Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Quark cooking sauces - a light touch and a saving grace!

You know that feeling when you get home from a holiday and all you have in the house is bread, milk and butter? When you've nearly lived on sandwiches and other bread-based foods for a week, bread is NOT appealing. That was me last weekend when we arrived from Devon.

As I drove for the last few miles, my mind tried to figure out what Saturday tea was going to be. It could be Chinese take away from the reopened one around the corner. It could be pizza. Or it could be a supermarket dash to get ... er, something.

Then we got home and I found a missed delivery card through the door, and I realised that a parcel had been left round the back. I sent Monkey to get it but he said it was too big for him to pick up. Husband was dispatched to get it whilst I emptied bags and checked post.

What came in was a massive hamper containing Lake District Dairy Quark cooking sauces and the ingredients to make a number of dishes. It was like someone knew! I had no idea it was coming and I hadn't seen any emails about it. Lucky we were coming home that day.

The cooking sauces are designed to be lower in fat and higher in protein than other sauces but a great way to make a meal quickly. The recipes I received with it were nice and simple and tea was ready within about 15-20 mins.

First, I made baked gnocchi in the tomato and basil sauce. After initial moans from the children, they decided it smelt nice cooking and it delivered on the taste front too.

The following day, we had spaghetti "quarkonara" with a garlic and herb sauce. I added mushrooms to this so there was a bit more cooking but it was a case of cook spaghetti, drain, add sauce and ham. I found the recipe to be quite dry and kept adding leftover cooking water. I certainly didn't enjoy it as much as a regular carbonara - it was too garlicky for that. The kids loved it but they love pasta, full stop. I think I prefer the egg yolks to be honest. They compared to making it with cream cheese but I have never made a carbonara with cream cheese! I didn't get a photo of this, it went too quickly!

We did however all really enjoy the chicken tikka and quark rice. The children are scarred by me overspicing Indian dishes so were dubious but they needn't have worried - the sauce was not too hot but flavoursome. The dish was more a biryani style - I was sent pre-prepared rice but I think they should have sent uncooked rice so I added some myself, otherwise it wouldn't have been enough. Adding the raisins and the almonds added a nice contrast to the dish. I did get sent some coriander but the day before I made this, my fridge went into overdrive and froze some of the contents, which destroyed it! Monkey doesn't really like it on his food anyway.

The quarkonara aside, I liked these sauces. I would definitely make the chicken tikka again and I think the gnocchi would also work well with the garlic and herb sauce. I often forget gnocchi as an option for a meal and they are all even quicker to cook than pasta so it was a timely reminder to build them into more recipes particularly when time is short of an evening and I want to cook a fairly healthy option.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Meal Planning Monday - the yes I am still blogging edition!

So I haven't blogged in a month. I've still been meal planning although I didn't on our week's holiday. Time has just ran out on me on turning my plan into a blog post.

Not this week. Hurrah, I hear you cry. Well, I can dream.

This week. There's only 5 days on the plan because we are going to a wedding in Devon on Saturday. And yes, we got back from Devon only 9 days ago. That's how it goes sometimes. Apart from that, it's a normal school week, peppered with swimming on Wednesdays after school now - I thought I'd got them in at exactly the same time, until Monkey went to his first class with the new teacher and she decided he was so good he has to move up again and now has a lesson straight after Missy. We're also now looking at secondary schools, although we don't have to apply until next year, but I think there are none to go see next week.

Here's the plan.

Monday - Quick prawn, tomato and coconut curry
Tuesday - Lentil shepherd's pie
Wednesday - Cheesy cannelloni
Thursday - sandwiches (it's traditional!)
Friday - Sticky sesame chicken wings with roasted mini corn cobs
Saturday - wedding
Sunday - travelling home

Don't forget that Mrs M has the Meal Planning Monday linky. Go see her, she's having a tough time right now and I'm sure a visit and a friendly comment will give her a bit of a boost.

Til next week. I hope!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Meal Planning Monday - the ever so slightly too busy school holiday edition!

I didn't post last week (or the week before - oops!) but I can assure you I meal planned as I cannot live without it. This is probably the midpoint of the holidays and it will be the second week that the children have gone to a great summer camp during the day which is near husband's work. They went for the first full week of the holidays and it really helped me get some work done; I'd like not to work in these holidays but a quarterly deadline hits and I really can't leave it until September. They had a ball last time so I'm not too worried about them going - they get to play and do loads of things I can't necessarily do with them. And it gives us all space - I find that even if husband is home, they ask me for EVERYTHING!

So, this week, I'm planning on powering through with some work and getting ahead of myself for the following two weeks of the holidays. We're also having a new boiler fitted, already postponed from last week when I took Monkey to Old Trafford.

We had roast beef on Sunday so the first two days are based on leftovers.

Monday - Sloppy Joes (made with leftover roast instead of mince)
Tuesday - Beef hash
Wednesday - Cheesy lentils
Thursday - Savoury bread and butter pudding
Friday - Chicken pasta bake
Saturday - Fish in lemon and herb sauce, mash and peas
Sunday - Roast chicken et al.

Having shared my week with you, may I remind you to visit Mrs M's for more lovely MPM posts.

See you (hopefully) next week!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Monkey's first test match

It may be summer in Manchester, but we all know Manchester and rain is inextricably linked. Going to cricket at Old Trafford is therefore a big risk, but last week, I won two tickets to the first day of the England vs India test match on Twitter and hastily rearranged a few things so I could take Monkey. I'd never been to a first class cricket match, let alone a test match and cricket is Monkey's new obsession - he plays for a under 9s team and has even talked Missy Woo into joining in too. 

