I read an article in the Guardian last week that said millennials waste more food than their grandparents generation. The article lays some of the blame on Instagram (which if you remember from an earlier post of mine is also apparently the reason none of us read any more), but whatever the cause I don’t find it surprising that we are wasting more food these days. In fact, the most surprising thing in the article was the revelation that apparently I count as a millennial!
So why do so many of us waste food? There’s definitely a lack of education when it comes to cooking. I know I’m fortunate in this respect as not only did I grow up with two parents who cooked – and had both done so professionally at various points in their lives – but my school offered a well rounded food technology syllabus. We had fully equipped kitchens at our disposal and I was even able to achieve my basic food hygiene certificate as part of my GCSE in the subject.
Not only are many of us not taught how to cook, we’re also not shown how to manage a store cupboard; my dad always taught me to move old tins to the front and put the newer ones behind for instance. There’s also lots of bad information out there on use by/best before dates, and many people are overly cautious or afraid of eating something that will make them sick.
I think the final issue is a timing/planning one, and I know this is where I often fall down. Living with a spoonie makes it difficult to make a plan and stick to it at times. I know the virtue of meal planning, making sure everything gets used while it is fresh and incorporating one ingredient over a number of meals to use up whatever I’ve bought in. I do this to an extent, but try and reach a compromise where the mental health of those in the house comes first of course. Luckily I can afford to do this, but it still niggles at me when I have to throw something out because our plans have changed.
Here’s some of my top tips for reducing waste without sticking to a rigid or unimaginative menu like The Guardian suggests our grandparents did (Tuesday was always gammon and eggs, Friday was always fish etc).
Learn to love leftovers: I’ve talked before about my love of leftovers, and being prepared to eat whatever I had for dinner again for lunch the next day has served me well. It’s obviously important that you store leftovers properly and reheat anything thoroughly before eating if you’re having it hot.
Have plenty of recipes at your disposal: I have at least 10 recipes I love to make with butternut squash, so if I have one that needs using up, but I don’t fancy butternut squash lasagna, I could make soup, or curry, or roast it whole and top it like a jacket potato. This means I’m less likely to waste something because I wasn’t in the mood for a particular meal that day.
Be soup-er inventive: Almost anything can be turned in to soup. I definitely feel like I’m ‘hashtag winning’ when I look in the kitchen to find a solitary carrot, some wilting leeks and a sad potato and – voila! – 30 minutes later we are enjoying the warm hug of vegetable soup.
Be conservative: No, not politically or morally. I mean making conserves, preserves, jams, pickles – whatever. I’m yet to try pickling anything, but I did recently turn some sorry looking apples in to a jar of delicious apple sauce for my morning porridge.
Know how to store leftovers properly: okay tiny confession – I often eat leftover rice, reheated the next day. I know I’ll have some friends gasping in horror at this. There’s a lot of bad experience about rice – incorrectly stored and reheated rice can make you very sick, I know. But I also know how I should prepare things properly, how to store them, and to make sure things are reheated adequately. And it’s not make me ill yet. Read up, understand about temperatures and bacteria, and make wise decisions. Just maybe stay away from nuking that leftover egg fried rice until you know what you’re doing.
Plan for leftovers: We’ll have ‘rubber chicken‘ weeks – which I’ve mentioned here before. I’ll roast a chicken on the Sunday and we’ll have that in the traditional way, then the next few days are meals made with the leftover meat, usually culminating in chicken noodle soup to use up the carcass.
So there you have it. Do you have any recipes or meals you like to make with leftovers specifically? Please let me know in the comments.
I love pasta! The first dish I ever learned to cook was macaroni cheese. I was 7 years old and couldn’t even reach the stove-top without a stool but (with proper adult supervision of course) I made my own cheese sauce from scratch, and it’s been my go-to ever since. Both of my parents were cooks and pasta fans, so many other pasta dishes would feature growing up – spaghetti carbonara, baked lasagne, ham and mushroom tagliatelle. True fact – I once one a pair of trainers from a Nickelodeon phone-in for being able to name 5 types of pasta.
