Stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews

stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews

This vegan dish of stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews is simplicity itself, a budget, healthy meal that takes just 15 minutes to prepare. It is also gluten free if you make sure you use rice noodles. You can chuck pretty much any crunchy vegetables into this. I often use carrots or greens, peas and green beans too.

Stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashews

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp sesame oil

2-3 tbsp soy sauce

One heaped tsp Marigold vegan stock

1 chopped onion

2 celery sticks, chopped into matchsticks

1 red pepper sliced

Half a head of broccoli, chopped into small florets

200g mushrooms, sliced

100 g cashew nuts, toasted for a few minutes in a dry frying pan

Method

Heat 2 tbsp of sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the onions and celery and stir fry for a couple of minutes, then throw in the rest of your vegetables. Keep stirring and tossing the veg over quite a high heat for a few more minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables.

Meanwhile, cook and drain the rice noodles. This should only take 4 minutes or so in boiling water. Add your soy sauce and stir, then add the stock dissolved in enough hot water to barely cover your veg. Stir thoroughly and taste. Add the extra spoonful of sesame oil and more soy sauce to taste. Stir in your noodles and serve immediately with your toasted cashews sprinkled on top.

This dish of stir fried vegetables with noodles and toasted cashew nuts is super healthy and easy. If you like you can add some ginger for a bit of a kick too.

For more of my frugal recipe ideas see my recipe page.

 

Brown rice cashew nut pilaf

According to Wikipedia, a pilaf or pilau is ‘is a dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth.’ After that, you can chuck pretty much whatever you want into it, making it an easy dish to use up whatever you have lying around. My version is a brown rice cashew nut pilaf. It is both vegan and gluten free, making it great for those with food intolerances.

I enjoy this kind of easy and healthy food. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and another 25 – 30 to cook through. I don’t eat onions, so just left them out. The vegetables should all be chopped quite small.

brown rice cashew nut pilaf

Brown rice cashew nut pilaf

Serves 4 as a main course

Ingredients

2 tbsp garlic infused olive oil (or 2 cloves crushed garlic and plain oil)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 medium courgette, chopped

4 heaped tsp medium curry powder

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

300g brown rice

50g frozen peas

50g frozen French beans

600g of strong vegetable stock (I used 4 heaped tsp of Marigold stock)

Black pepper to taste

300g toasted cashew nuts

Method

brown rice cashew nut pilaf

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok then sauté the onions and garlic (if using). Stir in the curry powder and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add the celery, pepper and courgette and fry for about 5 minutes. Throw the rice into the pan and stir well so that it is well coated with the spices and vegetables. Fry for a few minutes more.

Pour in your vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer uncovered until the rice is the consistency you prefer. I don’t like brown rice too al dente so will cook this for about 30 minutes. Add more hot water if it starts to look a bit dry. Meanwhile toast your cashew nuts in a dry pan until just brown and crunchy. Add them to the pilaf as you serve it.

This brown rice cashew nut pilaf is good with a green salad, although Mr S prefers his with a bit of baked chicken!

For more of my frugal recipe ideas, see here.

Food allergies on a budget

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If you or a member of your family has a food allergy or an intolerance, you will know how expensive it can be. Gluten free foods in particular are a horrendous price. So how can you cope with food allergies on a budget?

Free from comes at a price

Awareness of allergies and intolerances has finally hit the manufacturers’ commercial sensors. It is no longer difficult to find ‘free from’ products on the supermarket shelves. However, more availability doesn’t necessarily mean these items come cheap. How can you stick to your budget when you have to pay £4 for a loaf of gluten free bread, or £1.50 for some lactose free milk?

Fortunately, I don’t have any true allergies, but I am intolerant to most dairy and feel better on a lower gluten diet. If I eat toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch I bloat like I am 6 months pregnant and have other unpleasant symptoms that I won’t go into.

I won’t pretend to be any kind of expert, but I would like to share some tricks that I have found to help cope with food allergies on a budget so far.

Bake your own

I know! What a faff baking your own bread is. Or is it? I recently started baking my own spelt bread and, as I mentioned in this post, I accidentally discovered it was dead easy. The fact that bread makers exist made me assume it was all horribly complicated, but it isn’t, as I found when my bread maker died and I had to make it by hand.

food allergies on a budgetI know spelt bread isn’t gluten free, however. The best book I have found for baking without gluten is Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap, by Nicole Hunn. It is American, but has loads of recipes for great looking bread and other baked goods. You can buy gluten free flour, rice flour, etc in the supermarkets reasonably cheaply now. If you make a batch of bread or rolls they will store nicely in the freezer and work out much better value than the ready made varieties.

