Monday, 30 December 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the New Year edition!

Meal Planning MondayThis plan took a very long time. I certainly struggled for inspiration as to what to cook this week. It's that time where nothing actually happens. We have no further trips to visit family, husband is back at work, except for New Years Day so it's kind of a normal holiday week with a special day in the middle.

Also, after all the cooking I did last week, this week seems a bit dull. Never mind, I got there in the end. Hope you had a great Christmas by the way.

Here is the week.

Monday - Cauliflower cheese
Tuesday - Takeaway
Wednesday - Swiss fondue (wish me luck on this one, the kids have never had it)
Thursday - Slow cooker corned beef hotpot
Friday - Friday night fish pie
Saturday - Mexican bean chilli
Sunday - Black pudding rumble

That's all for now. Time to get back to my little ones and enjoy the rest of this holiday. Happy New Year!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the Christmas edition, with a few tips!

Meal Planning MondayThe big week is here. This is late, cos well, I can. I've been busy and I'm organised for the big day. If you're not already, I'll share some ideas that you can do right now. Oh, and by the way, if your turkey is in the freezer, GO AND GET IT OUT NOW. It's likely to need 48 hours to defrost in the fridge. (And do make sure you've defrosted it thoroughly before cooking it!)

So, this week is minimal cooking apart from the big day. We are also out on Boxing Day so I don't need to plan for then and the rest of the week is likely to be leftovers rehashed in various forms. On Christmas Eve, I never cook a full meal as I do other prep and so we're planning lunch out and snacks later. This year, it's likely to be Italian. And tonight, we had chicken kievs and oven chips for tea - very lovely but not haute cuisine.

So this doesn't leave you a lot to tell you but here goes.

Tomorrow - not cooking
Wednesday - seafood platter nibbles, followed by four bird roast, pigs in blankets, chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes, honey roast parsnips, broccoli, carrots, bread sauce and gravy followed by panettone pudding later (we don't do Christmas pud).
Thursday - out
Friday - Turkey chelsea buns
Saturday - Turkey hash
Sunday - who knows?

Anyway, a few tips if you are getting stressed about cooking Christmas dinner, or have never done it before. Even now, a little planning and prepping ahead will save you loads of time and make you feel organised.

1. Make a timeplan. Yes, I know it sounds a bit over-organised but Christmas dinner has so many different elements, that it's easy to forget things. I remember my mother nearly forgetting bread sauce a few times. She never actually forgot because I LOVE it. Anyway, start with a list of all elements and work out what time you want to sit down for dinner. Work back with the times that you need to do everything in order to achieve that time. Allow yourself a bit of extra time because things often take a bit longer. I do this all electronically as I then link to any recipes I'm using. It also means I can add things and rejig the timeplan without having to start again. I even view it on the day via my iPad! Having times helps me to remember to bob in to the kitchen to do little tasks and then there is just a bit more to do near the end. Don't forget to allow time for your bird to rest - this usually gives you time to turn up the oven to finish off potatoes and parsnips.

2. Prep what you can on Christmas Eve. I have already done potatoes (peeled and cut to size, parboiled, then frozen in open trays before putting in a bag ready to go into hot fat), gravy (this recipe is good if you have time) and stuffing and they are in the freezer but can be done day before if you like. I'm also planning to make cranberry sauce as it's easy peasy - cranberries, sugar and usually the juice of an orange or clementine - and get the veg I'm using peeled. In my case, that's just parsnips and carrots, and then I will pack into freezer bags to put in the fridge. Getting the prep out of the way just takes the pressure off a bit.

3. Make any starter as simple as possible. This year, we're just doing seafood stuff that we will graze on - there is no prep other than some filo prawns that need to be baked; I will just literally plate it and let people take what they want. All I have done in advance is buy everything and make some bread (but only because I like making bread). Soup can be a good option but it can be too filling. Don't feel obliged though - some people just like to get on with the main event and that's fine.

4. Delegate what can be done by someone else. Get the children to lay the table. It might not be perfect, but they'll do the legwork and you can correct it. In our house, husband does that with the kids. He opens the wine and he makes sure I have a drink! Don't get huffy if someone doesn't offer to help - ask!

5. Most people don't want pudding straight after the main course. Have a break and do it later. We've been known to have it for tea!

6. Finally, relax and don't worry about it. If you sit down to eat a bit late, or even a lot, so what? If you forget something, don't despair. As long as everyone has food and fun, it doesn't matter if you do forget something or it goes wrong. This is why I keep all my recipes simple as can be unless I'm making in advance - less chance of going wrong! But honestly, you will laugh about it in years to come and it really doesn't matter. Having a great Christmas does.

That's all from me. Click on the badge if you like but I just noticed that there isn't a new post over at Mrs M's place. Have a very Merry Christmas and I shall be back next week.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the December last week of term edition!

Meal Planning MondayFinally. FINALLY! We are in the last week of term. This term feels like a marathon; there is so much going on and the children are beginning to flag. Four and a half days to go although half a day is their class party and there is a big carol service.

For the menu this week, I am still trying to use up things out of my freezer. Mostly they are based on leftovers of things I have been busy making for Christmas - I had some chicken to make gravy so have some leftover chicken thighs in the freezer. And then I bought some reduced sausagemeat to make some chestnut stuffing but it was a huge pack so the rest of that went into the freezer. And I have a couple of carry overs from last week, which was just mad. And this week is no better for me as I have a few school commitments myself. And the weekend starts with the Strictly final so Saturday night is going to be party food time!

So, here we go.