Yet I’d never made my own pasta before, and I’m not sure why. Then I was inspired by a colleague bringing homemade pasta in for her lunch, and I finally decided to give it a go. My first attempt I just used a rolling pin and a pizza cutter for rolling and shaping and it worked. Obviously since then I’ve bought a pasta machine – any excuse! You can pick them up for under £15 online or in places like TK Maxx so just keep your eyes peeled for a deal.
Homemade pasta is ultimate simple food. Okay to get the best out of it you could do with a proper pasta machine, but in essence all it takes is two ingredients and some elbow grease. Sure you can push the boat out and use proper 00 flour, or semolina. However if good old plain flour is all you have in, then that’s all you need. I use the traditional egg but if you need or want to be egg-free, swap for a similar volume of your choice of liquid – water is the easiest and you could add a bit of oil for richness; or pesto, spinach or tomato for colour.
[recipe title=”Homemade pasta” servings=”3-4″ time=”20mins prep, plus 30mins chilling” difficulty=”easy”]
200g plain flour
2 medium eggs
Boiling salted water to cook
Put your flour in to a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack your eggs in to this well
Start by using a fork to mix the eggs and gradually incorporate the flour. As it starts to come together abandon the fork and use your hands until all the flour is combined with the egg and your dough comes together in a ball
Turn your ball out on to a very lightly floured surface and kneed for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll know you’ve hit the sweet-spot between sticky and dry when the dough is smooth and springs back slightly when you press it
Wrap the dough well in cling film and pop it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. If you’re having a complicated sauce with your pasta now is a good time to prepare it
After 30 minutes take your dough out of the fridge and it’s ready to be rolled and cut. Either use a rolling pin to roll the pasta out as thin as you can get and cut in to strips with a knife or (like I did) a pizza cutter. Alternatively, if you have a pasta machine roll the dough out with that. I tend to go through at thickness 1, then 2, then fold over (book fold) and go back to 1. I do this 3 times and then progress up through the numbers until my sheet of pasta is nice and thin before cutting in to ribbons.
Leave your cut pasta to dry while you get a pan of salted water to the boil. This fresh pasta will only need about 3 minutes once it’s in the water!
I hope I’ve made that sound as easy as it is! Please let me know if I’ve inspired you to try homemade pasta, or if I’ve just left you craving a big bowl of carb-y goodness!
Do you ever buy something ‘just because’ and then have to backwards engineer a reason for your cupboard full of weird and wonderful ingredients? Yeah, me too. So after a trip to Lidl I had a bottle of raspberry syrup glaring at me accusingly from across the kitchen. Then on baking Sunday I couldn’t take it any more – I will not be judged by an impulse buy! I had to throw together a recipe to use the syrup. A loaf cake is always an obvious choice for me, but as I didn’t have any eggs in I decided to get creative so, yup, this is also vegan.
There’s a bit more method in this than my normal “mix everything in a bowl and cross your fingers” approach, but I’ve balanced this by using a simple cup measure. I’ve included weights if you need them, but I’m a total convert to cup measures now – much less fuss. I was a little taken aback by how runny this batter is, although as you’ll see from the photos I had great fun pouring it in to the cake tin. What I’m saying is don’t worry if your mixture looks more like ganache than cake, it’ll all come out okay in the end.
I’ve talked before about how I drink plenty of water during the day at work. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m terrible for remembering to drink enough at the weekend when I’m not withing 10 steps of a filtered water tap. This leaves me grouchy and tired and headachey most weekends, so I had to do something about it. The husband won’t drink plain water, and I wanted to make something we could both drink. Funnily enough, for someone who doesn’t enjoy hot drinks, the husband is a big fan of iced tea.
