Monday, 2 January 2017

Meal Planning Tuesday: 2nd January 2016

A new year. A new sense of vigour in the meal plans? Well, a bit. This week for us is a bit of a transition one - we had our Christmas on the 28th so are still clearing leftovers, but as you'll note at the end of the week, we're hitting our stride with some lighter food, punchier flavours and more than a nod to Vegan-uary. 

I'll be talking more about self-care and food later this week, as I'm trying to change my relationship with something that is so fundamental in my life not just as a fuel, but in my writing too. So instead of joining the queue at Slimming World or Weight Watchers, I'm going to be trying to think myself slimmer. But as I say, more to come later this week. 

We've had a few issues allergy wise over December - having eliminated suspect allergens beef and sesame, we had a much more settled time, until someone mugged another toddler for their biscuit. In the Wendy house at crèche. Great! That reaction seems to have passed, but as it does each time Harry goes through a big reaction, he's limited the foods he'll eat. It's a little like a food aversion - the vomitting, upset stomach and acid from the reflux make him so uncomfortable, in a way to control that he will pretty much only happily eat a very small selection of foods. As the reaction passes, he widens his choices again. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I'd doubt a toddler could do that. But he does. 

Anyway, without further ado, on to the Meal Plan: 

Breakfasts: Porridge. All the porridge! With lots of fruit added for me. 

Lunches: Soup. All the soup. I've made some turkey soup, and have frozen all but what we need today - and then I'll make a batch of carrot and lentil soup this afternoon, but I'm procrastinating right now. 


Monday: Leftover Turkey, mushroom and leek pie with braised red cabbage and baked potatoes

Tuesday: A dear friend has offered to babysit Harry so that M and I can have our first date night since July which is a huge blessing as we've really missed time together. 

Wednesday: Spaghetti, tomato sauce and meatballs

Friday: Leftover curry

Saturday: Gammon, egg, potato wedges and peas 

Sunday: Freezer surprise, I know there's some smoked haddock in there for Harry and I, but I suspect M will have some of the portioned off chilli that's languishing. 

We've not even cut into the Christmas cake yet, so don't need any baking this week! 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

2017: A fresh page in the planner of life. Time to start anew, to throw back the curtains and holler "Here I am!" Or perhaps, like me, you take a peek, make a list of things to do, before cautiously and carefully welcoming the New Year in. 

I know that lots of people will be writing the ubiquitous 'New Year. New you' posts, or those waxing lyrical about detoxes and diets. I'm afraid you won't find that here. Not least because isn't January the worst time to try to change anything and everything about yourself? It's cold, wet, dark and grim, the odd glorious winter morning overshadowed by the need for thermals, waterproofs and everything in between. I find myself more inclined to start changes in those early days of spring, punctuated by daffodils and brighter days.

Whatever mood you're in, however you're approaching 2017, or how life finds you today - here at Penelope's Pantry I wish you a Happy, Prosperous and joy filled New Year. 

Personally, I favour New Year attired in purple penguin pjs with a glass of prosecco, and possibly a board game or two. However, and with whomsoever you celebrate, enjoy. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Spreading a little kindness

Kindness elves and Penelope's Pantry don't necessary sound like a natural match. Although, if you've been reading the blog for a while, you'll remember the Random Bakes of Kindness that my Guides carried out one Autumn term - each girl baked something of her choice to give to a woman who inspired, cherished, loved or supported her. The girls loved spreading kindness and I must confess it warmed my heart a little week by week.

I've challenged my Guides to do a reverse advent this year. On Tuesday they were asked to bring (between them) at least 25 items we can pass on to our local food bank to share with those in need over the festive period. The girls did brilliantly and filled 2 calendars worth of goodies that we'll be dropping at the food bank tomorrow.

At home we're learning about kindness too - my focus with Harry has always been on his manners, kindness and thought for others. None of which are easy for a rampaging 2 and a half year old! But, day by day, week by week we're getting there.

One of the things I've spent the last couple of years being more aware of is the Elf on the Shelf tradition - whereby an Elf comes to visit for Advent. House to house, family to family his role differs, but it largely seems to be about encouraging good behaviour via the medium of reporting back to Father Christmas. Without wishing anyone else to feel judged, I just don't like it. The actual Elf on the shelf is scary. And I'm not sure how I feel at all about a child changing their behaviour purely because they're being watched or being given daily presents in Advent. I don't know. Genuinely I feel conflicted about how that sits alongside how we parent for the other 11 months of the year. And then I heard about the Kindness elves from Anna at The Imagination Tree, (which incidentally is one of my favourite blogs) who focus on developing positive behaviours - love, thankfulness and kindness -  which for me felt more manageable, more in keeping with our value base. And I hoped would work for Harry during Advent - a time when so many of us get so much, and yet is a time we should be focussing on giving.

