Tag Archives: Thrifty

Bananas about Bananas

2 Jun

The Best Banana Muffin Ever?

 

There are very few people I have come across in life, that don’t like bananas. I love them. They are amazing. The ultimate fast food that come in their own biodegradable packaging.  

Even the peel is useful. Did you know the peel makes a great fertilizer for plants? Apparently its very good for rose bushes. Next time you are planting or pruning your rose bushes, dig a hole next to the bush and bury the banana peel. Then cover the whole back up. Not a tip I have tried as I am more of a ‘swingseat’ gardener than a get your hands dirty type, but maybe worth a try?  

There is no good reason why you should ever throw away a banana ever again. Ever been faced with a half-eaten/blackened banana and thought there was nothing else for it than the bin? Well stop right there. I say this with someone who is used to having half-eaten bananas discarded by my 2 year old at will.  

Did you know they freeze well? So you can freeze them with or without skin, for use at a later date in a smoothie, as ‘faux’ ice cream, or to put in banana bread.  

Put them in the bin? No chance!

 

Today I was faced with a glut of ‘decaying’ bananas, that were transformed, in under 10 minutes, into a muffin mixture awaiting a breath of life from my *blush* not too clean and slightly temperamental oven. 25 minutes later, and they were resplendent on the cake rack, awaiting almost certain instant demolition from my two little treasures.  

INGREDIENTS LIST  

  • 4.5 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted
  • 175 g plain  flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Almost good as new

 

So heres what we did. Whilst still in our pyjamas, the kids washed hands, jumped on their stools and got ready for some ‘we can cook’ time with Mummy.  The banana pile, it has to be said, would not be one to get your heart racing. In fact, I am sure in most houses this would have ended up on the composting pile. However, fearless thrift warrior* that I am, we used the bananas, after checking they were just black from being bruised and not mouldy. Skin off and inside they were almost good as new.  

So we mashed bananas, melted butter and just mixed all the ingredients together in a very haphazard way. The trick with muffins is that you don’t overmix. I seem to have been drawn to a few streusel recipes of late.  That inspired me to sprinkle some crumble mixture that I found in the freezer, on top of the muffins. I then finished them off with a tiny sprinkle of caster sugar and cinnamon. but you could leave them plain. They still work!  

Then into the oven on 180 degrees for 25 minutes. And result, the perfect portable treat for our day trip to the farm.     

Keep your hands off!

 

Now don’t get me started on banana bread which I love. I make it in big batches then slice it and freeze it, ready for breakfast on the run, and packed lunches. Recipe to follow.  

If you too are bananas for bananas, then I would love to hear your tips and recipes. If you fancy something a little more decadent, maybe involving frosting, then try the Banana and Carrot cake by Mummy Mishaps 

Too good not to eat

 

*When I say thrift I have no intention of implying hardship. Its not a matter of being cheap. More, making sure every penny counts, so there is room left for a few of lifes essential pleasures. Like lipgloss, and champagne.  

 

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Happy Chickens Moroccan Style (Day 5 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

22 May

Todays Menu  

  • Breakfast. Cereal and yoghurt and fruit
  • Lunch. Wraps with cream cheese for the kids. Leftover pizza heated in toaster for mummy
  • Snack. Banana Iced Yoghurt
  • Dinner – kids – chicken thighs with couscous and broccoli
  • Dinner adults – Spicy chicken legs, chickpea and coriander couscous, morrocan style carrot salad.

 

 

 Banana Iced Yoghurt  

Did you know you can freeze bananas? I didn’t until I had a glut last year and threw a few in the freezer to see what happens. They freeze brilliantly. You can even leave the skin on. It will go black, but keep them all pristine inside, and ready for action when you want to bake banana bread or, some banana iced yoghurt.  

While I was rummaging in the freezer looking for inspiration for dinner, I came across some long ago frozen bananas. So, when the kids wanted a mid afternoon snack, it was delivered, courtesy of the blender.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • 4 medium sized bananas, broken into chunks (they should break easily, no kit needed)
  • 200ml plain yoghurt/greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice of half a lemon
  1. Blitz banana using ice function on the blender.
  2. Add yoghurt/vanilla and juice until you have a slightly melting ice cream consistency.
  3. Serve

    Slightly melting Banana Iced Yoghurt

     

  

Total prep time. About 2 minutes. From the taking of the bananas out of the freezer to the placing the used blender in the dishwasher. Now that’s what I call fast food! The bananas are so sweet you don’t need to add sugar. My kids love this as a snack. I tell them its ice cream, while secretly feeling quite pleased that they are eating just a piece of fruit with some pro-biotic yoghurt.  

