Meal Planning Monday (Week beginning 29 April 2013)

I have long known that most of my wage flows straight out of my purse into Tesco's coffers.

It's time to get a grip on the spending and what better way to do that than make a meal plan for the week.

I am linking this up with At Home with Mrs M, who hosts this event.

I also thought if I made a meal plan, I could include a new dish each week from a cookbook. One of the ones in the teetering mountain of review copies that are currently residing in our bedroom. Hey, what do you mean you don't keep cookbooks in your bedroom? Cookbooks make great bedtime reading!

I've decided just to plan Monday to Friday for the moment. This gives me scope to get creative at the weekend and go with my mood.

Monday: I have a butternut squash that needs to be used, as it's been hanging about my kitchen for a while now. I'm on a fast day (5:2 diet) tomorrow,  so I'm going to make Squash and Spinach Soup today in preparation.

Tuesday: Baked potato topped with either cottage cheese or cheddar and served with salad. Graham will probably have hummus on his potato as his vegan option. I'll make a balsamic dressing to drizzle on the leaves.

Wednesday: We haven't had a tofu stir fry for ages and I've been craving one. I will use my own recipe for Sweet and Sour Sauce and I'll add lots of veggies to the dish too. We'll have our stir-fry with brown rice.

Thursday: Cooper has Little Dragons, his baby martial arts class tonight, so it has to be a quick meal when we get home. This is a pasta dish I found in my review copy of Titbits at Home, a new vegetarian cookbook. It sounds quite interesting. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

Friday: I work late on Friday, so I will be taking a tub of homemade chilli out of the freezer to defrost, then it's all quick to throw together. A tortilla wrap spread with a little sour cream, topped with salad leaves, then chilli and finished with a grating of cheddar before it's wrapped up. It another fast day for me, so I'll probably skip the sour cream and cheddar this time.

Do you plan your weekly meals?

What are you having this week?


No Croutons Required - Indian Spices

For this month's No Croutons Required I asked for soups or salads using Indian spices. I didn't manage to make one myself in time and this roundup is late too. Lets just say this hasn't been a happy household with all the poorly people in it. So for my entry I am dipping into my archive.

I do hope you enjoy the roundup. Be sure to vote for your favourite entry.

No Croutons Required

April 2013
Soups and Salads with Indian Spices

name: Janet
location: Toronto, Canada

Spices used: turmeric, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds

I love dal, but I always make the same one, a Coconut and Spinach Dal. I'm going to try this one next time. Janet has added cauliflower, zucchini (courgette) and tomatoes in hers and it looks utterly divine.

name: Preety
location: USA

spices used: cumin seeds, mustard seeds and garam masala

I did wonder if I would get any salads for this challenge. I am so glad I did and this is a great entry. Preety made us such a pretty rice dish. So healthy and full of wonderful flavours and textures. Kidney beans, sweetcorn, green pepper, onion and tomato, dressed in spices and mixed with rice. Mmmmmm!

name: Lisa
blog: Lisa's Kitchen 
Location: London, Ontario, Canada

spices used: turmeric, green chillies, chilli powder, ground coriander and dried curry leaves

My co-host and good friend Lisa has made us this spicy soup. If you ever need a lesson in spices, she is the one to visit. Lisa is an expert in combining spices and she has done it again with this gorgeous warming soup. Lisa was tempted to make a salad, but she is still freezing over there in Ontario, so decided against it.

name: Johanna
location: Melbourne, Australia

spices used: mustard seeds and curry powder

Johanna beefed up the flavour of her tomato soup with spices, sun dried tomatoes, chickpea flour and nutritional yeast. She served it with avocado on toast and dollops of yoghurt. What a great meal Johanna! I love the idea of serving avocado on toast with soup. So healthy too.

name: Jacqueline
location: Scotland, UK

spices used: cumin and coriander seeds

The weather is rather autumnal here in Scotland today, even though it is Spring. It's cold and alternating between pouring rain and hailstones. Lovely! So, I pulled this warming soup from my archive to share with you. Aubergine, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes are the base of this soup, but it's finished off with wholewheat noodles.

name: Tanu
blog: Ma Niche 
location: ?

spices used: black peppercorns, star anise, cloves and cumin seeds. 

