Leftovers 2nd August

I’m pleased to say that this week’s shop I’ve started to revert back to my usual meal planning method. The past few weeks have been a little bit caution to the wind, as we found ourselves yet another month into the flat buying & moving process. We’re trying to see the best of the bad situation, it’s another month we’re able to save to increase our buffer for when we do have full bills and a mortgage to pay, but we’ve also decided that we deserve a few more treats here and there, like dinners out and not having such a strict budget for the weekly food shop.

That being said, it felt really good to get back into the swing of checking for leftovers and planning meals accordingly! We do hate wastage, and whilst its not like we’ve been throwing away loads the past few weeks, it’s just been nice to be a bit savvier about my cooking again, as well as getting excited about a few new recipes that I’m discovering and want to try out – loving Pinterest so much for that at the moment 😀

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The first of which being these incredible Raspberry Jam Oat Bars from a newly discovered blog Cooking Classy – so simple to make and absolutely delicious! A wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, working the ingredients through with your fingers, spreading the jam across the layers, and smelling the amazing aromas throughout the house as the mixture bakes to perfection! I’m so proud of how beautifully they turned out, as Dave said they look just like the photo, which is a testament to the recipe and photography skills of Jaclyn at Cooking Classy, that the gorgeous pictures on the website aren’t impossible to replicate at home. Looking forward to reading more from her!

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On to the rest of the week’s meals then – my leftovers were some fennel, some diced pancetta, a cucumber and some tinned tomatoes. I also wanted to make sure that we had a more veggie week than we have recently, so it was a perfect opportunity to try out a recipe that popped up on the BBC Good Food feed – Summer Vegetable Casserole. I love courgettes and aubergines, and I’m really starting to get into roasting vegetables now so I was really excited to give this one a go. The only substitution I’ve made, is my usual swapping out the new potatoes in the roasting tin for some pan-fried gnocchi added at the last minute along with the heated tinned tomatoes, to give the casserole a slight difference in texture – and I am a gnocchi-holic, so it was a no brainer really ;p

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The courgettes led me to find a nice and simple courgette and tomato pasta dish, which uses up the diced pancetta nicely too. I love the flavour combination of smokey pancetta with some gorgeous veg in a tomato sauce, along with my standard generous helping of parmesan of course 😉 The leftover fennel is perfect for a Warm Chickpea, Fennel and Pepper Salad – I absolutely love this meal because it is so light and refreshing with the crisp fennel, and so different! I’m really excited to use some pointy sweet peppers this week too; my sister in law used them a while ago and they were just divine – I’ve been meaning to pick some up for ages. They are more expensive, but I’m hoping the flavour difference will be so worth it!

Chickpea & Fennel Salad

Speaking of the in-laws, my mother-in-law is coming round for dinner this week for her regular fix of my famous Arabian Beef (recipe to follow!), or spiced mince as she likes to call it 🙂 It’s really nice to have certain meals that close family or friends like so much that they just request it, I love making people happy with my cooking so I’m clearly doing a good job 🙂 That also covers the cucumber nicely, as the beef is served with diced cucumber, shredded lettuce and various dips, all in some toasted pitta breads. It’s such a social meal, which is also really important to me, as everyone just dives in to the serving bowls, and it creates a lovely sharing atmosphere around the table. Getting messy helps too ;p

I find it a great challenge to create my meal plans in this way, finding it encourage me to source my recipes from new places and try interesting new things I might not normally – but the savings on our weekly shop just from thinking about what ingredients you have and can be made to go that little bit further, are truly worth it that extra effort. I know I keep saying it, but hey, that’s the point of this blog right? :p

Lotsa Love, Abbie x

Leftovers 26th July

I’ve started noticing certain trends in my shopping now that I am paying extra attention and particularly documenting them here – there are certain things that I will buy more often than others, certain ingredients that lend themselves more to being used across a wide range of recipes throughout the week. And that really is the main focus of Leftovers for Lunch – I really think the best way to make the most of your ingredients is to make them spread out across as many meals as possible, whilst maintaining variety, so versatile ingredients are essential.

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One thing I buy time and time again, so much so that I’m not even sure I can count them as leftovers, is cherry tomatoes! I love the cute little red pops of awesomeness, full to bursting with flavour and (in my opinion) make pretty much any meal just the bit better. I prefer to use cherry tomatoes over anything else, as I mentioned before in my Chicken and Spinach Curry post – they are perfect as a sauce base, whether you really chop them up to make a proper thick sauce, or cook them till they start to blister and pop and use them as a light coating for pasta. They are perfect as a garnish, or as an integral part of a veggie meal or salad, I seriously cannot get enough of these little suckers!

