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Mature Cheddar, Shallot and Sage Crusted Chicken

15 Jul

In preparation for our house move, I have been running down the store cupboards and freezer. I had rescued 2 lonely and forlorn chicken looking breasts from the freezer, along with the breadcrumbs and shallots, and a small cube of mature cheddar from the fridge, that was threatening to sport a mouldy cloak if ignored any longer. And the fresh sage was courtesy of the plant that I abandoned last year in the garden, that has defeated the perils of garden pests, children, and the elements to survive and flourish. I love garden herbs. Fresh, fabulous, and free. What more could you ask for?

INGREDIENTS

Serves two teenies and a greedy mummy.

  • 2 chicken breast fillets (approx 250g)
  • 2 or 3 slices of bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
  • small chunk of cheese, finely grated
  • small handful of fresh sage, chopped
  • small handful of pre-chopped shallots from freezer
  • 60g butter melted (or an oil/butter mix)

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.

Step 1. Slicing up the fillets

Slice fillets in half horizontally (so they are thinner and cook more quickly), then into small ish pieces. I turned 2 fillets into 5 small pieces that look like 1/2 fillets.

Mix together breadcrumbs, shallots, sage and cheese. Add melted butter and mix until combined.

Step 2. The breadcrumb mixture

Line a baking dish with foil (just to save on washing up). Press mixture onto the chicken breasts. Cook for approx 15 mins, checking that it is cooked through once removed from oven. Leave to rest for 5/10 mins.

Step 3. After a short hot burst in the oven

Serve with broccoli and cream cheese (kids) or salad (big kids).

Step 4. Going, going, gone

Money-saving tips

9 Jul

The lovely folks at Moneysupermarket.com, one of my favourite money-saving sites, have asked me if they can guest post some of their hottest money-saving tips here. Those of you that know me well, know that I *love* getting a good deal. I like to equate almost every saving going, into the next little treat. A pedi, a bottle of bubbly, a night out with the girls. The savings all add up. My favourite pages on their site, are the shopping page, and the vouchers page which are well worth a look if you get the chance.

Saving moneyinahurry

So, over to Rachael at Moneysupermarket.com.

Being a parent can be very expensive! This is why it’s important for mums and dads to save money where they can. The recession has had a negative impact on many families’ finances, and many of us are finding that we have less and less money to spend on ourselves at the end of the month. We at moneysupermarket.com are experts at saving money and love sharing a few of our ideas to help you make your money go that little bit further…

Food shopping

For many people, the weekly grocery bill is a major expense, especially if you have a large family. Food prices have increased dramatically over the past few years, and with many incomes being squeezed, it’s more important than ever to make savings where you can (a mummyinahurry speciality!). There are the obvious tips like never shop when you’re hungry and always stick to your shopping list, but sometimes that’s just not enough. To make real savings on your weekly shop it’s worth considering shopping in local independent shops, such as the butchers and fruit and veg shops. Meat from the butcher tends to be cheaper (and tastier) than from the supermarket and it is likely to be from a local source. Local suppliers means less food miles too, so great for the environment too. Your butcher is unlikely to use fancy packaging, which means they can pass those cost savings on to you. Greengrocers work on the same principles, so you’re more likely to get more for your money when you shop locally. And if you walk  to the local shops, rather than driving to the local supermarket, you will save on fuel, and get some free exercise (who needs to pay for fancy gym memberships?).

Another option, which is a Mummyinahurry favourite, and the stalwart of many time-pressed parents is to shop for groceries online. Not only is it easier to stay away from those calorie-laden treats and refrain from the smell of freshly baked bread, but there are always an abundance of vouchers and voucher codes available on the internet for most major supermarket chains. An internet shop can also help you stick to budget, as if you overspend, you can simply edit your basket. Much easier than trying to edit a trolley full of groceries at the supermarket!

Utilities
It is shocking how expensive necessities such as gas, electricity and water can be. Rising energy costs have eaten into family budgets everywhere. One quick and easy way to make savings is to  compare energy providers online. Often, switching can save substantial sums, or you can use the threat of a move to get your current provider to give you a better rate. Another way to save money on utilities bills (and gain ‘eco-points’) is to be more aware of the energy you’re using. You can buy an energy monitor which tells you exactly how much energy you’re using in real time, allowing you to see which are the most expensive appliances to run. Even small changes such as turning off all electronic appliances when they’re not being used, can lead to noticeable savings.

