Thursday, January 30, 2014

Writing a Food Menu

One of the steps towards budgeting and being more organized has been writing out a food menu each week. It really helps us keep on budget for the food shopping. Usually on a Saturday morning JD and I will decide what we'll have for the week and write up the menu. Lately, since the kids have also been making a meal a week they've been helping pick things out too. Erin made Chicken satay this week and Leigh made Rancheros Pie for tonight (in the slow cooker). JD made a vegetable curry and I made Draniki from Belarus for my food blog.

When we've decided what we're having all week we then make up the shopping list sticking to what we need for each meal. When we go shopping we sometimes get good deals and then incorporate whatever we've bought into the next week's menu.

We have less food waste this way because everything we buy is to be used in a meal. That means when one of us goes to the fridge in search of a snack there's not much around that isn't already being used elsewhere. Which is a simultaneous bad and good thing :D

We can plan healthier meals when we write a food menu because we eat what's been planned for that day and not what we feel like eating right then (which is usually pizza or something equally delicious/unhealthy).

We're quite flexible with it though and sometimes switch days around to suit what we're all doing. Like this week we had the Greek salad on the Monday and swapped the Chicken and Bacon salad to Sunday because we'll have more time to prepare the chicken etc then. Here's the Greek salad in all it's glory:

 An added side benefit is that the kids never ask what's for tea anymore, they just consult the menu and go straight to complaining it's something they don't like, haha! Actually we've made some surprising progress with the kids trying new foods this week. They both ate the potato pancakes for my blog, they both ate the vegetable curry JD made and Erin tried our homemade muesli for breakfast this morning and almost ate it all. Long may it last :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sandwich Saturday 3 - Falafel Pita Bread

Another sandwich, this time Falafel in pitta breads. We've never made this sandwich before and have only eaten Falafel in a prepacked wrap. We got a box of Falafel mix to make it easier.

 Make up the Falafel mix using cold water and leave to thicken.

 The tahini sauce for this sandwich is made up of tahini, yoghurt and lemon juice. You also need some sliced cabbage to fill up the pitta.

 Make the Falafel mix into balls and fry them in oil until browned. I should have taken my own advice here but I got distracted and ended up with a few semi black Falafel instead :D

Ingredients: Falafel mix, pitta breads, sliced cabbage, 1 tbls lemon juice, 1 tbls tahini and 2 tbls of yoghurt.

The Falafel pittas were nice but making anything in a pitta is always a bit annoying. Maybe it's just me but the pitta bread never opens up properly to fit stuff inside. The recipe said to cut them in half which made them too shallow and they split easily. The sauce is delicious with the Falafel though and the crunchy cabbage goes well with the creamy sauce. I wouldn't count it in with my favourite sandwiches though, if it even is a sandwich!! The Falafel is tasty and smells lovely as it's cooking. I'd love to try it in a bread bun or some other reliable bread product so I can enjoy it more. JD has suggested we have them in wraps sometime which sounds good.

Ratings: JD - 2/5 Emma 2/5

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The New Year has got JD and I talking about goals for ourselves and for the family. One of the goals we feel strongly about is bringing up the kids to be capable so that when they leave home it's an easier transition. We want them to already be proficient at cooking and cleaning among other things.

Last year we introduced a chore wheel for the daily jobs such as setting the table and washing the dishes. They've been fine with helping out and have already got much better/faster at doing it. Plus there are now days when I do no washing up at all, which has to be a good thing :D

So, now we've decided to introduce the kids to more chores. Things that we do weekly around the house. We've assigned all the jobs a value of points based on how much effort they take or how much no-one wants to do them. Cleaning the toilet is 4 points for instance and Dusting is just 1. We each have an amount of points we have to do a week based on age. JD printed off a handy sheet for us to keep track of it:

In addition to this the kids are each going to make tea once a week for us all. They have to decide what they're going to cook and then prepare it (with help if needed).

Erin cooked Bang-bang chicken for tea tonight.

Leigh prepped some vegetables ready for making beef stew and dumplings in the slow cooker tomorrow.

So far they both seem really positive about the changes. When we talked to them about what we were thinking of changing they both seemed keen. JD and I had both said we'd expected them to resist the idea of more chores. But it was the opposite and they both enjoyed picking out which chores to do.

Hopefully, they feel just as keen when it's time to do the chores. I'm interested to see if they want to keep going with the cooking too. Fingers crossed :)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sandwich Saturday 2 - BLT

JD's decided we should work through the book starting with the first sandwich (and it is his book, technically) so this week's sandwich is a classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich known as a BLT.

I've never had one because I don't really like tomatoes and usually settle for a BL instead. I'm up for giving it a try today though!

Ingredients: bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and bread

The recipe said white bread was the best to use but we rebelled and used brown as we both prefer it (or at least enjoy the smug healthy feeling eating brown bread gives us).

Spread mayonnaise on the slices of bread and then cover one with a layer of lettuce. Add bacon next and then finish with tomato.