Consider other carbs

food allergies on a budgetYou don’t have to eat bread for lunch every day. Quinoa, polenta or rice make nice salads and are all gluten free. How about a delicious thick soup with plenty of veg and potatoes? I have become much more adventurous with my packed lunches since I cut back on sandwiches. Rice cakes with humus is one of my favourite lunch combinations!

Focus on what you can eat

Similarly, rather than worrying about what you can’t eat, focus on the foods that don’t cause reactions. This might mean avoiding processed and convenience foods, but this doesn’t mean the food you eat needs to be complicated and fussy. An omelette (if you don’t have issues with eggs), a nice piece of meat or baked fish with vegetables, a filled jacket potato or a roasted tomato sauce on gluten free pasta are all quick and easy dinners.

Think about how many store cupboard basics are suitable for your allergy or intolerance and meal plan around those items. If you are organised generally you save money on your grocery shopping and even more so if you are catering for

To save yourself even more time, batch cook as much as you can and fill your freezer.

Approved Food

I am a fan of Approved Food as regular readers will be aware. However, did you know they often have speciality foods for those with allergies and intolerances? Stock moves quickly, but they currently have quinoa flour, rice flour, pretzels and even gluten free jammy dodgers at massively reduced prices.

Lidl and Aldi

food allergies on a budgetKeep an eye on Lidl and Aldi for free from foods. At the moment Lidl has quite a few specials. I bought two packs of gluten free spaghetti and some ginger cookies yesterday. Aldi is always pretty good, with various non diary milks and their own, much cheaper version of Lactofree dairy milk – £1.15 a carton. They also sell lots of delicious gluten free cereal bars and snacks.

These discount supermarkets are both great for good quality, very dark and dairy free chocolate too.

Asda also now do lactose free milk at £1.20 a carton. They also sell delicious lactose free Greek yogurt in big pots, currently 2 for £2. Their own brand coconut milk is 97p. You can buy cheap soya milk and yogurt everywhere these days too.

I realise this post only scrapes the surface of the tricky subject of food allergies on a budget. I have found some interesting websites that are worth exploring too:

Free From Heaven features recipes to suit all kinds of dietary issues, as well as news about new products.

Gluten Free on a Shoestring is the blog to go with the book.

freefrom.com from the mum of a coeliac sufferer.

If you or a family member has a food intolerance or allergy, how do you manage? What are your tips to save money? Is it possible to deal with food allergies on a budget?

Not another courgette recipe! Spicy courgette stew with fresh tomatoes

courgette recipeHere is another courgette recipe for the glut! We have a ton of tomatoes in the greenhouse at the moment so this gets rid of those as well. It is a kind of ratatouille invented to use what we had in the fridge.

Spicy courgette stew with fresh tomatoes

1 large onion, chopped

2 sticks of celery, sliced

1 medium aubergine, cut into cubes

About three medium courgettes, sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed

2lb/900g fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or two 400g cans)

2-3 tsp ground cumin

A dollop of tomato purée

2 tsp Marigold vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Put a good glug of oil into a large wok or frying pan and get it quite hot. This stops the aubergine from absorbing so much of the oil. Throw in all of your veg apart from the tomatoes and stir fry fairly gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and fry for two more minutes, then add the tomatoes, stock and tomato purée. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, stirring and adding salt and pepper to taste.

courgette recipeSo easy! We had this simple courgette recipe with some baked chicken thighs and roasted new potatoes, but it would be nice served  with rice.

The courgettes are nearly finished now and I am almost relieved! We still have a few runner beans arriving and the odd cucumber, but the tomatoes are growing at full throttle. They are so nutritious and versatile that I rarely have a problem using them. If all else fails I will make another batch of tomato soup for the freezer.

I don’t use any particular recipe for this. I usually fry up some onion, celery and garlic, add as many tomatoes as I need to use (skinned and roughly chopped) and then cover with vegetable stock. They produce a lot of juice so I don’t add too much, just enough to cover all the veg. I cook it for about 10-15 minutes, seasoning to taste, then blend it.

Do you grow your own and what are you fave seasonal recipes?

Courgette glut recipe: courgette and tomato eggy bake

Courgette glutIt is such a pleasure to grow and eat your own delicious fruit and veg. However, there is always too much of something and we have had a courgette glut for weeks. The freezer is packed with them in various forms. Actually, the courgettes have finally slowed but I am still dealing with the glut. Now the tomatoes are coming thick and fast. This seasonal vegetarian recipe combines the two.  It makes a nice change from courgette soup!