Vouchers
Thrift is chic. Money-off vouchers have lost their stigma and have become increasingly popular during the course of the recession. Everyone loves a bargain, and vouchers give you the chance to buy things you may have been looking at anyway at a discounted price. Whether you’re out and about or shopping online, you’ll more than likely be able to find a printable voucher or voucher codes to use on that product. Before purchasing anything, do a quick search on moneysupermarket’s vouchers channel to see if you can get money off, or if not, consider looking for an alternative product or brand who offer discounts on their merchandise. We recommend spending a few moments printing off the vouchers for your regular stores and restaurants and keeping them in your bag or purse in case you need them while you’re out and about, so you never miss out on an opportunity to save some cash, (or treat yourself to a glass of wine or dessert with the savings).

Sell things you don’t need
Ever received a Christmas or Birthday present that you don’t use or like? Dig out all of the items that don’t use/wear anymore and sell them. There are countless online trading stores you can sell items on, such as the online auction house Ebay which allows you to sell or buy items, usually at a much lower price than in the shops. Sell that unused footspa that your aunt bought you for Christmas, along with that dress you’ve never worn and earn yourself some extra cash, for a rainy day treat.

Organise your direct debits
Keeping track of your bank account can be tricky, especially if you’re always on the go and buying things for the house or the kids. Its may be worth considering altering your organising all of your direct debits so they come out of your account around the date that you get paid, then after they’ve been taken out you will know that the money left is yours to spend. It may not be possible to get all direct debits to come out on the same day, but aim to get them taken out of your account within one week. Alternatively, set up a second account. Have your salary paid in to the account that your bills get paid from, then transfer a set amount into your spending account, operated on a debit card. Then when you check your balance, you will always know where you stand.
For many ‘mummysinahurry’, 24 hour online banking is the answer to that ‘can’t get to the bank in time’ dilemma. You can post/email/phone and fit your banking around your busy life. As mummyinahurry would say, whats not to love?!

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins. An essential component of your five-a-day?!

5 Jul

You know you want me!!

Today’s mouth-watering and seasonal recipe is provided by one of my new blogging friends, Sian, who is helping me out while I am wondering how we are going to get packed up by this time next week! Over to you Sian.

Hi Mummy in a Hurry readers, I’m Sian from Pumpkin and Piglet. Firstly I would like to thank Natalie for having me here. I’ve been reading Natalie’s blog for a while now and love her tips and quick, easy but yummy recipes so it’s a real pleasure to be here!

One of my passions is baking. For me, there is nothing more comforting than a big slice of cake, a fluffy, moist muffin or a lovely cupcake with a sweet swirl of frosting. Sometimes though, time is limited and spending too long in the kitchen is not an option.

For those days, muffins are a good answer. No faffing about making sure everything is combined just so, quick to bake and scrumptious. If time is seriously tight then you can weigh out the ingredients the day before, dry in one bowl and the wet in a jug covered in the fridge, ready to mixed together and taken out of the oven within half an hour.

There as many flavours of muffins as you can think of but I would like to share a recipe with you for Raspberry and White Chocolate muffins. This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 60g butter, melted
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Approx 120ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 150g raspberries
  • 100g white chocolate chunks

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200oC and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

In a largish bowl combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, salt and zest.

In a measuring jug pour in the lemon juice and then enough milk to come up to the 200 mil level (it will curdle, this is fine), then beat in the egg and butter.

Pour into the dry ingredients and stir briefly. The batter should scarcely be combined and should appear lumpy. Don’t worry if there are still streaks of flour.

Fold in the raspberries and chocolate, dollop into the muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes.

Once baked, leave in the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

There you go, 12 muffins! They are best eaten the same day but will keep for another day in an air tight tin.

Spicy Sausage Casserole

24 Jun

Spicy Sausage Casserole

This dish is a total cheat. Not quite a Delia, ‘let’s assemble our shepherds pie from a tin and the freezer’ sort of cheat, more of a ‘lets tweak the dinner I made 2 nights ago’ and tell everyone its something else, kind of dish.

The clock is running and we are now less than 3 weeks away from our house move and still not much further along with the packing.  This means I am a bit pre-occupied and not able to drift along into mealtimes without a plan.

Cous Cous on the side

So when I made my ‘Chilli non Carne‘, there was enough left over for the beginnings of another meal. To transform the ‘Chilli Non Carne’ into ‘Spicy Sausage Casserole’  I simply cooked some sausages on the hob. My favoured method of cooking them is to do it so slowly that there is almost no chance of them burning. Place in a non-stick frying pan with a gentle dash of olive oil, then simply jiggle the pan every now and then when you happen to be passing. Takes 45 mins to an hour, and the resulting sausages are gloriously  caramelised and sticky.  I cooked some couscous on the side (and you really don’t need instructions for that).  For the children I chopped the sausages and mixed into the chilli, and for us just piled the sausages on top.  Result, a happy, well fed family, with no more effort than occasional stove tending and the boiling of the kettle for the cous cous. Leaving me enough time in the evening to tend to my blog and engage in some twittering do some packing and paperwork in the study!