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A perfect use of cherry tomatoes is in the quickest of quick and easy dishes – filled pasta with cherry tomatoes as a light sauce. It really livens up what would otherwise be quite a bland meal, and it barely takes 10 minutes all together – chop up the tomatoes and fry until you can burst them easily, and reduce the sauce down slightly, in the same time it takes to boil a pan of water and cook the filled pasta. Add the pasta to the cherry tomatoes for a few minutes with some parsley and parmesan, and you’re good to go.

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I also use them as a garnish for a meal I’ve been meaning to cook for a while now – Lemon Chicken & Garlic Pasta (I’ll post the recipe as soon as I can). This meal is the perfect mix of homely, heart warming cooking, with that light freshness just to bring it out of being too stodgy. The chicken is marinated with lemon, and the garlic is cooked with chicken stock to make a stunning gravy, and believe it or not served with pasta, parmesan and cherry tomatoes this is one of my favourite chicken pasta dishes. The flavour work so well together, and sometimes all you want it something really comforting and garlicky!

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Also on the menu for this week is a Fried Fish Curry with tomato sauce, Creamy Tomato Risotto and Lamb & Fennel Spaghetti. Only writing this now am I aware of what a tomato overload that might be – we’ll be orange before the week is out! While the fish curry is a new dish I’m looking forward to trying, the other two are old favourites. Though the risotto is about as simple as it gets, again it is really flavoursome because of the cherry tomatoes, with their sweet, tangy taste that I appear to be unhealthily obsessed with…

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Of course as with every ingredient, it is each to your own – Dave isn’t exactly a fan, though that is probably more due to over exposure than anything else ;p but I would seriously suggest swapping out whatever tomatoes you are used to cooking with in favour for cherry tomatoes at least once, just to give them a go for their flavour, even if you’re not a fan of the satisfying way they go pop!

Lotsa Love, Abbie x

Leftovers 27th June

Ok, so it’s time to get back into the swing of things with the Leftovers posts! Whilst it is the last week of the month, and we are having to keep things as tight as possible and really stretch out our leftovers, this week doesn’t make a whole lot of use a frozen leftovers, which has been our main source of food these past few weeks. Great for us budget wise, as it means we don’t have to buy any extra ingredients for those days, but it does make it rather boring reading material 😉

I would like to take this opportunity however, to get off track for just a moment and share with you this photo that my sister took the day after Father’s Day – we bought my dad (who has only over the past year discovered that not only is he a brilliant cook, but also really enjoys it too!) a tagine (Lakeland), with a heat diffuser so he could use it on their electric hob, and a recipe book. He was over the moon bless him, and thus we were all invited round for dinner the day after to give it a good try out. This was the result – the most delicious melt-in-your-mouth lamb and apricot tagine, complete with steaming hot liquid to soak over the lemony couscous it was served with. It was quite a spectacle to behold, sat on the table in front of us all, and kept the food piping hot as we all went back for seconds. A worthy purchase for people who enjoy the pleasure of slow-cooking and fancy something a bit different!

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Anyway, back to this week’s leftovers. We had some spinach, some peppers, and a cucumber. My last post saw me dig out my ‘ye olde faithful’ cookbook, the Reader’s Digest 30 minute cookbook, and one of the meals that caught my eye whilst I was flicking through was a tomato pasta dish with spinach – even better when I checked the ingredients it also called for peppers, and broad beans which I will substitute for some frozen soya beans I have. One less thing to buy, and I think they’re much nicer 🙂

I also need to make sure I have a super quick and easy meal to make this week, as last night (Saturday) I walked 13.1 miles around my local town at midnight, in aid of raising money for St Barnabas’ Hospice, a local charity which looks after people with terminal illnesses in their last days. They looked after my grandad a few years ago, so this really is a very personal cause for me. It does mean however, that after walking nearly a half marathon, not getting home till 5am, could mean that I’m not particularly in the mood for cooking too much Sunday evening! Luckily, the cucumber we have points me straight to an old favourite, tomato & halloumi salad. This thing takes no time at all to throw together, and is so fresh and satisfying particularly in hotter weather.

