As a working mum I know that when you get home in the evening you just want to pop something in the oven or microwave whilst you sort out the kids, change into something more comfortable and then sit down and relax. So it's understandable that many people turn to ready made convenience food, I mean it's easy enough to shove a pizza in the oven with some garlic bread.
Yes, cooking some healthier options does cross your mind every now and again. Perhaps some fish or meat instead? But then you have to start thinking about a side to go with it and before you know it, cooking becomes a complicated part of the day. Well fear not, here are some really quick, easy and most importantly cheap sides to go along with your weekday evening meal.
A friend popped round this week with a late birthday present, as well as other goodies, she bought me a selection of marmalades. As much as I like marmalade on toast there are so many other uses for it. If you fancy duck a L’Orange, marmalade makes a quick and easy orange sauce. Alternatively as I do, replace the duck with chicken breast, spread some marmalade on it, then cover it in tin foil and cook as you normally would, only the result is a really nice chicken in orange sauce.
Stir fry vegetables and noodles with marmalade: Last night I prepared enough stir fry vegetables and noodles for two then, on a medium heat I melted a desert spoon of coconut oil, added a couple of finely chopped chillies, a teaspoon of grated ginger and a teaspoon of garlic, added my stir fry vegetables and noodles, then once the vegetables began to soften I added a dessert spoon of soy sauce and heaped dessert spoon of marmalade. It tasted delicious as good as any meal I have bought in an Asian restaurant and cost a fraction of the price
Tip: As I didn’t have any fresh chillies I took some out of the freezer, I often do the same with ginger and garlic if it needs using up I pop it in the freezer rather than throwing it away. It always comes in useful when you need it the most and saves me a drive to my local supermarket.
Bread and butter pudding with marmalade: For those people who like bread and butter pudding but don’t like raisins or sultanas you can use marmalade instead. It is great with a sprinkling of cinnamon and or nutmeg.
I also add it to my Repton pudding a recipe I’ll be sharing with you later in the year as an alternative to Christmas pudding
Click here for 60 amazing ways to use marmalade and none of them involve toast.
Another colleague told me his wife freezes herbs mixed with butter or olive oil and also freezes homemade stock this way. I too make up garlic butter mixed with parsley, or butter mixed with capers to add to any fresh fish I am cooking. In the past I have made pasta sauce and frozen it in ice cube trays as when my youngest was little, he was crazy for pasta but only ate small amounts. This is very similar to the way you freeze baby food which I also did.
Pesto: I also make homemade pesto which can go brown in the fridge when exposed to the air so I pop it into ice cube trays and freeze it. Again, pesto is one of those foods where you don't always need a lot of it in one serving. It's great added to chicken breasts before covering them in tin foil and popping them in the oven.
Buying in bulk is always cheaper so when I am making a Thai curry I prepare extra chillies, onions, lemon grass, ginger and garlic mixed with either olive oil or coconut oil pop it in the freezer in ice cube trays knowing it will save me a lot of time and money the next time I make a Thai curry.
Click here for more ideas on how to use ice cube trays.
To save space in the freezer, once frozen empty the cubes into plastic bags.
My maternal grandmother was an amazing cook who taught me all I know, but she didn’t have a spice and herb rack quite like my dad’s mum. So whenever I went to stay with her I would be desperate to try out the different flavours and mix them together. I would nag my grandmother from the moment I arrived to be allowed to mix the different ingredients and see what I could come up with. She would often look horrified at what I mixed together but she always managed to nod her head and smile sweetly.
A lot of what I tried did truly taste disgusting and of course like any child I insisted everyone tasted it!! These days I am still not afraid to try new things especially if it is a case of throwing it away or trying to make something from it.
Last Friday I was sorting out my fridge before doing my weekly shop and realised I had some tomatoes, cream cheese, olives, spring onions, lemon grass and ginger that needed using up.
I chopped up the spring onions, lemon grass, green and black olives, and ginger and put them in a large saucepan with the tomatoes and cream cheese, then added a couple of tinned tomatoes from my cupboard store and some basil from the garden. Boiled them up until soft then once cool blended them with a hand blender and added some frozen cream cubes – see below hints and tips.
This type of sauce can be used as a rich soup but is also delicious on pasta, chicken, fish or beef. I usually end up freezing and using it at a later date when I have people round for dinner.
Hints and Tips
Whenever I have some double or whipping cream left over in the fridge that needs using up, I whisk it until firm then place it in an ice cube try and freeze. These frozen cream cubes can be added to sauces and soups to bind them and make them soft, creamy and silky.