Our elves arrived on the 1st December (I know Advent had already begun) and each day we've had a little kindness challenge to complete. We've made kindness cookies for our Bin men, who without fail wave at Harry every week which is the high point of his Monday mornings. We've donated some of Harry's toys to the charity shop. We've smiled and said Hello to lots of people. We've remembered to say thank you. We phoned Uncle James up to sing Happy Birthday to him and about 9 other things I've forgotten. Much like the Elf on the shelf tradition, Gabriel and Beth(lehem) turn up in odd places, and on 2 days have even brought books with them! When we were poorly with the Winter vomitting virus, they spent the day on the sofa with Harry and I and were kind to us when we needed it.

I think whatever your value base, faith or anything else - it's important for us all to understand that Advent and Christmas aren't just about getting 'stuff'. The commercialisation of the festival does mean that some of the simple truths of Christmas do get lost, and by stripping some of that 'getting' back by focussing on kindness to others I hope we're starting Harry off on habits and behaviours that will last him well into adulthood. Of course he'll be materialistic, want the big toy that everyone else has got, and have a tantrum in the middle of Sainsbury's when I'm tired and rushing - he's a normal child. But if amongst that he can consciously take the time to be kind to others, to give back, to say thank you - then I think our Kindness Elves have done their job.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Pasta Puttanesca(ish) a storecupboard standby

Pasta puttanesca is one of my favourite pasta dishes, the punchy flavours really sing to me, and as it's something M isn't a fan of, it gets relegated to being cooked when he's away or late home. However, this Puttanesca(ish) pasta is a firm favourite of mine, as it gives more than a nod to the original, without  requiring a trip to the shops as all the ingredients are things I typically have in our store cupboard.

I originally blogged this a fair few years back, with a woeful picture, and in the same post as some eccles cakes. I was eating leftovers for lunch today, and thought I'd rewrite it here and give it the benefit of some new photos too.

It's perfect for an entirely unseasonal supper (which so often at this time of year is just the thing you need) - the kick of chilli is warming, and the saltiness of the anchovies provides a lovely savouriness. I find it's best eaten from a bowl on one's knees, snuggled under a crochet blanket. But that may just be me.

Pasta Puttanesca(ish)
Serves 2

2 cloves garlic
1/2 red chilli - I use a nice big one, this is not the place for something that blows your socks off
1 tin anchovies in olive oil, chopped up
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon tomato pesto
Basil to serve

Cook your pasta in a pan, as you would usually - this sauce takes about 10 minutes to cook, so the two should finish almost together.

Drain 1 tablespoon of oil from the anchovies into a small frying pan (the rest can be discarded) and warm through over a medium heat
Add the chilli, garlic, and anchovies to the oil and cook down for 3-4 minutes. The anchovies will start to melt down
Add the halved cherry tomatoes, and allow to cook down for about 5 minutes more, use the back of a wooden spoon (or a potato masher) to break them down towards the end of cooking.
Stir in the tomato pesto and season with just pepper (you have enough salt from the anchovies).
Once you've drained the pasta, put it back into the pan and stir the sauce over, making sure it's thoroughly coated
Sprinkle with basil leaves for a lovely freshness, and serve as suggested above. Crochet blanket optional.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Dressing your kitchen for Healthy Living

Have I shown you my yellow migraine-inducing kitchen recently? You know the one, 50's Hygena cupboards, painted in yellow gloss, permanently sticky lino on the floor, with next to no worktop space. Yep, that's the one. 

Since participating in the Live Lagom project with Ikea last year, I decided that it was time to do something about my kitchen. What that was, I wasn't sure, but something needed to be done. And so, over the past couple of months, I've sanded and painted the cupboards, painted the walls and we stripped the lino back to reveal a tiled floor. Some of our Lagom purchases, including a sturdy runner for the (freezing) floor, and a lovely blind have perked the space up. I've cleared all but essentials away from the worktops, and have curtained off the microwave and recycling bins. Unlike the kitchen I had my eye on from Ikea, nothing has cost a fortune, and despite not functioning any differently, despite not being completely finished, the kitchen looks so much better. There's still work to do, the doors need new handles, I need some storage boxes for on top of the cupboards where I keep all my baking equipment and tupperware and I want to do something about the tiles. which are still ghastly.

