You may wonder why I used small rounds of pastry instead of covering the whole top of the pie. as most would.  Well, there are millions of calories in puff pastry and that is my way of cutting the calories down while still enjoying the pie.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

375 grams (13 ounces) self-raising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
330 ml (12 ounces) strong flavoured beer of choice 
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Generously butter bottom and sides of a bread pan.

Mix flour and sugar together, add beer and mix until combined. I used a honey ale this time but often I use Guinness.   Pour into buttered pan and let rest for about 30 minutes.  Bake in preheated oven (375f/180c) until browned on top and tester comes out clean. About 50 minutes.  Once you have taken the bread out of the oven, brush with the melted butter while still in the pan. Leave in the pan on the cooling rack for about 10 minutes then remove from the pan and allow to finish cooling. Serve warm with honey butter for a real treat.

Snickerdoodles are just sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon and sugar before baking. I'm all for bars over cookies however and decided to try making Snickerdoodle Blondies.  The recipe and photo come from Lisa at My Own Sweet Thyme. They turned out great and we all loved them.  Very sweet though so if/when I make them again I might cut the brown sugar down just a bit.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Yoghurt and Parmesan Baked Basa and Iced Oatmeal Cookies

This week has had some easy meals, hamburgers with chips(fries) and salad, macaroni and cheese with chorizo sausage, beef and bean enchiladas with salad and apple slices, and oven baked Basa with roasted potatoes and carrots.  Dessert for the week is spiced iced oatmeal cookies with vanilla ice cream. The burgers and enchiladas were fast day meals so I skipped the bun, the chips and the tortilla.  I put my enchilada toppings on salad instead. Yummy!  

I'm going to share the recipes for the Basa and the cookies.  The original Creamy Crunchy Baked Basa recipe and photo are from Kara at Kara's Favourite Recipes.   Basa is a member of the catfish family and is very mild flavoured.  If you can't find it you could substitute regular catfish or any thin white fish fillets you prefer.

Photo credit to Kara Heald

I changed the recipe up a bit because I hate mayonnaise, which I may or may not have mentioned a time or two before.  Here is my version:

Yoghurt and Parmesan Baked Basa

1 pound/500 grams Basa fillets 
1/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan plus 1 tablespoon reserved
2 tablespoons softened butter, I used my homemade spreadable butter
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, I used freshly ground
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons olive oil 

Preheat oven to 400f/200c

Line a baking dish or tray with foil.  Oil the foil using olive oil or pan spray. Lay the fish on the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I used garlic and chilli salt that comes in a grater and no extra pepper.  Mix the yoghurt, 1/4 cup parmesan,  butter, basil, garlic powder, black pepper, lemon juice and zest together.  Spread the mixture evenly over the fillets.  Sprinkle the reserved parmesan over the top.  Mix the bread crumbs with the olive oil and sprinkle evenly over the fish.  Bake in heated oven until fish tests done, about 15 minutes.  You can then place the pan under the broiler/grill for a few minutes if you want the crumbs crispier.  

Spiced Iced Oatmeal Cookies 

Preheat oven to 350f/170c

2 cups porridge oats
2 cups flour
2/3 cup dessicated coconut, medium
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups powdered/icing sugar
5 tablespoons milk (or enough to make the icing drizzleable . . . yes that's a word)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a food processor, pulse the oatmeal until it is a coarse meal, not finely ground.   You want to be able to tell it's oats.  Mix the processed oatmeal with the flour, coconut, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each addition until fully incorporated. Beat another couple of minutes until pale golden.  Beat in the dry ingredients. Drop rounded balls of dough, about a heaping tablespoon, onto a greased cookie sheet/baking tray.   I use a reusable liner instead of greasing the pan.  Leave plenty of room between the cookies as they will spread a lot.  Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let sit on the pan for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once the cookies are done cooling you can ice them.  Don't overdo it, you just want a thin layer of icing that will harden.  Once the icing dries, store the cookies in an airtight container.  Because we like fresh cookies, and since I allow the boys only two a day (along with a scoop of ice cream), I usually bake up half the batch and freeze the rest of the dough for another time. Put the remaining icing in a separate bag in with the cookie dough.  Thaw completely before baking.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Fast Day Crock Pot/Slow Cooker Beer Chicken

The original recipe for this came from LaaLoosh.  After reading the reviews, which I always do, I decided to make some changes.  Here is my version of the recipe which you can compare to the original and decide how you want to go.  We really enjoyed this.

