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Big Budget Challenge – Weeks III & IV

As it was the half term school holidays last week, which began with a mini break to Sherwood Forest followed by Lil’ L’s 8th birthday, I didn’t get round to posting an update for Laura’s Big Budget Challenge.  Many apologies Laura!  To make up for this, I’ll give a rundown of my ‘money saves’ over the past two weeks vis-a-vis my 5 budget rules

1. Avoid waste. I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to avoid throwing away any food over the past two weeks 🙂  There was a close call with a bag of spinach that was starting to look sorry for itself, but Laura’s post on Monday inspired me to make a spinach, butternut squash and chickpea curry.  I even roasted the squash seeds (for the first time ever) and we had them with the hemp burger and roasted squash dinner on Monday.  No seeds will ever get thrown away again… they’re so nice lightly roasted! 🙂

2. Shop around for cheapest deals. I’m planning to do another big online grocery shop tomorrow and I’ll definitely be using www.mysupermarket.co.uk again.  It saved me quite a few pounds on my last big grocery shop and I’m intrigued to see what I can save this time round 🙂

3. Make use of home grown foods.  We’ve been eating lots of home-grown apples (still not sick of them 😉 ).  We’ve also had some very generous donations of home-grown produce from friends and family, including these amazing courgettes/zucchinis.

As well as using the zucchini in lots of savoury dishes (roasted veg & pasta; lasagna; fajitas), I made some wicked date and zucchini brownies last week, which I pictured in yesterday’s post.  (I’ll be writing up the recipe and posting it very soon).

All the donated produce has been used up now, so I’ve turned my attention to some rather unusual home-grown produce… dandelion leaves and nettles.  I didn’t intentionally grow these, but as they’re growing so beautifully in my garden, it’ll be fun to see whether I can turn them into something tasty 😉

4. Go foraging! Whilst cycling round Sherwood Forest last week, I couldn’t resist a quick pause to collect sweet chestnuts.   

The cases are so prickly!  I used my feet to squeeze the nuts out of the shells, while M adopted a more hands-on approach.

 

I didn’t have a bag with me, so I crammed as many as I could into the back pocket of my cycling jacket.

You won’t believe how many I actually managed to cram into that pocket!

I absolutely adore roasted chestnuts!  They really remind me of childhood Christmas Eves when my Dad would roast chestnuts, sprinkle them with salt and tip them on a newspaper.  We’d then sit on the living room floor and tuck in!

Today, I decided to use some of the nuts to make a sweet chestnut casserole with herby dumplings.

The dumplings were flavoured with fresh rosemary from the garden.  This is one of the few edible plants that the slugs and snails actually leave alone!  It’s a really easy herb to grow and seems to look after itself.  Our plant has been here the whole time we’ve lived in Bath (11 years now) and it hasn’t need any attention at all. (That’s SO my sort of plant 😉 )

5. Make use of vouchers and deals. We used our Tesco vouchers again on Lil’ L’s birthday, saving us £21 on the entry fee into a sea aquarium.  I’m glad we didn’t pay real money for this trip as the aquarium was awful (in my opinion).  The image of the sea-headed turtle pounding up and down its tiny tank is still haunting me 😦

So that’s my big budget challenge update for weeks III and IV!  Have you had any great money saves in the last month?  If so, I’d love to hear them! 

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Filed under Being Frugal, Dinners, Growing Fruit & Veggies

WIAW – I’ll bring the hemp burgers

Happy Wednesday everybody!

Yep, it’s Wednesday again, which means it’s time for the lovely Jenn’s virtual WIAW  party where the guests post and share their eats.  If you haven’t visited before, you must check out all the amazing pics!

Okay, so here’s what I ate this Wednesday:

Breakfast

Glass of warm water and a slice of lemon (this week I’ve really been enjoying this gentle start to the day, rather than the big cups of black coffee I had last week.  It’s reassuring to know that I’m no longer dependent on coffee to kickstart my day 😉 ) 

Big bowl of porridge into which I added some blueberry fruit spread, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans and sunflower seeds.  It was lush!  With the porridge, I drank a cup of nettle tea.