Birthday Party for a 4 year old boy. Part 1, The cake

19 Jun

David's Cake

 

I was, with great reluctance, bounced into holding a small birthday party for my son.  I was hoping the promise of a big present instead might dampen his enthusiasm, but to no avail. Usually I love to hold a party, but with the house move looming, I was hoping that this year I might be able to give it a miss. 

I know that I could just go to the supermarket, and buy everything ready cooked, ready-made etc, but, I hate to serve food that I am not keen on myself. So I find myself knuckling down, to a lot more preparation than I had the time for. 

I had a brief glance at the cakes in the supermarket, which offer both convenience and the kind of decor that children love.  But one look at the cocktail of ingredients that look like something from a chemistry experiment, leaves me fleeing without a second look. 

A standard sponge cake, is of course, a doddle. If I am really pushed for time it will be Nigellas Never Fail Victoria Sponge. The trickier issue is persuading my son that my ‘home-made’ confection, can rival those of his friends who have elaborate designs, created courtesy of the supermarket. 

I do not do the whole sugar paste/cake modelling thing. I do not have the time, any sort of artistic skill, and more importantly, I am not all that patient. 

So here are my quick fixes 

  1. Ice the cake as usual. Decorate with small toys or figures from the them that your child would like. For Davids 2nd Birthday it was plastic figures from In the Night Garden. For his 3rd birthday, it was Pirate Lego on a chocolate cake.
  2. The second option, which I have elected for this year, is to buy a cake topper. I bought one on ebay. Personalised. Edible. Has his name and age on. And only £4.99.

This year I made a fatal error. I decided to make something I had never made before, and at the last-minute. Armed with the comfort of the cake topper in reserve, I decided that a red velvet, cream cheese frosted cake (from Hummingbird bakery book) would be just the thing. Ha ha. I measured the cake tins. They were a bit on the small side for the cake topper, but I (foolishly) thought that I could thicken it up with the frosting and all would be fine. 

Great idea. Then, the great buttermilk shortage occurred. It’s a key ingredient of the cake, yet was absent from the shelves of every supermarket in a 5 mile radius. After much huffing and puffing, I decided to ‘make’ butter milk by combining crème fraîche, yoghurt and a little milk (to get the consistency right). It seemed to work. 

The cake turned out surprisingly well, despite my ‘buttermilk’ concoction.  However, the heat in of the day caused the cream cheese frosting to go all runny and it kept falling off the side of the cake.  I then put it in the fridge for half an hour. that did the trick, but when I got the cake topper out, it was still 1 inch too wide. So, there was nothing for it but a last-minute dash for my failsafe standby, a chocolate version of Nigellas Never Fail Victoria sponge made in tins that were (this time) the right size. There was not even time to ice the cake. I filled it with buttercream (left over from the cupcakes I had made) and just stuck the cake topper on using jam. I think I used too much, as it went a little ‘glisteney’ but on the whole, it looked ok, and kept my four-year old and a bunch of his friends happy. And the bonus was I served the red velvet cake to the party mums, who were all very grateful for my birthday cake disaster. 

Red Velvet Cake

 

Total effort for cake. 30 minutes (for each cake). Happiness for 4 year old son. 10/10. Warning. The finished product (good-looking, great tasting, home-made cake) might lead to just a teeny feeling of smugness!

The fast route to fabulosity

27 May

When it comes to exercise, I hold the same view as with cooking. I want the maximum return from the minimum of effort.

My reluctant and erratic gym attendance came to an abrupt halt once I was pregnant, with no hope of a resurrection once I was a working mum. All well and good, but I had gone more than a little ‘soft around the edges’ and needed something to tone me up fast.

That was when I discovered Power Plates. They are, in my opinion nothing short of a miracle cure for every time pressed gym phobic.

It was quite by chance that I stumbled upon the Good Vibes Power Plates studio in Covent Garden. It is a world away from your average gym. It’s the anti-gym!  A friendly and relaxed studio set in a converted warehouse, slap bang in the middle of Covent Garden. The staff couldn’t be more friendly. After a few visits, they remembered me by name, even Nahid, the owner* whom I had only spoken to a couple of times. *(Nahid is otherwise referred to as ‘Mistress of the Good Vibes Universe. Don’t you just love it?!)