I really want to try this soup. Tanu was inspired to make it after seeing a recipe over at French Fridays with Dorie. She adapted the recipe, but kept the essence of it. I love that fact it has strips of orange peel in it. The peel must make the soup so fragrant.  Great entry Tanu.

name: Karen
location: France

spices used: cumin, coriander and fennel seeds

Although this is Moroccan on first glance, the spices are really quite Indian and what a wonderful salad this makes. Carrots, onion and fennel, all roasted in those lovely spices then tossed through salad leaves and topped with fresh mint and feta cheese. Oh my, I do love this dish! What a great one to end with.


Thanks to everyone who entered. Now before you leave, be sure to vote for your favourite using the voting poll on the right.

Update: The voting poll has been clearing itself, so I will be asking someone to judge this month for me.

A Jam Factory in Action

Copper pan for jam making.

Stuart (Cakeyboi) and myself were lucky enough to have a tour around Mackays jam factory in Arbroath, on the East coast of Scotland.

Mackays was founded in 1938 by the Mackay brothers, but is now owned by the Grant family. The brand is very much a family company and most of their staff live locally.

In fact the lovely Claire who showed us around first got involved with the company as a school project, the brand took her on after school and now she is their Marketing Coordinator. 

Supporting the local economy is really important to the family and they only use berries from the East coast of Scotland.  

Their strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants come from Perthshire, Fife and Angus and when the berry season is over, rather than using berries from abroad, they use the same berries which have been frozen when fresh, to keep the same high quality in their jams.

Adding fruit to a copper pot.
Strawberry jam simmering.
The Spectrum Test. Checking to see the fruit is evenly distributed.
Ready to be bottled.

They make jam the traditional way in large copper pots, which are made locally in Dundee. Their jams, curds and marmalades are made by hand, only the bottling and labelling are done by machine. The fruit is washed before it is delivered, but the staff check through each batch carefully to make sure it is good enough for their jam. The jam makers measure out the ingredients, make the jam in big copper pots, stirring it with wooden paddles and the pour it into a machine to be bottled up and labelled, they then check over the jars and hand pack them, ready for them to be delivered to shops and supermarkets across the world.

The filled jars whizz around this machine ready to be labelled.

Labelling the jars.

Checking the labels. You will notice how fast the staff work.

Lemon Curd.

Mackays have their core range of jam and curd, but they also produce marmalade and a special range of single farm conserve. Each jar tells a story and has a touch of tartan to show their Scottish heritage.


I also have to give a special mention to the marmalade.

Dundee is famous for it's Marmalade.

It was first made in the 18th Century, when a Spanish ship took sanctuary in Dundee harbour during a bad storm. A local grocer, James Keiller purchased some of the Seville oranges on board and to ok them home to his wife to try. They soon found out that the fruit was quite sour to eat, so the grocer's wife decided to boil it up with sugar and voila the first Dundee Marmalade was made Marmalade has been made in Dundee form Seville oranges ever since then, but Mackays is the only local firm that still makes it the authentic way in open copper pans. 
They also do a special range of Marmalades with Champagne and with Scottish Whisky.

I've been eating Mackays jams since I was a child and my mother bought them. I am new to their curds and Single Farm Conserves, but I am happy to recommend their products as delicious and now I have seen the care that goes into making their small batches of preserves, I will definitely be more loyal to this local brand.

If you find yourself in the East Coast of Scotland, do take a trip to Arbroath and visit the Mackays Factory Shop. 

The shop is open Monday to Thursday from 9:00am to 4:30pm and Friday from 9:00am - 3:00pm. 

Find out more about Mackays on their website
and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. 

While in Arbroath, why not have a walk along the cliffs or a stroll around the old harbour. If you eat fish, you must try the world-famous Arbroath Smokies, then you can visit the lighthouse museum and  last of all make sure you visit the Abbey.  

photo: Education Scotland
Arbroath Abbey is famous for the signing of the Declaration of Arboath. The declaration is a document Scottish nobles signed in 1320 to swear their independence from England and declared Robert the Bruce as their true king

"...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

It's funny how these things all come around again isn't it? We may be signing a new declaration to say we are an independent Scotland soon, but that is a story for another day.

Disclosure: I was not sponsored to write this post. I asked Mackays Marketing Coordinator if I could have a visit to the factory. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own. On leaving the factory, I was kindly given some of the preserves to try.


5:2 Diet - Cinnamon Apple Crisps = 50 calories

A simple recipe for homemade apple crisps (chips).

I'm always looking for treats like these cinnamon apple crisps for my fast days.

I have quite a lot of recipes for my evening meals, which is my main meal on a fast day, but not many treats. The treats I do have are all bought.

This time I wanted to make a low calorie treat. I had to think long and hard about this one. It had to be something really low calorie, so I'd still have plenty of calories to play with. 