Lunch

I had to make a quick lunch before I dashed to school to teach my meditation classes, so I grabbed some Scottish oat cakes, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, black olives and cashew nut butter.  I bought a jar of Meridian cashew nut butter for the first time last week, and I’m LOVING it!  I’ll definitely be buying it again 🙂  

Snacks

After school, I enjoyed a 5-minute sitdown with a cup of coffee and a piece of date and zucchini chocolate brownie (which I made last week).  It was a bit of an experiment but it worked out really well (unlike a lot of my experiments 😉 ) 

I’ve never been a big fan of brownies, but I absolutely love this one.  The taste and texture is lush!  Plus, by using no refined sugar, very little oil, and with the addition of dates, zucchini and whole wheat flour, it’s actually a healthy brownie!  What more could we want eh??  Lil’ L has been taking it to school for his lunchtime snack.  I’ve just asked him what he thinks of the brownie and he said “really, really, really nice” 🙂

 

Dinner

I’m really into hemp seed at the moment, and have been using the Good Hemp milk, oil and shelled seeds as a way of adding omega-3 into our meals.  From what I’ve read, hemp is a ‘super food’ as it’s packed with nutrition.  Here’s a few facts I found out about hemp today:

  • It is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids.  It also has a high protein content (see image below).
  • The globulin edestin in hemp seed closely resembles that found in human blood plasma and is completely compatible with the human digestive system, making it easily digested, absorbed and utilised. 
  • Hemp seed contains phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • Hemp seed has a high content of antioxidants (all part of the Vitamin E family).
  • Hemp seed has the perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.

What an amazing amount of goodness packed into a little seed! 

I’ve been using the Good Hemp shelled hemp seed a lot lately, sprinkling it into breakfasts and on dinners.  For those interested, here’s the nutritional blurb found on the back of the pot:

Good Hemp also makes a hemp protein powder, which M has been trialling whilst mountain bike training.  I don’t think that I do enough exercise to warrant using protein powders, so I’ll leave it to him to review that one 😉

So, with my new love of all things hemp, on Monday I decided to create some hemp seed burgers.  I had very little time on Monday evening as we were going out trick ‘n’ treating, but as per usual with me, when I get the creative urge, I have to pursue it 😉  So, within 20 minutes I’d made the burgers, cooked them, served them, and we were out the door!  I made 8 burgers in total, so we had them for dinner tonight too. 

Lil’ L’s verdict on the hemp burger… deeeeelicious!!!  Yay another winner!   The burgers had a great texture and I thought they tasted a bit like the sausage meat that you find in veggie sausage rolls.  To make the burgers, I used tofu, hemp seeds, chopped onion, minced garlic, soy sauce, tomato puree, ground oats and a little stuffing mix.  (If anyone’s interested, I can post the recipe).  As accompaniments, we had sunflower and sesame seed rolls, roasted butternut squash, red pepper and crispy kale. Delish!

Dessert

For dessert tonight, I had some stewed apples with natural yoghurt, cinnamon and pecans, while Lil’ L finished up the banana cinnamon icecream that we made a couple of weeks ago.  It had gone before I had time to take a photograph, so here’s the pic from last time we had it.

 

So, that’s me done!  Time to head over to Jenn’s now and check out the lush foodie photos 😉 

Happy WIAW everyone!

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Breakfast and Elevenses, Dinners, Nutrition

Scrummy Vegan Chocolate Birthday Cake

For the past two birthdays, Lil L has asked whether we can make a home-made vegan chocolate cake as his birthday treat, rather than one of those fancy shop-bought birthday cakes.

Three reasons why I’ve considered this to be great news…

1. It means he actually likes the cakes I make 🙂
2. It’s saved me a small fortune 🙂
3. It means I get to spend some quality time with him in the kitchen 🙂

This year, he got heavily involved in all stages of the cake-making process, including the sieving, the mixing and, of course, the bowl licking. No guessing which bit he enjoyed the most 😉

Last year, he chose to have a plastic Frankenstein stuck in the top of the cake.  This year, we went for something slightly more sophisticated… berry and cherry spread in the middle, raw chocolate fudge frosting on top and 8 candles 🙂

The chocolate and fruity filling flavours went really well together.  For me, the cake also had the perfect consistency (moist, not crumbly, easy to cut).  In summary, this cake was totally delish! And, most importantly, Lil’  L loved it! 🙂

 

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WIAW – What I ate in Nottingham!

Happy Wednesday everybody!  Hope you’re all having a great week 🙂

It’s Lil’ L’s birthday today… he’s 8 already! Where did all that time go?  Scary!