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I was hoping though, that I will have the energy to cook up something which requires a little more effort – Mum’s Bolognese. The reason I want to do the meal specifically on Sunday, is because I have recently discovered an app called CookBooth. I will be posting in more detail on this soon, but it is essentially an app where people can post their own recipes, follow other professional chefs & foodies, and also save their recipes. Gizzi Erskine is a fan, and so far I’m loving it! There are always photos for every instruction step, and it’s a great way to share and discover new recipes! So I’d love to get my Mum’s Bolognese onto Cookbooth, and as I’m not used to taking pretty photos whilst I’m actually cooking, I think doing this for the first time over a weekend  was probably a good idea, thought maybe we can roll it over to next week 😉 But watch this space for my full review of the Cookbooth app!

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The ingredients for bolognese are always great for rolling over into other meals, particularly the celery. A salad I’ve been meaning to make for a while has popped into the forefront of my mind – a wonderfully crunchy and peppery Celery, Radish & Cucumber salad. We had some radishes round my in-laws last night, and it just reminded me how beautiful these little bursts of colour are! So this will make a perfect, long lasting lunch we can take to work with us over the next few days.

Radish & Celery Salad

Lotsa Love, Abbie x

Leftovers 24th May

Ooh, it’s getting towards the end of the month again and things are running really quite tight! Not counting the fact that over the bank holiday weekend we’ve had more than a few lunches and coffees out… but hey we’re making the most of the last few weeks being mortgage free! Still, it’s important for us to keep the food budget tight – anything else can be supplemented by our own pockets.

Once again, a few meals have rolled over in to this week due that good old ‘life happens’ scenario, and we’ve got a few freezer meals which have helped out loads. As such there wasn’t much more for me to do – though we did acquire two large flat mushrooms which led me to this gorgeous looking mushroom fajita recipe with avocado hummus from BBC Good Food. I love colourful meals, and the greens, reds and browns of this are a pretty good indication to me that this is going to be delicious and healthy. The more colour in your diet, the better!

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That being said, there’s definitely something to be said for a plateful of bright green goodness, particularly this time of year. I fell in love with this Asparagus & Avocado Tabbouleh dish as soon as I saw it in BBC Good Food Magazine, and I am so excited to be giving it a try out this week. I’ve been wanting to cook with quinoa and various other grains for a while, and this seemed like a great opportunity, with a gorgeous zesty dressing and punchy flavour from the asparagus paired with the smooth avocado, and the edamame beans just make it super awesome! 😀

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Grains & pulses are such a fantastic store cupboard staple for this kind of cooking, as they are easy to keep stocked up on and so versatile for adding to whatever other leftovers you have – quinoa can be made into some protein packed dinners as well as healthy lunches, and pulses are a fantastic alternative to meat in so many different meals. This week I’m cooking an old favourite, Red Lentil Ragu – this is a dish that seriously goes a long long way. I cook the supposedly appropriate ratio of ingredients for the servings suggested, and still end up freezing half – i don’t think I have a pan big enough to cope with the full amount!

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Well, this is going to be my last Leftovers post for a couple of weeks, as we are going on an adventure! (Extra points to the sci-fi geeks who know what I’m talking about there 😉 ) We’re off camping on the Isle of Man for Dave’s 30th Birthday, so I will be totally off the grid, but we will be cooking on a serious budget off a gas stove! So I’m sure I will have some fun experiences to relate when I get back ;p

Wish me luck!

Lotsa Love 🙂 x

Leftovers 19th May

Before any of you ask – yes, I went to Chocaffinitea this weekend

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But, on to business! I have to say I am particularly proud of this week’s shop – less than £50 and I’ve got some pretty amazing looking meals ahead of me. My leftovers were half a chorizo sausage and some spinach, along with a frozen Lighter Moussaka which speaks for itself, I’ll just defrost, heat through and serve with a side salad and some garlic bread. (NB – I’m aware this is a cheat’s version, I leave the real thing to my mum! It scares me!)

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As usual I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the chorizo, this time it was in a really simple, light salad – Smoked Haddock & Chorizo with a mustardy lemon dressing. That’s all there is to it, couldn’t be easier (or much tastier!) That is one of the things I love about this way of shopping, it keeps in mind the recipes I’ve tried as I try to think for myself what to do with certain ingredients, but if I find I’m really lacking inspiration it gives me a nice gentle nudge to search out new recipes.