Well there was the perfect solution! And with summer on its way (the solstice is next week folks), iced tea seems like the ideal drink to turn to. I could make a big pitcher of it in the morning and we could fill our glasses from it throughout the day. I’m a fruit tea aficionado now, so a quick rummage in the cupboard turned up plenty of choice. I settled on these Knightsbridge peach and raspberry teabags (from Lidl) and some Scottish Blend pyramid bags for the black tea element. I highly recommend the Scottish Blend – made for the softer water up here, you can leave them in to brew for much longer without everything becoming overwhelmed with tannins, which is handy for iced tea especially.
I find the amount of sugar quoted below as plenty for my tastes, but feel free to add more or less as you prefer. The husband tops his tea up with a splash of apple juice for extra sweetness, which is also quite a good idea.
1ltr boiled water
1ltr chilled water
4 peach & raspberry teabags (or other fruit tea)
2 Scottish Blend teabags (or other black tea)
1 lemon, sliced + 2tsp lemon juice
3-4tbsp caster sugar, to taste
Ice cubes, to serve
Put all of the teabags in a heatproof jug or bowl and cover with 1ltr boiled water. Leave to brew for 10 – 30mins. The longer you leave it the stronger the taste, but beware tannins.
Remove the teabags and stir in the sugar, using more or less according to your tastes.
Top your tea up with 1ltr of chilled water and add the lemon juice and slices.
Chill in the fridge for 1-2hrs, then serve over ice. The tea should keep in the fridge for a day or two
I hope you give this a try and find it nice and refreshing. Sláinte!
I love taking my own lunch in to work – it makes me feel smug. Of course I have days where I can only just get myself in to the office, never mind a fully prepared meal, but when I can be organised enough to throw a few bits in to some Tupperware I’m always glad I have. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know how proud I am because I’m always posting pictures of my delicious lunch on there. Here’s some quick tips on how I put together my lunch boxes.
Prepare in advance – if I can prep something on a Sunday evening that will fill my lunchbox for the coming week then I know I’m set. I might make a batch of my lunchbox muffins or a big bowl of pasta salad. At the very least I have a quick check and make sure I’ve got enough bread and bananas in to see me through a few days.
Eat the rainbow – not only do I like to wear all the colours, I also like to eat them. If I’m looking to add something to my lunchbox, I aim for a colour that’s not already there. Usually this means adding vegetables – carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumber being some of my favourite easy crudites to add. Of course this is also a great excuse to get different fruits in too – peaches (nothing wrong with tinned!), raspberries, melon, satsuma, pear… I could go on and on.
Love your leftovers – luckily, I will eat almost anything for lunch. I’ve done the classic reheated pizza slice (add a crisp salad on the side and you’re doing okay), but I’ve also been known to just take in a bowl of leftovers from whatever I had the night before – chilli, cheesy mash, Sunday roast. If I’m being super organised, I’ll turn my leftovers in to something new.
Some assembly required – when I’m not so on top of things I’ll just buy a packet of rice cakes and some avocados. With the addition of my secret weapon this is an easy lunch to assemble and eat as I go each day, removing the preparation in the morning and allowing me more time to wake up at least.
Keep it sweet – I like to put a wee treat in my lunchbox that can go with my afternoon cuppa (or my elevensies if it’s that kind of day). This is where my beloved loaf cakes come in to their own because they are ideal to slice and come again throughout the week. Well, if they last that long with my husband sniffing around the cake tin too!.
Think inside the box – what you carry your lunch in can make a difference. I have an unnecessarily large selection of boxes in difference sizes and colours, plus insulated bags to keep everything in. I like having tiny tubs that let me bring in a one-time sized portion of hummus or pickle for example.
So there you have it. That is, more or less, my thought process when it comes to what goes in my lunch box. Do you take lunch in to work? What do you like to put in yours?