I was asked to have a look at the following video which is about how your kitchen can help you to make better choices in your diet. Sadly, we just don't have space in the kitchen for a fruit bowl, much less a table, but we do have both on view and used heavily in our lounge. Since having Harry, sitting up to the table for meals has become much more important to both M and I.

I love the idea of your fridge sending you a selfie, but that technology hasn't reached the wilds of North London yet. Instead I have a very low-tech magnetic notepad on our fridge which you write on, every time you finish anything in the fridge, be that milk, bacon or wine! 

This is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

Meal planning Tuesday: 29th November

As you can probably tell, things around here have been a little quiet of late, sadly due to nothing more exciting than teeth. Since August I've had a grand total of about three weeks without antibiotics or dental treatment, culminating recently in an abscess - which is as grim as it sounds. However, I've since been referred to the hospital, so aside from looking somewhat like a demented hamster, I'm hoping things are on the up.

We've just had Advent Sunday, so I think I'm safe to use the C word around here now. Like so many people, Christmas is a family time for us - we'll be seeing all parentals, and spending time with both my brother and my sister and her family. This does mean I need to get a wriggle on, so my Bullet journal and planner(post to come) are working overtime with lists, lists of lists, colour coded lists of lists of lists etc... I made the Christmas puddings last weekend, and Harry and I are going to bake the Christmas cake this week some time. Then it's going to be time for my Get-Ahead Christmas.

Despite my blog absence, I've managed to maintain more of a presence on Instagram and will have lots of posts coming up there in the days and weeks to come. Do make sure you're following, if for nothing else than my impressive mug and tea collection.

Meal plans have been a bit more flexible here of late, as life on antibiotics does seem to render me exhausted by about 6pm and feeling wildly sick much of the rest of the time. Much pizza has been eaten.

Breakfasts - Harry and I are both enjoying shreddies with warm milk (oat for him, almond for me) Cereal with warm milk is a real throwback to growing up for me and is incredibly cheering
on these frosty mornings.

Lunches - I've actually taken a leaf out of M's book and am trying to remember to have leftovers for lunch. Normally at this time of year I eat a lot of soup, but I just don't feel inspired by it at the moment, so in order to save me from the dullness of sandwiches, leftovers it is.


Monday: Pantry pasta with garlic bread

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday: Gammon, sweet potato chips, peas, carrots and sweetcorn

Thursday: Bolognaise pasta bake

Friday: Leftover bolognaise with baked potatoes

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner

Sunday: Butternut squash, chicken and barley casserole

Baking wise it's just the Christmas cake on the agenda.

As always, here are our other meal planners - don't forget to pop on over and have a read.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 7th November 2016

I caved this weekend, the heating's on and I'm not sorry. We've had a lovely time with family but are looking forward to a nice quiet week - I say this, secure in the knowledge that between Yoga, Brownies, Guides, a DBS I need to do and the food shop - there's about 20 minutes on Wednesday currently unaccounted for.

Breakfasts - I'm going to have a bash at Jamie Oliver's Chocolate porridge that was on the Superfoods programme on Friday. It looked lovely and I suspect the toddler would adore it!

Lunches - I'm using up the last of our pumpkin with a batch of pumpkin soup this week. I'm deliberately veering away from my usual Root vegetable soup Last week Harry and I made a couple of batches of an invented Spelt, rye and oat soda bread - obviously a dairy free recipe, but it was wonderful slathered in some butter (leftover from the Guide's baking) and eaten hidden from view with one's head in the fridge.


Monday: Heck sausages, baked potatoes and lots of veggies

Tuesday: Butternut squash and kale curry with rice

Wednesday: Gammon and egg, with Slimming World chips and veggies

Thursday: Shepherd's pie with swede, carrot and parsnip top and extra veggies on the side

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Parsnip pasta

Sunday: Breakfast for tea

I've got no plans baking wise this week - although I do have the ingredients for Apricot and Cherry banana bread so all is not lost. And next weekend I finally need to make the Christmas pudding and cake. I'm so disorganised this year!

As always, the Meal Planning Monday linky is below, so do pop around and see what all the other planners are up to.


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