DINNER  

The food stocks are getting low, as is this weeks kitty, so I was getting a bit concerned about dinner. Then I remembered one of my staple after work meals when I was working. Seasoned chicken legs, Couscous, Salad. Very little prep time required, and on the whole a very thrifty dish. M&S quite often do a promo on their organic chicken legs at 4 for a fiver, so not really a budget buster. In fact, this is a great dish to serve up if you are feeding a large group, as the preparation is minimal, and the ingredients are not too expensive.  

Happy Chickens  

Chicken with Ras El Hanout

 

I was vegetarian for over 20 years until about 5 years ago. When I gave up meat, ‘free-range and organic’ were nowhere to be seen in my little corner of South-West London. When I finally started to eat meat again I vowed only to eat meat where the animal welfare standards were high. That raises a bit of a dilemma when you are invited to lunch and are asked if you have any special requests. Its sounds a more than a little picky and snooty to say ‘I’ll eat your meat but only if it’s up to my standards’. So unless I know people well, I either say I am veggie or offer to bring some food along.  

Which brings me on to todays food. Happy Chickens. The Organic Free Range kind are not cheap. So when I see them on offer I tend to stock the freezer. Obviously I took this step 9 months ago, with a batch of chicken legs that I found, this morning, lingering in the back of our ‘spare’ freezer. Sell by date 29 August 2009. Eaten by date, today 21 May 2010!  

If like me, you are using previously frozen chicken, do make sure it has defrosted fully. I left mine out on the worktop today (I am sure the health inspectors would be tutting) and it was still cold but thoroughly defrosted.  

I have a selection of spices in the cupboard like Cajun, Sumac, and todays choice, Ras El Hanout. Its a lovely, fragrant moroccan spice blend. To prepare the chicken you need do nothing more than to rub a little oil on the chicken legs. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Cook for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees. Thats it.  

The couscous  

I love couscous. I always keep a supply of this in the cupboard. Boil the kettle. Pour on water. A few minutes later and its ready. What could be easier? Today I decided to add a few ingredients and flavourings from the cupboard, but it was simply an add, mix and cover with boiling water exercise.  

I have made this, and variations of it so often, that I tend to just add, mix and taste rather than following any strict recipe.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • Couscous. Enough to fill the bottom of a soup bowl by about 1cm. Maybe 300g
  • Vegetable bouillon. A dessertspoon. Add and mix
  • Raisins. A large handful
  • Chickpeas. A standard tin, drained and washed.
  • Cumin (seeds not ground). 1 dessertspoonful
  • Pine nuts (toasted if you have time) 25g
  • Chopped coriander (from freezer)1 tablespoon
  • Butter. About 25 g

METHOD  

  • Mix all ingredients in bowl
  • Pour over boiling water until mixture is just immersed a little in the water
  • Agitate mixture with a fork
  • Cover with a cloth or plate for 5 minutes or so
  • Fluff with a fork and serve

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad. Inspired by Stephanie Alexander.  

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad

 

If you have not yet discovered the cookery genius that is Stephanie Alexander, then you have been missing out. I was introduced to her only last year by my foodie friend Annmaree. This is not a glossy, picture filled cookery book. It is a tome. A reference book filled with a lifetime of cooking knowledge.  It is arranged alphabetically by ingredient (why aren’t all cookery books organised that way?). So, when you have a weird or wonderful, or perhaps just a very boring ingredient that you want to use up, look it up, and Stephanie will provide you will a selection of ideas and recipes for it. Today I was wondering how best to use the carrots in the fridge, when Stephanie came to the rescue, and gave me the inspiration for this dressing.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • about 500g carrots, grated
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 dessertspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 dessertspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Large glug of olive oil (1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 dessertspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chillis

METHOD  

  1. Place cumin, garlic, salt, sugar in pestle and mortar and crush to a paste
  2. Add olive oil and lemon juice. Mix until you have a glossy dressing.
  3. Check taste and adjust seasoning
  4. Grate the carrots.
  5. Add the coriander and chilli and mix throughly
  6. Add dressing making sure salad well coated
  7. Serve

The biggest effort today, was not the cooking. Each dish probably took about 5 minutes preparation. The real effort was putting a little thought and imagination into the food available, and making an appetizing meal from it. The carrot salad exceeded all my expectations. It was not something I had tried before, but will definitely be one to use again.  

Dinner is served

 

DAY 5 SUMMARY  

A great use of some very neglected food from my freezer. 2 days of the challenge left. I am missing chocolate, and not at all optimistic that I wont go over budget. Food (or chocolate) donations anyone?  

Chickpea Couscous

Supper for a Song (Day 4 of The spendthrifts challenge)

21 May

   

Carrot and Coriander Soup with Creme Fraiche

 

Day 4 dawned, and I am starting to get slightly concerned at the dwindling cereal stocks, especially the children’s cereals which are almost empty.  By some miracle, they have just started taking to eating bran flakes. They think they are ‘Daddys Shreddies’ and I have yet to put them straight. I think I can just about stretch it out for another few days.   