Monday - Lentil and bacon soup
Tuesday - Slow cooker honey and sesame chicken
Wednesday - Pizza
Thursday - butties
Friday - Sausagemeat pie
Saturday - Party food
Sunday - Spicy lamb with chickpeas

And then it's Christmas! I am not sure if I will do a plan next week but we shall see. Enjoy your week but don't forget to find out what everyone else is eating next week by clicking the badge above and finding Mrs M's place.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the December keeping it simple edition

Meal Planning MondaySoon be Christmas. And I'm on holiday until mid-January. Don't all hate me. I need a break, after a week when my dishwasher and my boiler broke last week.

This week, I am keeping it simple so I can spend as much as possible on Christmas preparations and relaxation. The children have school performance two nights this week, plus choir. I'm going out, husband is going out, and Monkey is going to a friend's house to tea. And at the weekend, the children are going to stay with Granny and Granddad to go to the panto. A complex logistical week!

Monday - Burgers
Tuesday - Honey mustard pork
Wednesday - Cowboy corned beef n beans pie
Thursday - sandwiches
Friday - Lentil and bacon soup
Saturday - free
Sunday - Spicy lamb with chickpeas

That's it. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult or time consuming. Bung it cookery! What are you having this week? Go visit Mrs M's place (click the badge top right) to find out what others are eating this week.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Getting Up and about

I always like things that help you learn more about yourself so when I was asked if I'd like to try some fitness equipment I fell up the Jawbone Up tracking wristband and I was intrigued. Not only did it track your activity, but it also tracked your sleep, your food, even your mood. So I thought I'd give it a go.

I've had it for just over two weeks now and it's quickly become a part of my life. The band is slightly big for my wrist but doesn't get in the way. I can wear it in the shower (but not in a swimming pool) so you can add your efforts to get clean to your daily movement. After a while, you do honestly forget you're wearing it. Because it's on your wrist, you won't lose it easily so it's almost a case of fit and forget.

The idea of it is it's like a pedometer that senses movement. You set yourself goals for a number of steps per day, hours of sleep and it measures movement like an accelerometer on a phone. If you are active, but don't necessarily do running or walking for your exercise, you can time an exercise or you can add it afterwards. This is good for me as classes like Body Pump don't need much horizontal movement. Even interval training using bodyweight exercises may not register in the same way as a step.

At night time, when you go to bed, you set it into sleep mode by pressing the end of the band until it buzzes. Then it picks up the movement of your arm to assess what level of sleep you are in - awake, light or deep sleep. As an extra, I've set alarms so that it wakes me within 20 minutes of a target time, the theory being that it wakes you when you are sleeping lightly and therefore wake more easily. It wakes you by vibrating on your wrist which is gentler than a loud alarm. However, I find I'm nearly always already awake, such is my body clock. I find looking at my sleep cycles fascinating although I seem to have developed a habit of longer night time wakings which might be related or entirely coincidental.

In order to look at your data, there are accompanying free iOS and Android apps. I have used both, since I have an Android phone and an iPad. They work pretty much the same way and are very easy to set up. You sync your band by plugging it into the microphone socket and it's updated in seconds. I have a slight preference for the iOS app, purely because it gives you an overview of what you've just uploaded since last sync. I find it easier to mess around and view things too but I am conscious I am using a bigger screen. It's easy to look back at your data and you've always got a running total for the day in terms of sleep and steps moved. At the top of my "feed" every day are interesting snippets called Insights that are interesting topics related to fitness or your data in general.

There are many things I love about it. It is easy to use, and the battery genuinely does last for days and then only takes an hour or so to charge back up (which you do via a USB adaptor). It's simple and it's really effective at making you consider how active you are even by just adding a few steps here and there, they all add up.. In particular, understanding about your sleep is really interesting and it does genuinely make me try to get to bed at a reasonable time most nights. I still have not reached my sleep target though!

There are some things that I do not like. I set idle alerts to remind me to move if I've not moved in 30 minutes during the day but if I'm standing and moving gently (like cooking and doing stuff in the kitchen), it doesn't seem to register and the alert will buzz on my wrist whilst I'm standing up. Annoying. And I tried to log food intake with it and found it horribly complicated - although you can add as much detail as you like. I've stopped using it because it should be intuitive and easy; I found it to be neither. I also think they missed a trick not to have added some way of tracing your heart rate or pulse so you can get more information about how hard you are working or have worked when working out. Steps are not everything and adding an activity isn't a perfect solution.

Something I haven't got around to is adding friends as the community is relatively limited in size so far. You can also connect Up to various health and fitness related apps like MapMyFitness but I don't use those. It does link to MyFitnessPal but I've gone off that a bit recently.

On the whole, I do love the Up band and I think the more you use it, the more you will get out of in terms of understanding your lifestyle and improving your overall health and fitness levels. This could be a great Christmas present for a special someone who is planning a serious January health kick but wants to build a genuinely active lifestyle. It's not uber cheap at £99.99, but I think it's good value.

This post is in association with Argos. I have not been paid a fee to write this post and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the minimal spend December edition!

Meal Planning MondayThe title says it all. Time to use up as much stuff as I have already - especially as my cupboards are full to overflowing. My freezer, not so much but I have enough to make a meal plan! One is a carry over from last week as I went to the Good Food Show thanks to Barber's Cheese and it was a last minute decision to go as husband wasn't feeling well.

So I've put together a plan based on what I have to use up, so here we go.

Monday - Slow cooker butter chicken
Tuesday - Butternut squash and roasted garlic risotto
Wednesday - Cowboy corned beef 'n' beans pie
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Chicken wings
Saturday - Beany nachos
Sunday - Lasagne

I think my shopping list tomorrow will consist of bread! I may need a few things here and there but I pretty much have everything in already.

What are you having this week? Anything really exciting? If you have a meal plan, you too can do Meal Planning Monday by blogging your plan and adding it to the linky over at Mrs M's, discovered by clicking the badge top right.
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