A concise explanation of a Power Plate is a large vibrating platform that you exercise on. Sounds weird, and if I am honest feels a bit weird too, but you get used to it. Each class has no more than 5 participants, and lasts a mere 25 minutes. The instructors ensure that you are performing the exercises properly. It’s not easy, but none of the exercises last more than 1 minute. (If you want the longer explanation from the people who make them, then click here)

I was a very sceptical when I started. My scepticism soon turned to elation when after 6 sessions (over 3 weeks) I had dropped a whole dress size. To have achieved the same result at the gym would have taken months (and a lot more committment than I had to offer!)  If you are reading in disbelief, then I would point you in the direction of the testimonials on the Good Vibes Website. Everyone I have recommended this to has loved it, and reaped the benefits.

They have to my mind, a wealth of benefits over traditional gym membership

  • Speed. The classes are only 25 minutes so you can easily pop out for a class at lunch or first thing before a day out in the West End.
  • No membership fees. If you don’t go you don’t pay
  • No Sweat. It’s not so intense that you are puce faced and dripping at the end of a session.
  • Fast Results. 6 sessions over 3 weeks and I had dropped a dress size.
Once I had got back into shape, I only went once a week for maintenance, and it still kept me toned. So if you are looking for a quick fix to looking and feeling fabulous this summer, look no further. Power Plates are the answer.
At the moment, Good Vibes are offering a free session if you have not tried them before. Click here for link.

DISCLAIMER

Can I just say that I do feel slightly hypocritical writing this at the moment. It is a case of do as I say and not as I do. Since I stopped work last summer, I can no longer pop out for a quick session at lunch. We now live in deep suburbia which means the chances of childcare for a journey into town and back are few and far between. Couple that with a bad back and my inability to ‘step away from the cake tin’ I have slipped back into my pre power plates ‘soft around the edges’ state. But I know that if someone was to give me the childcare, and few sessions on these and I would be slipping back into my ‘just married’ jeans within the month.

I have not been paid or given any incentive to write this article. I just wish I had discovered them in my 20s instead of wasting all that time in the gym.

Hummus, Pavlova and Jam on Toast (Day 7 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

24 May

At last, my week of fiscal restraint is almost over.

Today we were invited out to a bbq and asked to bring a dessert.  With £1.92 left of my self-imposed budget, I could have rustled up a cake based on the contents of our fridge and cupboards, but that was about it. And a steaming hot barbeque perfect day like today, deserves no less a treat that a large, crunchy, gooey chewy Pavlova, generously piled with soft whipped cream and abundantly laden with fresh summer fruits.  I made a large pav (to serve 12), piled with raspberries and passionfruit. Yum! I broke the budget, but it was soooo worth it!

And I also made some focaccia (just because I love it), and, for the first time ever, some hummus. I have always been a bit ‘on the fence’ about hummus. I am not sure if my indifference has been influenced by my dislike of tahini, or if it is a result of one bad shop-bought hummus experience too many.  Using the template of a recipe provided by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I adapted it altering the time needed from a his proposed 15 hour cookathon ( in a book with Everyday in the title no less?!!), to a more realistic 5 minute affair.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tin cooked chickpeas, washed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne chilli pepper
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Reserve a handful of chickpeas for garnish, then add all the ingredients into the blender. Whizz until you have a smooth creamy mixture. If it’s too thick add water/olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Decant into a serving dish. Scatter remaining chickpeas on top, along with a little cumin powder. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve.

Hungry for Hummus?

Tonight , after a lovely lunchtime barbeque, I am out on the town with a girlfriend. I shall not be breaking the budget as this is her treat, in anticipation of my birthday in 11 days.  Mr Mummyinahurry can have some leftover lentils, or jam on toast for supper.

All in all this has been a great week. I feel like we have feasted like Kings, and I have spent only £39.14. Not quite on a target, but a good result nonetheless.

I have also learned, that by not filling the children up with their usual snacks like rice cakes and breadsticks, and by involving them a bit more in the cooking, they have been eating their meals with far more enthusiasm, and have even eaten, carrots, mushrooms and spinach, all of which they have been refusing for weeks.

This is the week that we hope to exchange contracts on our new house, and I find out if I have 3 weeks or 5 weeks to pack (5 weeks please!).  So I intend to continue with my attempt to empty out the cupboards.  There may be a few weird and wonderful concoctions in the offing.   Peaches and evap* anyone?

*evaporated milk