Lunch was no effort at all as I managed to retrieve some Carrot and Coriander Soup from the freezer that I had made in February in a Martha Stewart moment , along with a couple of ready to bake rolls. 
 
I was more concerned about what I should make for dinner.  My daughter was having a friend over for a playdate and my usual freezer supply of meatballs and sauce had run dry. A quick stocktake last night led me to the answer. I have about 10 types of flour in the cupboards. I also have a few cans of tomatoes and passata. There is spinach and garlic in the freezer, butter, dolcelatte and feta in the fridge. The answer was obvious. Pizza. I just needed some mozzarella and maybe a topping or 2 for the grown ups.  Additional expenditure, £1.49. £1 for a large packet of Galbani Mozzarella (on offer at Sainsburys) and 49p for a large Aubergine in Lidl.  No wonder the pizza chains have done so well in the recession.  They are so cheap to make, they should blush when they present the bill.
 

Home made Pizza

 

We have for some time now been having a ‘Pizza Night’ at least once a month at home.  It’s not the fastest meal to prepare, as you have to allow time for the dough to rise, and to do a little prep for the toppings, but if you have a dough hook for your mixer, and a dishwasher to clear up, its easy, very cheap, and quite a lot of fun. With the money you save on the cost of eating out, you can have a bottle of wine (or discount fizz), buy in some dessert, rent a movie, and still have a stack of change compared to the usual bill you would face in a pizza restaurant.  In fact, if you are feeding a crowd, and don’t mind spending a bit of time in the kitchen while they are there, this has to be one of the cheapest meals you can make. And once you have tried the home-made variety, the ready to heat or takeaway version can never be considered as anything other than the poor relation.   

There is of course the faster method of making pizza that I have referred to in Pizza Pronto.  But if you want dough balls too, you are going to have to make the dough.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook, this is nothing much more than weighing and adding some ingredients together and allowing the mixer to do the work. You have to leave it for about an hour to rise then knock it back and you are ready to go.  In fact, I have quite often made the dough first thing, then covered it in oiled cling film and left it in the fridge all day to do a slow rise, then it is ready to go just when you need it. At the moment, I tend to employ the recipe and method  provided by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  (HFW) in his book River Cottage Everyday. Most of the ‘celebrity’ chefs offer a version of pizza dough. I have followed a few recipes, and I have found that there is not a lot between them taste wise, so try one out and see how you like it.   

    

Dough Balls, and other shapes too!

 

 Dough Balls are a must in this house, although they should perhaps more accurately be described as dough shapes when the children have a hand in the preparation.  These are a great way to get the children involved, as the worst that can happen is you have a few odd shapes.  

Home made garlic butter

 

 I generally make a double portion of HFW’s dough, as we are quite greedy, and any leftovers can go in the freezer. We probably use about half a portion of the dough for the dough balls.  While they are cooking in the oven we make the garlic butter. If your butter isnt soft, try it for a minute on defrost in the microwave, keeping a close eye on it. Mash in some pre chopped garlic from the freezer (to taste, but as a guide I use about 3 tsps for 1/2 packet of butter)  

For the sauce, heat 2 tbsps olive oil in a pan, gently fry a dessertspoon of the garlic, a tsp of salt flakes and sugar, and add a 500ml carton of passata. Simmer for 5 mins. Sauce is ready  

 A few tips   

  • Pre-heat the oven and get it as hot as you can
  • Roll out the dough as thin as possible.
  • Place dough on pizza stone or baking tray before adding toppings. Or you have no hope at all of transferring the topped pizza without it collapsing or turning into a Calzone
  • Go easy on the sauce. Less is more. More is a soggy, not so nice pizza.
  • Scatter your toppings. Dont crowd the pizza. Too much and the base wont cook.
  • Drizzle with a little  oil before you bake. It does make a difference.

I just love making these, as it’s the perfect opportunity to clear out the fridge of all those odds and ends that look like they will never find a home. A couple of slices of salami, some cheese drying out around the edges. The end of a jar of chutney. Today we had the following combos   

A Pizz a Heaven!

 

   

Margherita Pizza for the kids

  • Tomato sauce and mozzarella
  • Spinach with Dolcelatte and Walnuts
  • Red onion chutney with feta and aubergine
  • Tomato sauce, feta and aubergine

Thanks to the unexpected warm end to the day, and the equally unexpected appearance of Mr Mummyinahurry at the children’s tea time, we were able to eat these in the garden. I am convinced that everything tastes better when you eat it in the sunshine.   