Just  before we head out for his birthday trip, I thought that I’d show what we ate last Sunday for this week’s WIAW event, hosted by the gorgeous Jenn @ Peas & Crayons.  As we were in staying in Sherwood Forest for the weekend, we had totally different eats to my usual WIAW entries.  Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the evening shots.  The photos were taken on my phone (yes, I’ve now worked out how to take photos on the smartypants phone 🙂 ) but the lighting was v. poor in the restaurant.  Anyway, here goes… WIAW on Sunday…

Breakfast
Since we’d forgotten to bring ANY food to our log cabin residence in Sherwood Forest, M nipped to Tesco and bought us each some breakfast treats.  For me, he got some Dorset Cereals Fruits, Nuts and Seeds Muesli, a carton of Innocent Fruit Smoothie, and some Clippers Nettle Tea (he knows me well 😉 ).  This fuelled me up perfectly for our bike ride in Sherwood Forest 🙂

Snacks am
Half way round the Kitchener Trail, we stopped for a snack.  We each had a Nakd bar, which are made of raw fruit and nuts.  They’re pretty expensive, but on offer in Tesco at the moment, so we bought 4 bars.  This time round, I tried the Pecan Pie bar.  It was nice, but Cocoa Orange remains my favourite Nakd flavour 😉 

Lunch
By lunchtime, we were ravenous.  Our all-time favourite lunch when we’re out biking is baked beans on toast.  It fuels us up really quickly and seems to digest quickly (for me anyhow).  Normally when I eat, I have to wait 2 hours before I can exercise otherwise my stomach starts cramping.  However, after beans on toast, I can easily get back on my bike within 15 minutes 🙂

So, after the beans on toast, we got back on the bikes and did the Kitchener Trail all over again 🙂

Snacks pm
Giant pretzels and some dark chocolate 🙂

Dinner
For our evening meal, we travelled into Nottingham city centre.  I was hoping to have dinner at my favourite cafe in the UK… the uber cool Alley Cafe Bar.  Unfortunately, by the time we got into Nottingham on Sunday evening, it was closed 😦 

If you’re ever in Nottingham, you must try this cafe.  It has the most amazing vegan cheesecake and milkshakes that I’ve ever tasted.  Just make sure you don’t turn up there on a Sunday night 😉 

Instead, we crossed the road and went into Las Iguanas.  Though this is a chain (there’s one in Bath too), the food is pretty good.  There was a good ambience in the Nottingham restaurant (great Latino music playing), plus the guy that served us was really helpful… especially when I asked if they could make me some vegan burritos as the veggie ones all had cheese in them.  So, here’s what we ate… apologies again for the dodgy photos.

Bread and olives, which we quickly devoured 🙂 

Then I had the Sopa de Calabaza (spiced up butternut squash and coconut milk soup).  Really yum, but very spicy.  My mouth was totally zinging after this.

For my main course, the kind chef made me a vegan enchilada, filled with spicy roasted butternut squash, peppers and other veggies, and topped with a spicy tomato sauce.  This came with lemon and coriander rice, and refried beans.  Totally delish! (the photo doesn’t do it justice).

Lil’ L had the veggie fajitas, which he quickly devoured.  For dessert, he didn’t choose the fresh fruit option, but instead opted for the other healthy dessert… chocolate brownie and ice cream 😉

We had a great night at Iguanas and it reminded me how long it’s been since I made fajitas and enchiladas at home.  We used to eat them all the time, stuffed with roasted butternut squash, sweet potato, peppers, mushrooms, spinach and refried beans.  I’ll definitely have to make some soon!

Right, that’s me done!  When Lil’ L’s in bed tonight, I’ll pop along to the WIAW party and see what y’all eating!

Happy WIAW everyone! xx

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Filed under Biking, Breakfast and Elevenses, Dinners

A Wonderful Trip to Sherwood Forest

As soon as school was out on Friday, we packed the car, hoisted the bikes onto the roof, and set off for a mini break to one of my favourite places in the UK, Sherwood Forest.  This forest is most well-known for its links with the legend of Robin Hood.  We’re not sure whether Robin Hood really did exist but, regardless, I find Sherwood to be a truly magical place 🙂

M and I lived in Nottingham back in the 1990s, so we know the area pretty well.  Nowadays, we try and visit once a year, normally during the October half term when the forest is full of the colours of Autumn/Fall. 

This year, for the first time, we chose to stay in a log cabin in the forest. 

I loved the lounge area inside the cabin, with its little wood burning stove.  So cosy!  

Lil’ L had his first archery lesson… and turned out to be pretty handy with the bow and arrow 🙂

We also went to visit Major Oak.  No trip to Sherwood would be complete without visiting this ancient tree where (as the legend goes) Robin, Marion and the band of Merry Men hid out.  This incredible tree is over 1,150 years old!

However, the main reason for our trip to the forest was to ride the trails at Sherwood Pines.  The Kitchener Trail is absolutely awesome and currently my favourite trail in the UK!  