Top with the other slice of bread, that's how a sandwich works. I don't get how open sandwiches can even be called sandwiches at all, somebody should complain!! Cut it in half and pause to admire how delicious it looks.

Now eat it :D

I was surprised how enjoyable the bacon and tomato tasted together. Tomato has a sweetness to it that compliments bacon really well. No wonder it's a classic sandwich combo. If the tomato seeds hadn't dripped onto my hand while I was eating my sandwich it'd get a 4 maybe. JD commented that it tasted like a professionally made BLT you get in restaurants.

Ratings: JD - 4/5 Emma - 3/5

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Making wraps

Here in the Jackson house we're quite keen on eating wraps for lunch. They're just as versatile as a sandwich for filling. We usually have salami or ham or tuna in them along with cucumber and lettuce. We used to buy the pre-made wraps but at £1.80 for 8 they were more than we wanted to pay. Plus with them being bigger you end up with more plain wrap to eat when you fold them over.

So we decided to try making our own wraps.

The recipe is simple:

3 cups of flour (we usually do a mix of white and brown)
1 cup of warm water
1 tsp of salt
1/3 cup of oil

Also, you can add your own flavourings to the wrap. We've had mixed herbs, garlic and paprika before but you can use any herb or spice you like.

Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough and then cut it into 8 pieces. Flour a surface and then lightly knead then roll out each piece.

At first we used to try get our wraps circular like the ones we bought. But actually the oblong shape is much better to use and a lot easier to roll out. So now we embrace the weird shaped wraps we make. :D

Cook the wraps in a dry frying pan on a medium heat turning when one side is done. I NEVER flip wraps like this I'm just showing off for the camera!

The best wraps are always the ones we eat on wrap making day while they're still warm. Fill the top half of the wrap with your chosen filling and condiments, fold in half and enjoy :)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sandwich Saturday - Lobster Roll

I got JD a book for Christmas called 101 Sandwiches with the intention of us trying lots of different sandwiches from it. So, the idea Sandwich Saturday was born.

It's a nice book with a bit about how each sandwich came about along with a recipe. The only thing that's a bit annoying is that there isn't a picture for every sandwich. Cookbooks without pictures are a dislike of mine. Internet recipes without pictures are the same. It really puts me off wanting to make something if I can't see how it's meant to look.

Still, I'm looking forward to us trying some new sandwiches. :D

First up was a Lobster Roll. Off we went to Morrisons to get the ingredients. The only lobster they had was dressed lobster and it was too pricey. So we abandoned the idea of lobster and bought some surimi instead. Back home JD constructed the sandwiches ready for our consumption.

Ingredients: Lobster, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper, chives and some soft bread rolls.

The sandwich was nice. The surimi had a nice soft texture which was pleasing as I'd expected it to be like prawns which I don't like. The lemony mayonnaise went well with the surimi but the flavour of the filling was a bit disappointing as it was really mild and I expected a stronger taste to it.

Ratings: JD - 3/5 Emma - 2/5

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Picture a Day Photo Challenge

 One of my goals for 2014 is to take more photos so I've challenged myself to take a photo a day throughout 2014. I especially want to take more pictures of the small everyday things that happen day to day. Things that don't usually get documented with a picture. Sometimes it seems each year only birthdays and other events get photographed. On New Year's Eve this year we looked through the year's photos and it'd be nice to have more pictures for that too.

I'm uploading them to Flickr so you can track my progress:

I've found the beginning of the year tough to get started because it felt like we've hardly done anything or left the house due to the terrible weather we've had. Mainly eaten food and played video games in fact :D

So far my favourite photo is of my new Yahtzee board JD got me for Christmas. I've always loved Yahtzee and played it quite obsessively as a teenager. I also got a voucher for a game a day for a month. So far JD has the high score of all our games. I'll beat him though ^_^

Hopefully this challenge will get easier and I can keep it up :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year...actually!

On New Year's Day we decided to trial a new idea. We wanted to see what it was like having a no-screen day. No TV, no video games, no computers etc. It might not have been the best choice of day since we'd all been up until midnight the night before and the weather forecast had it raining all day so no chance of escaping outside.

It's a thing we'd been thinking of doing for a while though. Some days it seems like we're all just rotating around the TV and computer screens. Each having a turn and then swapping again. We feel like we'd like to have more time to talk or do different things together. Since the kids each got board games and various crafty sets for Christmas they'd like to do it seemed like a good time to go for it.

And it was surprisingly alright :D We spent time making food, talking about our goals for the year, doing a Where's Wally jigsaw and we played a board game. The kids invented an indoor ball game and amused themselves (and JD) with it. The day felt more relaxed with no-one hurrying anyone else along so they could go online or watch something on TV.  We tidied away the decorations and homed most of our Christmas gifts. It felt good to all be in the same room most of the day and still to be getting along. There were a few upsets of course but at the end of the day it was still one we could look back on and feel we enjoyed.

We're planning to have a no-screen day every week and to make it our family time for talking and doing stuff together. Hopefully it'll be as enjoyable each time :)


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