Day 4 Summary    

As a result of my week of thrift, we have completely run out of rice cakes and breadsticks, the after-school snack of choice in this house. The completely unexpected upside of this has been a sudden interest in carrots from the children. Yes carrots. Which they ate reluctantly yesterday because nothing else was on offer.  Today when I offered carrots after school I was greeted with shrieks of delight, only previously heard in conjunction with the words ‘crisps’ or ‘chocolate’. These are the same carrots that I have served up several times a week for the past few months that have always been rejected. Well I never!   

   

   

 

Happy Eggs and Fabulous Fishcakes (Day 3 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

20 May

Keeping a close and slightly anxious eye on the challenge budget, last night I decided to bring the bread maker out of retirement, and before I went to bed put in the usual flour, yeast and water and left it to work its magic while I dreamed of a night of unbroken sleep. It was just a dream!  

This morning I descended the stairs, half asleep, nose in the air like the bisto kid,  inhaling the irresistable aroma of freshly baked bread. Every time I use the bread maker I am struck by its genius, and wonder why I don’t use it all the time.  

Breadmaker Bread

 

Dippy Egg and Soldiers

 

LUNCH – Dippy Eggs and Soldiers  

The fresh bread was a helpful head start to our quick and thrifty lunch of ‘dippy eggs’ (soft-boiled eggs to the uninitiated). This is one of my favourite midweek lunches with the children and is on our menu at least twice a week. Quick, easy, nutritious. A sure-fire winner for any busy person.  

The Egg Cooker

 

I am, I confess, a bit of a kitchen gadget collector, but in my defence, I only keep the things I use. One of my favourite and most used pieces of kit is the egg cooker that I bought from Lakeland last year. I am eggstatic about it! While I know that in theory, it doesnt take a genius to boil an egg, I used to always get distracted and get the timings wrong. Since the egg cooker found a home here we always have perfectly cooked eggs.  

Now for a little word about the eggs. For eggs that I am poaching, or soft boiling, or putting in a salad, I favour those from Clarence Court above all others. We usually have their pretty pastel coloured Cotswold Legbar eggs, or alternatively Burford Browns. They are unrivalled by any other brand I have tried. They have the most incredible deep orangey yellow yolk. They tend to induce a fit of nostalgia, reminding me of the eggs my Gran used to serve up in my childhood.  

I prefer to use freshly baked bread (from a bakery or the breadmaker) for the ‘soldiers’. With butter. Lots of butter.  

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

 

   

DINNER – Smoked mackerel fishcakes  

My fridge was looking very bare this morning, and I was starting to suffer from ‘almost empty fridge’ anxiety. A quick chat with a good friend, Rita, gave me the inspiration for using up the half  bowl of mash left over from Monday. Smoked mackerel fishcakes. Cheap, tasty, and full of good stuff.  

A quick dash up to Sainsburys after lunch found me in possession of 252g of mackerel for only £1.87. Could I be any more thrifty?!!  

I can honestly say I have never made these before. I had gained a rough idea of the framework for Rita’s recipe, then adapted that to suit the fridge contents. It took about 10 minutes in total to make them, then probably another 10 minutes or so to fry them in the pan.  

INGREDIENTS  

Fishcake Ingredients

 

  • 560g cooked mash
  • 250g smoked mackerel
  • 10g wilting chopped parsley (the fresh unwilting kind will do just as well!)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 dessert spoons chopped chives
  • 2 dessert spoons crème fraîche
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • breadcrumbs (from freezer). If you don’t have any, or are short of time, you can miss these out
  • 1 egg, beaten with a dash of milk
  • I almost forgot. I had half a cooked salmon fillet from yesterday left over so I added that in too)

METHOD  

I get the kids to wash their hands while I am gathering the ingredients together. They take a while and it gives me a chance to get everything out before they start bickering!  

The mix

 

  1. Take skin off fish, and using fingers check for bones. Then rub the fish between your fingers until it flakes.
  2. Put fish in large bowl with mash (or split between 2 bowls if you have 2 kids to save arguments)
  3. Mix the mustard with the crème fraîche, then add and mix to the potato/fish mixture
  4. Combine all the additional ingredients, tasting as you go
  5. Shape into patties, then dip in egg and coat with breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil and butter on a gentle/medium heat for 5 mins each side.

This made 11 medium-sized patties. Enough to fill a few hungry stomachs.  

I served this with broccoli and cucumber for the kids. Mr Mummyinahurry and I ate ours with the remains of the spinach and beans from Monday, some beetroot (the vacuum packed kind) , a couple of lemon wedges and a generous dollop of mayo.  These freeze well so you can always make a double batch and freeze them ready for a quick supper another day.  

Fishcakes, bean salad and beetroot

 

The children loved making these, and despite my reservations about the overly fishy taste, they literally licked their bowls clean when we had finished the prep, then ate all their dinner and asked for seconds.  

So, day 3, a great success. But the kitty is not looking so good, and I am wondering if I can really do this….