The weather first promised rain, then it didn't. Even early morning, there looked like no rain in the forecast but as we drove down the motorway, the sky didn't look promising at all. We got on a tram and sure enough, by the time we got to the city centre, Manchester reverted to type and it was raining. Thankfully, all it did was delay start of play just enough for us to queue up for our tickets and find our seats, Monkey having mugged me for a commentary radio on the way in. 

The sun came out, but then the dark clouds gathered again. It tried to rain but didn't further delay play. As the teams came out with India batting first and play begun, I took another picture. 
Anderson to Vijay
Within minutes, England had a wicket. It tried to rain. We got another wicket. And another. And another. Half an hour in, I texted husband to say "Monkey is loving this - 4 wickets in 6 overs!"After that, things settled for a while - apart from Monkey wanting constant food and me buying draught Diet Cokes from the bar which blew their tops off whilst I was waiting for the over to finish. 

Another wicket arrived before lunchtime and the weather finally picked up so we decided to go on a wander around, mainly to find more food for Monkey. Waitrose came up trumps with some great freebies in the shape of pork and picallili pies to sample and goody bags filled with a free box of chocolate cookies. We also bumped into this guy. He's so Lanky I chopped his head off! (and he came to cricket practice recently!) 

Having bought some lunch and looked at most of the stalls, we came back for afternoon session. A few balls in and Anderson took the wicket of Jadeja, who had been roundly booed by the crowd on his arrival at the crease. The wicket was Monkey's best moment of the day. Not long after that, I got a text from our neighbour and mother of Monkey's best friend asking us where we were as her son was looking for him. He went down to the front to try and spot him, whereupon he then apparently said hello to Stuart Broad when he fielded a ball down on the boundary and he said hi back - Monkey's second best moment of the day. 

We encountered this fellow spectator. 

We then had to go see his friends who were taking a walk around, playing the bowling games and I got conned into buying a Team England shirt. We missed two wickets then went to go back in via a trip to the toilets, whereupon we heard another wicket and the final wicket I saw through someone's legs waiting to go in between overs. 

Monkey then decided we were going to sit down by the boundary. 

And watched the start of the England innings. We managed to say there for about 2 hours, and I actually got to listen to the radio I bought. We saw two England wickets but we also got to see some great batting from Ian Bell and Gary Ballance (Monkey points out Ian Bell uses the same model of bat as him!).

And the sun shone!

Monkey is a little obsessed about journeys and worries we will miss trains, trams etc or have to wait ages for them so we left before the end to get our tram back to our car before the crowds got there too. 

A day that started with rain ended with sun along with 13 wickets - even though we missed 5 of them - and a very happy 9 year old who'd been to his first test match. 

A big thank you to Lancashire Cricket Club for the tickets to the match, which I won from their #TestMatchThursday Twitter competition (and to Jimmy Anderson because he was the correct answer to the question!) for making a 9 year old boy  - and his mum - very happy. As we drove away from the station, Monkey turned to me and said "You know, this was the best day of my life". 

Can't say fairer than that. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Meal Planning Monday - the end of school year edition!

And it can't come soon enough. Just so many things have been going on - last week felt like a omplete whirl of events and commitments. Now, we're just down to the last 3 days of school. No school commitments other than getting them to school and back, no more dancing lessons - only swimming lessons for one more week and cricket throughout the summer. Hurrah!

My week kind of looks like end of year, in a kind of stumbling over the line way too.

Monday - Cheesy lentils
Tuesday  - Slow cooker lamb and mango pilau
Wednesday - Sweetcorn and ham salad
Thursday - Smoked cheese, onion and mushroom quiche
Friday - Cheesy beans and bacon quesadillas
Saturday - Chicken wings, sweet potato and coleslaw
Sunday - Roast pork

Happy holidays everyone! Don't forget Mrs M has the MPM linky.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Meal Planning Monday - on Tuesday!

Yes, yes, yes. I know. Don't ask.

I didn't make last week at all as we were out one night and on Thursday, we went to Wimbledon which was uh-mazing.

I have a plan for this week but just not got round to it due to some stuff I need to sort out this week. This week is Missy Woo's 8th birthday. Oh my God! We're also planning to go to see the Tour de France although Monkey currently wants to play cricket on Sunday. Oh and it could be Sports Day on Friday but rain is forecast.

So, that's two days sorted!

Here we go.

Monday - Tangy Asian meatballs (these were fab, try them!)
Tuesday - Warm new potato and smoked mackerel salad
Wednesday - Ham with maple mustard slaw
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Slow cooker barbeque drumsticks
Saturday - out for tea
Sunday - out

Don't forget Mrs M's blog is now here

Monday, 16 June 2014

Meal Planning Monday - the World Cup edition!

OK, so I know that not all of you are interested but in this household, we are. I say that but generally, it's husband and me. Monkey says he is, starts watching then wanders off. Kids!

So, this week, I decided to have a go at a round the world World Cup menu to fit in with teams playing that day. You may not agree with all of these but this is what I came up with.

Monday - Benachin/Jollof rice with grilled meat (Nigeria / Ghana)
Tuesday - Chicken Kievs (Russia - Wikipedia says they're Russian or Ukrainian so ner)
Wednesday - Spanish omelette with "Russian" salad (Spain)
Thursday - Butties (England!)
Friday - Pizza (Italy)
Saturday - Empanadas (Argentina)
Sunday - Rice pot (S Korea)

So, that's our international menu. What's yours? Don't forget - MPM is hosted at Mrs M's blog, which has recently moved house.

See you next week.
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