Sometimes I just feel the need for a nice, crumbly and moist slice of coconut cake. Don’t you? Perfect with a nice cup of tea and so satisfying. Like most loafs this is a ‘low and slow’ type deal, so I tend to stick one of these in the oven on a Sunday morning and leave it to do its thing while I get some bits done (or nap on the sofa, whatever*).
This keeps well in an airtight tin for 5 days or so, making it ideal to cut and come again throughout the week. I’ve gotten in to a habit of doing a couple of batches of baking on a Sunday to see me through the week, like a proper old fashioned housewife or something. I find the baking relaxing and it takes the edge off of Sundays, preparing some nice things for the coming days at work at least.
(*probably best not to fall asleep while you have the oven on btw. Be safe!)
Popcorn is the ultimate quick snack, don’t you think? My sister gave us a popcorn maker for Christmas a couple of years ago and I’ve taken great delight in coming up with lots of flavours for our Netflix & chill (no, actual chill) snack. I make a mean salted caramel, and I’ve served parmesan & paprika popcorn as pre-dinner party nibbles with great success.
So here’s a quick one you can try to make movie night more special.
[recipe title=”Rosemary & Bacon Popcorn” servings=”2″ time=”20mins” difficulty=”easy” image=”http://www.maggiebob.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/bacon-rosemary-popcorn.jpg” description=”A savoury popcorn for couple’s movie night”]
3 rashers streaky bacon
4tbsp popcorn kernals
2 sprigs rosemary
Put the oil and rosemary sprigs in to a pan and warm through for 5 minutes. Then put to one side and leave to infuse while you prepare everything else.
Lay the bacon out on a baking tray and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 200oC and leave for 15 minutes until the bacon is crispy.
While the bacon is cooking pop your corn in your air popper or in a pan with a small amount of oil.
When the bacon is cooked chop it up in to small bits. Remove the rosemary sprigs from the oil and finely chop about half of a sprig.
Stir the infused oil, bacon & chopped rosemary through your popcorn and serve.
This is one of my current favourite rubber chicken recipes – that is one of my many clever ways of using leftover meat from the Sunday roast. I don’t know about you but I feel ridiculously smug when I can make one bird feed us both for 4 dinners in a row.
Now as a rule I don’t like peanut butter, although my aversion isn’t as bad as it used to be. Luckily the husband loves it so we always have a jar in. Chicken satay is one of my favourite things to order from the takeaway, so making this always feels like a treat. Now that we’re supposedly heading in to summer you could even cook these skewers on a barbeque instead of in the oven, and as you’re using chicken that’s already cooked you don’t have to worry so much about poisoning someone – although do make sure it’s heated right through again, however you’re cooking it.
For the satay
2tbsp smooth peanut butter
1tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated
Pinch chilli powder
1 cooked chicken breast
8 button mushrooms
For the accompaniment
1 tin coconut rice
1/2 tin long grain rice
Put all the satay sauce ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together in to a smooth paste.
Dice up chicken breast in to chunky cubes and put this in the sauce along with the mushrooms. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1hr.
While your chicken is marinating, soak 4 wooden skewers in water. This stops them burning during the cooking process.
Once your satay mix has had enough time in the fridge, preheat oven to 180c
Skewer the chicken and mushrooms. Lay the skewers over a shallow baking dish so that none of the food touches the bottom. Reserve any leftover sauce from the bowl – you can use this for a dipping sauce after cooking.
Put your skewers (on their baking dish) in the oven and bake for 20 mins
In the meantime, empty the tin of coconut milk in to a pan and add your rice. Bring to boil then simmer until liquid is absorbed & the rice is cooked and sticky.
At the last minute, stir-fry some green beans with a little soy sauce to serve on the side.
I hope that sounds as delicious to you as it tastes to me! Do let me know if you try this, or if you have another trusty recipe for leftover chicken.