Crock Pot Beer Chicken
Photo credit to LaaLoosh

Crock Pot/Slow Cooker Beer Chicken (5 servings with 250 calories per serving, if you eat only one thigh then it will be 150 calories)

1 can Guinness or any beer that has a deep flavour
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons French mixed herbs (mine has rosemary, thyme, savoury, marjoram and basil)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (depends on your tolerance for spice, we really like it)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I didn't add much salt because I planned to thicken the broth with gravy  mix which has a lot of salt in it.)
1/4 cup dried minced onion
10 chicken thighs, skin removed

Mix all the ingredients, except the chicken, in the crock pot.  After mixing add the chicken.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove the chicken from the crock and add some boiling water (I added about 2 cups) and enough chicken gravy mix to thicken.  If you prefer, you can use chicken stock and corn starch to make the gravy.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.  Add the chicken back to the gravy until you are ready to serve.  Optional: remove the bones from the thighs before you return them to the gravy.  I do this because I have Mr. Picky (my son) who hates bones in his chicken.  I served it over mashed potatoes with green beans on the side.  As yesterday was a fast day for me, I had mine over sautéed cabbage instead of mashed potatoes.  Delicious!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Tunisian Cod in Tomato, Olive and Caper Sauce

I have a great fish recipe to share with you today.  The original inspiration and photo came from I'm Counting UFOS

baked cod

Here is my adapted version of the recipe:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 400 gram can of diced tomatoes (just the normal size can in US sizes)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
black olives to taste, quartered, I used about 10 olives
capers to taste, I used about 3 heaping tablespoons
2 Tablespoons Harissa paste
500 grams (1 pound) frozen cod fillets

In a large non-stick frying pan, sauté the onion in the olive oil until lightly browned and then add the tomatoes, vinegar, olives, capers and Harissa paste.  Simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half.  Add the frozen cod, cover, and continue simmering until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes or so.  The added water from the ice glaze on the fish will thin the sauce out so if you want it thicker you can remove the fish and reduce again.  We liked it thinner and I served it over bow tie pasta with a salad on the side.  Larry and I absolutely loved it!  This amount made two dinner and two lunch sized portions.  If you are having this on a fast day, skip the pasta and serve the fish over steamed cabbage or cauliflower.

You can buy Harissa paste in any Asian/Halal/African market.  You can also buy it on line.  If you don't like spicy foods, or can't find it, you can easily replace the Harissa with  chilli flakes, garlic, salt and black pepper to taste.

Harissa is a Tunisian spicy paste made from
red chilis, garlic, coriander and  caraway.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Friday Fish

Friday is usually beans on toast night but tonight we will be having something a little different.  Larry and I have a friend, Jackie, who will be 90 this September.  He is a wonderful man and treats Larry like a son.  The other day he came up to me and asked if I had anything planned for tea tonight (Friday) because if not, the fish man will be stopping so he is going to get some golden cutlets for us.  Golden cutlets are fillets of smoked haddock and they are Larry's absolute favourite fish.  Jackie knows this and every so often surprises him with some.  Usually I just put it under the grill and we have it on buttered toast but tonight I have decided to try something different.  I found this recipe and photo at Delia Online.  It looks quick, easy, yummy and not too unhealthy.  The only change I will make is to substitute finely chopped spring/green onion tops for the chives as that is what I have in the fridge today.  We will have it with a nice Greek Salad and some fresh bread.

 Smoked Haddock with Creme Fraiche, Chive and Butter Sauce
Smoked Haddock with Creme Fraiche, Chive and Butter Sauce

For the salad, we will use mixed greens (from a bag), black olives, pickled yellow peppers, red onion and feta cheese.  I make my own salad dressing which we absolutely love on pretty much anything and everything!  You can easily switch out ingredients to change the flavour or to use what you have on hand.  If you want a nice emulsified dressing you need to use a blender, food processor or stick blender, if  you don't care if you have to shake the dressing before using you can just finely mince the garlic and shallot and then mix it up in a cruet.  Make this up at least a few hours before serving to allow the dried herbs to soften and the fresh garlic to mellow.  You could use all fresh garlic instead of half powder but you might find you need to add a bit of sugar if you do, to cut the sharpness of the garlic.

Greek Salad Dressing

In a blender combine until smooth(ish):

1 Teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 Teaspoon sea salt (adjust to taste)
Juice of one lemon plus enough balsamic vinegar to make 3 ounces
3 ounces red wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 shallot, peeled and cut in half
1 Teaspoon onion powder
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

With the blender still running, slowly add 6 ounces of olive oil so the mixture emulsifies.  Turn the blender off and add 2 Teaspoons each of dried basil and oregano and just pulse to combine, you don't want to make them invisible.  Pour into your cruet or bottle and store in the fridge.  This dressing tastes best served at room temperature so remove from the fridge about an hour before you want to eat. This is also delicious used to marinate meat for grilling.