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Like the chana masala to use the rest of the spinach – as you all know I don’t think it’s possible to go wrong with chickpeas, and I think they hold up so well against the powerful flavours in a curry. As does the spinach; even though it wilts down, I love the sharp, tangy bitterness biting it’s way through the smoother, earthier spices. I am really excited to give this one a go, chana masala is one of my favourite curry dishes!

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From there it’s somehow ended up being a seriously mushroom heavy week – I don’t really know how! I wanted something to use up some of the fresh pasta I was getting in for Sunday night’s bolognese, and came across a quick and easy lemon & thyme mushroom pasta in Nigella Express – perfect for Wednesday night when Dave heads out to band practice. That wouldn’t use up all the mushrooms from the pack, so out comes a firm favourite, my adapted version of Thomasina Miers’ Chipotle Mushroom & Feta tortillas from Mexican Food Made Simple. I’ve made these for friends before, always served with some black beans and guacamole, and they always go down a storm!

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And whilst we maintain a very low meat diet more out of choice & personal preference than any kind of budgetary reasons, I do like to have some meat every now and then. I was looking through my Gino’s Pasta cookbook, and came across a meal I’ve been meaning to cook for a while – sausage meat with rosemary and mushrooms… and there it was, another mushroom meal. Ah well, everything in moderation, especially moderation, right?! 😉

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Joking aside, I have been suggested that perhaps a week every now and then focusing on and showcasing a particular ingredient would be a good way to mix the blog up a little and keep it interesting, so whilst this isn’t my Mushroom Week blog post just yet, it’s certainly giving me some good ideas 😉

Let me know in the meantime if there are any ingredients you’d like to know more about, and see how to make the best use of them!

Lotsa Love! x

Leftovers 10th May

So… last week was one of those weeks where life happened. Don’t get me wrong, when life happens its always for the best; an impromptu lunch date with hubby, round friends’ for dinner. Not only are these spontaneous moments the best part of life and must be relished, but they also mean that leftovers end being being whole meals rolled from one week to another, as long as you are picky about which meals get shoved to the back of the fridge.

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A beautiful latte like this at my favourite cafe in Brighton is clearly the definition of ‘life’ happening 😉

In my world, the correct ratio of olives to alcohol in a martini ;)

In my world, the correct ratio of olives to alcohol in a martini 😉

The easiest of these being any meat meals, particularly those where the meat is frozen already. You have to be careful, because if you freeze meat after it’s just been in the fridge for a couple of days already, it doesn’t keep as well and you normally end up with some fairly funky smelling thawed chicken etc, which is ALWAYS bad. Another good bet for rolling back meals, are the store cupboard options – meals that rely largely on grains or preserved items like olives. So, easily and without too much explanation required, this week rolls over bolognese, pasta puttanesca and mushroom risotto (which I just forgot about to be honest, no life happening there!)

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Otherwise, the only other leftover I had in the fridge was half a block of halloumi (I know, wtf?!) from the Cypriot halloumi pasta dish from last week. As I had been daydreaming about BBC Good Food’s Warm Halloumi, Chickpea & Lime Salad for most of the week, it seemed like an obvious choice as the stands up pretty well on its own, so we could just about get away with the half block. On a side note, this pasta dish last week was actually really nice – very different with the grated, uncooked halloumi, though I think next time I might add a few bits like sun-dried tomatoes and olives just to add a little something extra.

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Now I’m left with the decision of something I just want to cook, and we haven’t had fish in a while, so I jumped again to BBC GF Harissa Roast Salmon with Lemon Chickpea Couscous. I discovered this meal whilst at the Winter Good Food show in November, as part of their ‘tapas’ style restaurant showcasing the seasonal menus. Me and mum had a vegetarian and meat platter between us, and were able to try about 8 different dishes for lunch, it was so lovely and clever. This was one of my favourites, and I got it all to myself because mum doesn’t like salmon 😀 The fennel compliments all the flavours perfectly, and it’s a nice showy meal too if you want to have a bit of a dinner party.

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The fennel will also be used nicely in the Asparagus, Fennel & Spinach Soup I decided not to make last week, which is even better 😀 I need 2 big bunches of asparagus for this meal, and I’m so excited as they are definitely in season right now. I want to try making more soups, and this is as good a starting point as any, though I’m definitely planning this one for the weekend so I’ve got plenty of time and can relax and plan and not worry about anything 🙂 Though I have to say, it’s the topping for this soup which really drew me in, it looks so crunchy and gorgeous and flavourful!