Courgette and tomato eggy bake

Serves 6

2oz/50g butter

1 lb/400g courgettes, thinly sliced

1 lb/400g tomatoes, thickly sliced

2 medium onions, chopped

Two medium peppers, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Heaped teaspoon dried mixed herbs

Half a pintwhite wine or cider

1 tablespoon Marigold vegetable stock

Pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)

4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, sliced

4oz/100g grated cheddar

Salt and pepper to taste

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat the butter in a large frying pan or wok and sauté the onions, garlic, pepper and courgettes for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly. Add the white wine, stock powder, herbs and seasonings and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chilli flakes if liked.

courgette glutNow start to layer up. Place the courgette mixture into a large baking dish. Add the sliced tomatoes.

courgette glut
Finally, add the sliced eggs and top with the grated cheese

courgette glut
Bake for around 30 minutes. This goes really well with some crispy roasted new potatoes.

Anyone else got a glut of anything? How are you dealing with your tomato or courgette glut?

Love your Leftovers: spinach cheese frittata 

Love your Leftovers

This is the second in my occasional Love your Leftovers series.

You know how it is when you cook fresh spinach? You think you have enough in the pan to feed the five thousand then you cook it and it disappears to a small bowlful!

I tend to over compensate for this and cook even more than I think I need. I love spinach and I know there are plenty of ways to use it up. You’ve got to love your leftovers!

love your leftoversUsing up leftover food is also helping me to stick to my £35 a week grocery challenge for August. The spinach, as well as some leftover canned sweet corn, went into this cheesy spinach frittata for a quick and easy dinner. Obviously, you can vary the ingredients for this type of dish, depending on what you have available or what needs using.

These quantities serve 2.

4 medium eggs

A splash of milk

About a cupful of chopped, cooked spinach

A couple of rashers of bacon, chopped

2 tablespoons canned corn

About 2-3 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Oil

I tend to use my wok for this as it is a good size and is non stick. It needs to go under the grill but obviously not a plastic handled one!

Fry the bacon in a little oil until cooked, then spoon it out and set aside, leaving some oil in the pan to cook your frittata. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together then add the bacon. Pour back into your pan and cook gently until it starts to set. You can push the egg mixture around a bit to speed this up. Don’t allow it to catch on the bottom of the pan. When it has mostly set sprinkle the corn, spinach and finally the cheese on top. Place under a medium grill for around five minutes to cook the top.

This frittata is quick, cheap and easy, and a good way to help you love your leftovers. Have you any good recipes for cooked spinach?

Cheesy potato bake with parsley, rosemary and thyme

cheesy potato bakeWe had a cheap and filling late lunch today, a cheesy potato bake served with Aldi sausages and vegetables. As we were going to the cinema I wanted to keep it simple. This is how you make it.

cheesy potato bake900g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Heaped tsp dried rosemary
Heaped tsp dried thyme
Large handful fresh parsley, chopped finely
1/2 pint milk
Salt and pepper
100g grated cheese

cheesy potato bakePlace the spuds, onions and garlic with the milk in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in all of the herbs and season well. Grease a large casserole dish and pour the potato mixture in. Cover with the grated cheese and bake at about 180C for 45 minutes. Eat as an accompaniment to sausages or as a vegetarian main with some vegetables.

This cheap and easy cheesy potato bake is also vegetarian and gluten free.

We saw the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything tonight. What a great story and an excellent film. I really recommend it if you can get to see it!

Black bananas in the bin? Not with this lovely gluten free banana loaf

gluten free banana loaf

Delia Smith’s banana loaf is my go to recipe when I have over ripe bananas to use up. I tweak it depending on what ingredients I have in the house. I have replaced the walnuts with hazel nuts or even chocolate chips before and left out the citrus fruit peel when I haven’t had any.  My gluten free banana loaf is adapted from Delia’s recipe.

Gluten free banana loaf

Ingredients

75g soft margarine or butter
110g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
The grated rind of one lemon and one orange. (I used 3 heaped tsp of mixed peel as I had this from my Christmas pudding)
60g ground almonds
170g gluten free self raising flour
2tsp gf baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthum gum (optional)
2 tbsp milk
4 medium bananas, mashed
50g walnuts, chopped

gluten free banana loafMethod

Preheat your oven to gas 4, 180c. Grease a standard loaf tin. Place the margarine, sugar, milk and egg into a bowl. Sift over the flour, baking powder and xanthum gum if using, then the almonds. Beat this all together. Add the mashed bananas and beat again until thoroughly combined. Stir in the citrus rinds or mixed peel and nuts and place the mixture into your loaf tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 55-60 minutes, turning the temperature down a bit of it gets too brown.

This gluten free banana loaf is delicious warm or cold spread with butter and a nice cup of tea.

Delia’s original recipe can be found here.

You can find more frugal recipe ideas on this page.

Fabulous Easy Fruit Cake

Thanks for all the comments on gluten free baking yesterday. I have had much more success with my baking today!