    
We rode it three times over the weekend.  Lil L’s verdict… “sweet!”.

The trail has lots of twists and turns, which makes it very exciting.  I love this sort of trail as it requires single pointed concentration… if your mind wanders… you’re likely to hit a tree trunk or stump.  I fell off once, which was more of a technical hitch where I skidded on sand into a ditch, rather than a mind wobble/fear moment (or a “mind slide” as me & M have started calling them 😉 ).  Luckily, I was wearing the new knee pads that M bought, so I didn’t feel a thing 🙂

There’s lots of variety on the trail, including the options of a fast downhill section and dirt jump area for the real adrenalin junkies.

I loved all the different sections we rode through, which included pine forests and ancient woodland filled with chestnut trees.


There was even a super spooky section, which you had to wind your way through.

Here’s a couple of action shots.

From the back, it looks like I was dressed appropriately for biking… but I so wasn’t!  Under the jacket and knee pads, I was wearing jeggings and a sparkly top.  The Essex girl in me still loves a bit of sparkle 😉

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, filled with sunshine, lots of fresh air, exercise and a large dose of myth and magic 😉

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My Little Saviours

Okay, time to reveal the source of the ‘challenges and opportunities’ (known to others as ‘frustration’ 😉 ) that I encountered Tuesday night and Wednesday morning…

Here it is…

It looks so innocent doesn’t it?  Some might even call it ‘beautiful’.  Before it arrived in the post, I was even referring to it as the ‘Sexy Salsa’.  Now I just call it the ‘smartypants’ phone :-/

I thought it was about time that I embraced the new technologies of the 21st century and get myself an ‘android smartphone’ (I don’t have a clue what that means!)  This upgrade (£13.50 p/m) is actually cheaper than my old phone deal, so I should add it to yesterday’s ‘Big Budget Challenge’ post 😉 

Well, it turns out that the ‘smartphone’ is way too smart for me.  I didn’t have a CLUE how to use the thing.  I was chuffed when I finally worked out how to turn it on after 5 minutes of fiddling… but it all went downhill from that point onwards 😦  

The phone had automatically ‘synced’ with Facebook and my phone contacts list was then filled with the phone numbers of Facebook ‘friends’, rather than my regular friends.  I pressed the first name that appeared at the top of the screen to see if I could edit it.  To my horror, the phone started calling the person… Esther in Canada!!!  It took me ages to work out how to end the call (because I’m so thick when it comes to new technology).  THEN, I accidentally rested my finger on the phone… and it started ringing Esther in Canada again!!! aarrghhhh! 

I gave up and decided to have another try in the morning.

M asked me if I’d read the manual.  I checked the manual and no, it doesn’t mention how to make a phone call or send a text as it ASSUMES that everyone already knows how to do this.  The manual just talks about ‘Facebook Chat’, ‘Snap, tag and share’ and other things that I have NO clue about. 

I finally worked out how to send a text, but my fat fingers seem to press about 5 letters at once.  A 2 sentence text took me about 5 minutes because I had to delete every other letter.  I can’t wait to let my mum have a go (mind you, she can’t do worse than me lol!)

My second ‘challenge’ on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was an attempt to move my blog to a new host.  My new hosting provider has a ‘1 click install’ which is described as being so simple that even a 4 year old could do it.  I’m sure a 4 year old probably could do it… but I failed miserably 😦  It’s still not sorted, but I’m hoping that my wonderful tecchie friend ‘E’ will be my saviour on this one 😉

So after a rubbish Wednesday morning (which I’m happy to say wasn’t a complete waste of time as it’s been a great source of amusement for my friends 😉 ), it was a relief to leave the house, the phone, the computer, and go to teach my kids’ meditation classes.  🙂 🙂 🙂

The kids were little stars as usual. Just watching them meditate filled me with such a sense of peace. 🙂  Apparently, Lil’ L and some of his friends had been meditating during playtime, before I’d even arrived at school.  It was a very chilled, rewarding afternoon.  This carried on after school too.  I sneakily took a picture of Lil’ L meditating in the garden…

And here’s a pic of another 2 of his classmates meditating Wednesday evening (emailed to me by their mum).

Don’t they look so peaceful?

And finally, here’s a beautiful picture that another one of Lil’ L’s friends drew on Wednesday afternoon.

What a beautiful way to end a crazy day!  

I’d love to upload these images onto my new smartypants phone but that’s one step too advanced for me.  Maybe I’ll ask a 4 year old 😉

Have a wonderful weekend everybody! xx

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Filed under Buddhism & Meditation, General wittering