My first thought was a muffin, but I decided that would still be too calorific, even if I did cut down the fat and sugar.

Parsnip Crisps

parsnip crisps

Homemade fruit or vegetable crisps seemed like a good plan.

I often make parsnip crisps, when parsnips are in season. Parsnips are cheap when they are in season,, the crisps are easy to make and they are absolutely delicious, so I thought I could do something similar.

It's became one of those recipes where I look and see what I have before cooking or baking. This time I had a fruit bowl full of small apples, so I decided to use them in my experiment.

I always coat my parsnip crisps in a generous coating of honey, but I thought I would try brushing the apples with just a little coconut oil and agave nectar and it worked beautifully!

Cinnamon Apple Crisps

An easy recipe for low calorie cinnamon apple crisps.

5:2 Diet - Cinnamon Apple Crisps = 50 calories

These apple crisps or chips as my American friends would call then have the crunch of a traditional crisp, without all of the fat, but with a hint of sweetness and the flavour of cinnamon and apple shining through at the end.

My first batch was a disaster. I obviously had my oven up way too high and they just burned. For my second batch, I turned the temperature down and baked them for longer. Success!

Two small apples make enough crisps to have a wee treat on both of your fast days in one week and at only 50 calories per portion, how can you resist?

Isn't apple crisp a dessert?

My US readers may have landed here looking for an apple crisp, the dessert.

The American apple crisp is actually what we call apple crumble here in Scotland. A baked apple dessert where the apples are topped with a crumble (or when it comes out the oven a crisp) topping made from flour, sugar and butter (or dairy free spread).

Some people also add oats, muesli or granola to the topping too.

I know, it can get confusing sometimes, but all you need to know is that these are super tasty and healthy snacks. The perfect snacks for those that are watching their weight and a nice healthy snack for kids lunchboxes too.

pin it for later

5:2 Diet - Cinnamon Apple Crisps = 50 calories. Homemade apple crisps. This recipe for baked apples is a healthy snack that's only 50 calories per portion. Great for when you are watching your weight. #52diet #applecrisps #applechips #lowcaloriecrisps #lowcaloriechips #lowcaloriesnack #apples #redapples #healthysnack

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British, vegan
Yield: 2

Cinnamon Apple Crisps

Homemade apple crisps. This recipe for baked apples is a healthy snack that's only 50 calories per portion. Great for when you are watching your weight.
prep time: 5 minscook time: 2 hourtotal time: 2 hours and 5 mins


  • 2 small apples
  • ½ tsp coconut oil
  • ½ agave nectar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 130c/110c fan/gas mark ½.
  2. Slice two small apples very finely, either with a mandoline or a knife.
  3. Mix together coconut oil and agave nectar. If the coconut oil is a little hard, heat it a little to soften it.
  4. Place the apple slices on a lined baking sheet and brush with the oil mixture, then dust with cinnamon.
  5. Bake for approximately 2 hours. Check after 1½ hours. The time these will take to bake depends on how thinly you cut the apples.
  6. Leave to cool and crisp up on the tray. Once cool, these will keep in an airtight tub for a few days.
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Created using The Recipes Generator

Shop bought fast day treats

shop bought treats for the 5:2 diet including jelly, hot chocolate and jelly beans

If you're looking for a snack for 5:2 diet fast days you can pick up while shopping, these are good options.

Hartley's do a range of low calorie jellies that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Cadbury highlight hot chocolate is only 40 calories for a cup, but not suitable for vegans.

Lastly Jelly Belly jellybeans are only 4 calories each.


Homemade Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Kale Crisps

Homemade Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Kale Crisps

Homemade salt and vinegar crisps made from curly kale. A more nutritious salty snack than regular crisps.

New in my Kitchen #5

From time to time I'm sent a new product to try or I stumble across something new myself. I thought I'd take a few minutes to share my latest discoveries with you.

Sometimes I'll like a product, sometimes I'll love it and occasionally I'll hate it.

Do let me know if you've made any great new discoveries.

I used to hate Turkish delight, until I tasted the real deal in Turkey and Cyprus (Cyprus delight) and not those pre-wrapped boxes that have been lying about in a shop for years, no I am talking about a gorgeous fresh selection. You usually have to wait until someone comes back from their hols, but now it is available in the UK from Gulluoglu who have been making Turkish delight for nearly 150 years.

What do I like about this Turkish delight? It's marshmallowey!

That's a big thing for a vegetarian that loves marshmallows, but can't eat them. Oh and it's vegan too, except for the milky walnut ones.