Today I made my favourite easy fruit cake. I make it about once a month. As suggested by Kate in the comments yesterday, to make it gluten free I substituted the wheat flour for 75% Dove’s Farm self raising and 25% ground almonds. I also added 1 fl oz more milk as I have read that GF flour can take more liquid than the regular stuff. The recipe was given to me about 15 years ago, and I have it stuck to the front of one of my baking books. It was a huge success in its gluten free form – as you can see, several pieces had gone before I even got round to taking the photo!

easy fruit cakeHere is the recipe, in old money so apologies to those of you who are strictly metric:

8 oz self raising flour or 6 oz GF self raising with 2 oz ground almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
5 oz brown sugar
2 eggs
5 oz butter or margarine
12oz dried mixed fruit
4 fl oz milk, or 5 if using GF flour

Gas mark 2/150C for 1 1/4 hours (check after an hour as you don’t want to over cook it)

Grease and line an 8 inch round cake tin.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat well until mixed.
Place the mixture in the tin and smotth the top.
Cook until firm.

This easy fruit cake couldn’t be simpler and is fail safe as long as you don’t cook it too high.

Not a total disaster

I also discovered that yesterday’s cheese muffins weren’t quite the disaster I thought they were. When they were hot, the feta tasted awful – really overwhelming. This morning, tasting one cold, they were much nicer. The recipe suggested refreshing them in the microwave for 30 seconds before eating, so I tried that and my muffin was really quite good. Better for lunch with some soup or a salad than the dry GF rolls I have been buying in the supermarket. I have frozen them in batches of six to take to work and left some out to eat over the weekend.

Mr Shoestring and his brother spent much of the day on the roof finishing off. They have done a splendid job. The roof now appears to be completely water tight and cost about £200, rather than the £1500 we feared a roofer would charge us.

Best gluten free chocolate and raspberry brownies

imageI have mentioned previously that I bought two nice looking little gluten free cookery books last week. One is Hamlyn 200 Gluten Free Recipes by Louise Blair and the other is BBC Good Food Everyday Gluten free Recipes. They both look really promising and seem to use ingredients that are easy to buy in the local supermarket.

Yesterday was my first chance to try out a imagerecipe and I thought I would start with some gluten free chocolate and raspberry brownies from the BBC book. Fresh raspberries aren’t easy to come by this time of year so I decided to stick with just chocolate.  My local Co-op only had milk chocolate so that is what I used. They were delicious! They weren’t cheap to make, however, so I will save this recipe for treats. Here is the original version. Next time I will be more prepared and use Aldi’s cheap dark chocolate – today I used Cadbury’s!

imageGluten free chocolate and raspberry brownies

Makes 15 squares

200g dark chocolate broken into chunks
100g milk chocolate broken into chunks
250g pack salted butter
400g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
140g gf plain flour
50g cocoa powder
200g raspberries

Heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20x30cm baking tin. Gently melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a saucepan, stirring well. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs one at a time. Move to a mixing bowl and sieve in the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together, then stir in half the raspberries. Pour the mixture into the tin and scatter over the remaining raspberries. Bake for 30-35 minutes until set but nice and squidgy. Cool and then cut into squares.

I have put half in the freezer as they are best eaten within three days.

We had them still warm with a cup of tea but they would be fab as a posh pudding with a big dollop of cream.

I want to try some corn and cheese muffins next which are made with polenta and look scrumptious!

Not a complete disaster!!

Yesterday I blogged about my attempt at making a gluten free chocolate cake. It all went a bit wonky as my oven shelf tipped as I put the cakes in and I didn’t notice. This meant they were fat one end and thin and biscuit like at the other end. Undeterred, I took them out of the tins and sandwiched them together with chocolate spread.

Not a beautiful cake, but an edible one....

Not a beautiful cake, but an edible one….

Well, this cake doesn’t look pretty, that’s for sure! It is rather crumbly at the edges and completely uneven. However, it does actually taste quite acceptable. Me and DD3 each had a piece. But cake should be scrumptious and delicious, not just acceptable. It has a nice light texture, but is missing something. I think I will attempt it again but this time, instead of adding cocoa powder, I will melt some actual chocolate and mix that in. Hopefully that will solve the crumbling issue and make it taste richer. If that works I might go the whole hog and whip up some cream to add to the filling. I think I need to experiment a lot more!

I used the Dove Farm flour that I bought in Sainsbury’s the other day. The recipe for the chocolate cake was on the packet. The only thing I added was some Xanthan gum, since I had it and it is supposed to make gluten free cakes lighter.

It is going to be trial and error but hopefully I can find some decent recipes for the basics over time.

I had to go to a meeting in Chelmsford today. I knew there would be biscuits which I wouldn’t be able to eat so I bought a gluten free seed bar on the way in. I thought it might be fit for the birds, but actually it was lovely as well as healthy. I will buy one again! If you see these and want a healthy treat, give one a try!