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So, here’s to more life happening 😉

Lotsa Love x

Leftovers 3rd May

Yippee ki-yay! It’s Payday! Or it has been anyway… I have been thinking all week about the meals I want to cook that are a little more extravagant that the last couple weeks of the month will allow. We always eat ridiculously well on payday week, and normally eat out a couple of times over payday weekend – Mexican AND Japanese this weekend! 😉 But, no matter what meals I try to work into the weekly plan, I still shop exactly the same way, checking the leftover ingredients in the fridge, and planning other meals around the ingredients I then buy. Payday week just allows me to err on the more expensive side of things 🙂

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This week our leftovers were some cherry tomatoes, celery and half a chorizo ring. That was perfect straight off the mark as we’ve had a bit of a stressful week, and decided to have a nice relaxing night in with our favourite meal curled up on the sofa – chorizo and tomato gnocchi with mozzarella. I’m all up for eating at the table as often as possible, to aid digestion and encourage real conversation, but as we shipped ours off for charity in preparation for the house move we’ve been on the sofa for a few weeks now 😉 We have trays for the most part, but there is nothing quite like a nice homely meal, served in our shallow bowls, eating curled up on the sofa with a spoon. It’s so comforting, and that’s one of my favourite things about gnocchi. This meal is so gorgeous, the punchy flavour of the chorizo with the zingy cherry tomatoes, with the smooth mozzarella all rounded off with some sharp balsamic vinegar. Yum!

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One meal that I was categorically making this week, leftovers be damned, is BBC Good Food’s Chicken Biryani. I have dreaming about this meal for the better part of the month, planning on treating ourselves this payday – the flavours and textures in this dish are really quite luxurious, with the tender cooked chicken and the perfect biryani rice – well cooked but not stodgy at all. I always boil us an egg each too, that just seems to me to be an essential part of a biryani, but each to their own. The daft thing is, I have no idea why I felt I had to wait until payday to make this dish, the only thing I had to buy was the chicken! Don’t get me wrong, chicken is one of the more expensive meats and I try to use it as sparingly as possible, but everything else is store cupboard essentials, from the spices to the rice and garlic etc. So looks like we’ll be having this a little more often 😉

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Back to the leftovers then – celery. Another one of those filler ingredients that don’t get involved in all that many recipes, unless it’s a salad or bolognaise of some sort – did someone say bolognaise?! Another meal I don’t cook anywhere near enough, is my Mum’s Chunky Bolognaise. This was the first thing I cooked for my hubby actually, with a bruschetta starter that he says still hasn’t been beaten by any restaurant he’s been to 🙂 I’m sure I’ll share that recipe with you sometime!

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So bolognaise means carrots, and this week is Cinco de Mayo, which means Deliciously Ella’s Bean Chilli again! 😀 I think this is the biggest indication of how much we love this dish – we very rarely have repeats within a few months, let alone the same week! The simple recipe is also a fantastic chance to get the hubby into the kitchen a little more – slowly but surely, and only with meals he really loves is the key I think 🙂

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Bolognaise also means pasta, and one of the little luxuries we allow ourselves almost no matter what is ‘fresh’ pasta – and by that I mean store-bought packs in the fridge section. That quickly sorts the fast meal I need for hubby’s band practice night with pasta puttanesca, but I can get three meals out of one particular bag of pasta. I discovered a recipe for halloumi pasta on twitter the other week, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to try it out! The recipe calls for the halloumi to be grated, which I never would have even thought of, so I’m very intrigued to see how it turns out, particularly with the simplicity of the other ingredients 🙂

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One thing which I do feel is worth pointing out on this payday week shop, is that we are still very budget conscious. As I was adding the ingredients required for the meals I was planning to the app on my phone, the total items was getting higher and higher. As I added the asparagus, spinach, spring onions, pumpkin seeds and a few other bits for a soup I wanted to try, the number got a little too high for comfort. After all, whilst it’s nice to treat ourselves once we get paid, and we do that with food not nights out, there is still an amount of careful planning so we are not left totally high and dry at the end of the month. So, a little swapping around and removing of the ingredients which were to be just used for that meal brought the list back down to a more comfortable level, and with the addition of a few household necessities the weekly shop was not too bad on the purse strings at all. There’s always next month 🙂

Lotsa Love! x