My favourite flavours are the Coco Sultan Delight and the Orange Rolled Sultan Delight.

Pick and mix your own. They have 50% off at the moment and delivery in the UK is free.

RRP 24p -48p for each delight (while the sale is on)
Score 10/10  

My Friend Andrew told me about these jelly sweeties. I love jelly sweets and have long been miserable about not being able to eat them because of the gelatin. 

My first break through was when Ikea started selling Swedish fish, unfortunately they stopped selling them. Then M&S got on board with their Veggie Percy, which are lovely, then came the latest edition to the veggie sweet family, the Katjes Better Bunny from Tesco. They are actually very similar to Percy in texture and flavour, maybe a little softer and from looking at the back of the pack I can see they are also made with pea protein for that extra chewiness, so they might be made by the same factory. 

Soft, chewy and sweet. I do really like them, but I prefer Veggie Percy.

RRP £1.48 from Tesco (currently on at the sale price of £1)
Score 8/10

3. veg.out range from Holland and Barrett

Holland and Barrett sent me some of their veg.out chilled range to try. They are all suitable for vegetarians and most are suitable for vegans. 

We tried:  
  • Vegout Sos’roll  - Score 8/10
  • Vegout Vegetarian Scotch Egg - Score 3/10
  •  Vegout Cornish style lattice - Score 6/10
  • Vegout Jerky veg lattice - Score 9/10
Graham and I thought the Cornish lattice was bland and I hated the Scotch egg, but we both loved the  Vegout Cornish style lattice, which was lovely and spicy and the very traditional Vegout Sos’rol, which I like to dip in tomato ketchup (takes me back to being a teenager). They can be eaten hot or cold and are handy to throw in your bag as a snack, if you are out and about. 

4. Hartley's 10 Calorie Jelly pots

I was very excited when I discovered these. I know, that's so sad, isn't it? 

They are for my fast days. By now you must know I am doing the 5:2 Diet. On fast days I can only have up to 500 calories, so there isn't much chance to have a treat at all. 

And that is why I was so excited about these. I can enjoy 2 of these on a fast day, feel like I've had a real treat and will have only used 20 of my precious calories. 

I love this Mango and Passionfruit flavour, but there is also blueberry & blackcurrant and cranberry & raspberry. They are totally fat free, only 10 calories and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

RRP 66p from Tesco (currently on offer at 6 for £2)
Score 10/10

5. Bee Sugar Pot from Mia Fleur

This beautiful pot will be seeing a lot of action once berry season arrives and I start building up my supply of homemade jam again.

Mia Fleur sent it out to me for review. Isn't it pretty?

Mia Fleur is an online homewares boutiques selling lots of vintage and unusual items for your home or for gifts.

My jam pot (they call it a sugar pot, but if we are going to be picky about it, it should probably be a honey pot) is made from pewter and glass and comes in a elegant gift box.

I would give it a 9/10, but I would have liked the lid to be a little bit of a tighter fit. Now who's nit-picking? I do love it really!

(this bee pot has been so popular after featuring in Lady Magazine, it has sold out. Mia Fleur are expecting to restock)

RRP £39
Score 8/10

Have you tried any exciting new products recently?

Disclosure: I was sent the Turkish delight, veg.out range and bee pot to review, the other items I purchased myself. I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

Coconut Island Smoothie

It's Smoothie Time!!

You're gonna love this one!

 It's thick, tropical and delicious. It's creamy, but dairy free. It's the perfect smoothie to make today, especially if it's as wet and dreich where you are as it is here in Scotland.

Pineapple, pears, banana, coconut milk and orange juice.

Have I told you recently how much I love my Vitamix recently? It made swift work of this smoothie. Big chunks of fruit thrown in with the other ingredients, hit the button and vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv it's smooth in seconds! Fabulous!

So forget the dismal weather and be transported to the sunshine with my smoothie.

Slurp! Slurp! Smile!

print recipe

Coconut Island Smoothie
Be transported to the sun with this tropical dairy-free smoothie.
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 banana
  • 2 pears
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • 200ml orange juice
1. Remove the outer layer and cut the pineapple into chunks.2. Cut the banana and pears into chunks too. No need to take the skin of the pear.3. Add all the ingredients into your vitamix or blender and whizz until smooth.4. Serve up in glasses and what the smiles.
Total time:
Yield: Makes 6 glasses

I suggest drinking this smoothie along with porridge for complete rocket fuel.

Disclosure: Vitamix sent me a Vitamix blender to review. I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.
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