Chocolate and beetroot is not as weird a combination as you might think. As well as replacing the eggs, butter and/or milk, the beetroot enhances the chocolate flavour of the cocoa, and lets you keep the whole thing vegan too. I’ve tried making chocolate cake with beetroot in it before, but the results were a little… earthy. Turns out I had seriously underestimated how much pre-cooking beetroot actually needs. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – buy the pre-cooked beetroot from the supermarket. You get three vacuum packed bulbs already perfectly cooked and ready to go for about 50p. Plus you don’t end up with pink fingers, worktops, kitchen.
I decided to focus on brownies – this recipe delivers the cracked top and fudgy interior I crave. These will keep for at least a week in an airtight tin and are great eaten just as they are, warm with a scoop of ice-cream, or I’ve been taking a piece in my lunchbox each day to enjoy with my afternoon cuppa.
(makes 24 squares)
250g pre-cooked beetroot
200g self-raising flour
150g soft brown sugar
60g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
Pre-heat your oven to 200oC and line and grease a brownie tin – mine is 20cm by 30cm, different sizes will just mean different sized pieces
Tip your beetroot in to a food processor and blitz until you have a purple mush (puree). If you don’t have a processor, mash the beetroot down to as smooth as you can.
Sift the flour, sugar and cocoa powder in to a large mixing bowl.
Stir the vanilla and salt through your pureed beetroot, then tip the beetroot in to the mixing bowl and stir to combine with the flour mixture.
Gradually pour in the oil, stirring in to your mixture until you have a smooth wet batter that almost looks grainy (see my pictures) and more or less sits together in one ball
Tip the batter in to your lined tin and spread out level using a pallet knife. Don’t worry if some oil rises to the top at this stage – this is what gives the brownie its crust
Bake in your pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes. You’ll know the brownies are done when the top is cracked and dry and an inserted skewer comes out with just a little bit of mixture sticking to it.
There are really rich and fudgy and a gorgeous colour – almost akin to Red Velvet cake. And because the beetroot performs the job of an egg here (binding the mixture together), these are ‘accidentally’ vegan. So whether you’re baking for a vegan friend, trying to sneak more vegetables in to a diet or just looking to enjoy a bloody good brownie I hope you give these a try!
Last Sunday I was desperately rooting around my kitchen trying to find something that would do me for my lunchbox over the coming week – you know, the one just before payday when you have to get a bit creative with the contents of the cupboard (not just me, surely?). In among the many tins of kidney beans and passata – I’m a hoarder – I found a jar of sundried tomatoes I had bought on offer in Lidl a while back and inspiration struck. I would make some savoury muffins.
Starting with a basic batter recipe I threw in some things I happened to have and gave everything the requisite time in the oven. I was expecting these to be edible but maybe in need of some tweaking, like most kitchen experiements. Imagine my surprise when I tried one and found it to be pretty damned spot on first time. Husband suggested buttering them, which proved to be a moment of inspiration, and two of these wee beauties plus a few pickled onions worked perfectly in my lunchbox.
These were made on a Sunday afternoon and the last ones consumed on Thursday so I can also confirm they keep well in a cake tin or other airtight container. You could tweak the fillings to suit your tastes and what you have in, but here’s the recipe as I’ll be repeating it again this weekend:
250g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g grated cheddar
100g tinned sweetcorn, drained weight
60g (about 8) sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 medium egg
4tbsp oil (I used the stuff in the tomato jar)
Pre-heat your oven to 180c and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cases or squares of baking parchment.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in to a large mixing bowl, then stir through the cheese, sweetcorn and tomatoes. This step is important as coating the fillings with the flour stops them sinking in your batter.
Whisk the milk and egg together in a jug and then whisk in the oil.
Gradually add your wet mixture to your dry mixture, stirring to combine, until you have a thick batter – it will be quite lumpy, don’t worry
Spoon your mixture in to the muffin cases and bake in your pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes – until risen, golden and cooked through
As always, I live for when people cook my recipes, so please do leave a comment if you give these a try. Enjoy!