Jan62 day 21 – lentil bake and yet more pumpkin pie

£6.57 still remains on day 21, so that’s just over a tenth of my original allowance to see me through the last third of the month. Fortunately, the extra work I’ve been offered later this week is within walking distance so I’ve no call to spend money on bus fare yet.

In case anyone is interested, here’s what I ate today:

Leftover marmalade cinnamon rolls (I didn’t get round to freezing them after all),

Toasted homemade bread, spread with leftover pumpkin seed sauce and mustard, topped with red cabbage coleslaw,

Smoothie made from frozen apple, frozen raw pumpkin (this goes really well in smoothies!), a tablespoon of flax seeds, a spoonful of frozen blackcurrants, a few sour dried cherries and a single piece of frozen rhubarb plus about half a pint of soya milk. This was an excellent combination, though it sadly finished off the expensive cherries. Must get more when February comes!

Lentil bake in a homemade roll with more coleslaw.

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The coleslaw was made yesterday. I used half the red cabbage bought on Sunday, a large carrot, and made the dressing from half a cup of pumpkin seeds blended with about a cup of water, a dash of olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of flax seeds and half a teaspoon of Herbamare seasoning. I was chuffed with how this dressing turned out once I’d blended it up, it worked really well to bring the coleslaw together in terms of both flavour and texture.

The lentil bake was of necessity. I’d tried making rissoles yesterday but hadn’t drained the lentils thoroughly enough and after adding sautéed onions and carrots plus some leftover jarred pasta sauce they were hugely mushy, so I then had to keep adding more and more ingredients to get the mixture to firm up – I started by adding a cup of breadcrumbs, then got some chickpeas out of the freezer and whizzed them to crumbs in the food processor. Still no good! Added in some oats and even more breadcrumbs and finally they were just about okay but by then I had so much mix I would have ended up with about fifty rissoles if I’d made them all up! So today I just shoved the remaining mix in greased Pyrex dishes and baked them until they were starting to go brown. I’ve frozen some, and there are four portions in the fridge, so that’ll keep me going for a while!

The pumpkin pie was to use up the last of the pumpkin puree, continue my experiments with marmalade and experiment with caraway (as I have a 300g bag that until today was unopened). I used roughly the same recipe as last time but added in a teaspoon of caraway and instead of lemon juice and zest I used 2 tablespoons of marmalade.For the press in crust I used walnuts in place of almonds as I’m out of those. Verdict: a success, although on further nibbling I’m not sure the caraway adds much to this. It’s useful to know marmalade stands in well for lemon in this recipe though.

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pumpkin-seed pasta sauce

pictures of pumpkin seeds soaking in water, sauce in a saucepan, and a plate of pasta in sauce, peas and coleslaw.

A while back, someone over at the Post Punk Kitchen forums started a thread about iron-rich recipes. Since I’ve been eating a lot of pumpkin over the past few months, including seeds, and because I like to check out the nutritional content of my food, I recently became aware that pumpkin seeds are a really good source of iron, and suggested a variant on the Post Punk Kitchen sunflower macaroni cheese recipe. I was asked if pumpkin seeds got creamy in the sauce and had to confess that I hadn’t tried it. Well, now I have, and they do!

I had to make a couple of subs/omissions due to the challenge: I didn’t have any nutritional yeast, which Isa mentioned in the recipe comments as being necessary for texture. I put a tablespoon of oats in the blender instead of that and hoped for the best. I didn’t have any tomato purée and couldn’t find any very small tins when I went shopping. I wasn’t going to buy a tube because I hardly ever use it, so I put in twice the amount of some jarred pasta sauce. Obviously I omitted the sunflower seeds and used pumpkin seeds instead, and I halved the recipe as I wasn’t sure how well it would work, however I was very pleased with the taste of the final pasta dish, which I served with leftover pumpkin coleslaw and peas.

I had to buy pasta and carrots for the recipe, which I got from Morrisons. I was also after some green veg, but after weighing up my options (literally weighing all the piece-priced items on the in-store scales), I opted for a red cabbage as the best balance between value and nutrient-density.

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I bought carrots for 85p, cabbage for 79p, value pasta at 29p and a not-strictly-necessary jar of value marmalade for 27p. I plan on using this last item for some baking experiments and then using the jar for some home-made preserves of some kind. It seems it’s way cheaper to buy jars this way than it would be to buy them empty, unless you’re getting tons of them.

That lot came to £2.20, so I’ve still got bus fare for a journey or two.


Jan 62 day fourteen – lunch

About a week ago Rebecca of The Domestic Storyteller said she’d be interested in seeing what cheap meals I come up with. This post may explain why I haven’t been that forthcoming!

This is what I ate for lunch today.

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It was a pile of the pumpkin and cabbage coleslaw I made last night (dressing: a few cashews, a few chickpeas, couple of spoonfuls sesame seeds, a few green olives, a sliver of raw onion and a clove of garlic, juice of half a lemon, glugs of balsamic and cider vinegar and olive oil, thinned with water and blended. And a kitchen sink for good measure!) a couple of handfuls cooked chickpeas seasoned with herbamare and half a sliced-up red pepper, plus a few pimento-stuffed olives, my budget garnish of choice at the moment. It did the job, but it’s hardly thrilling. I reckon it cost under 50p though, even including cooking costs for the chickpeas.

Other meals have mostly been unfortunately glorpy-looking stews and curries that nobody needs to see. I suppose I should be making more of an effort, but it’s taking enough effort to just get through this. Picking one month to go teetotal, live on the most restrictive budget I’ve had in twenty years and start trying to lose weight again strangely hasn’t put me in the mood to get creative in the kitchen.

Having said that, I still have a huge unopened bag of caraway seeds that need eating. Anyone got any budget-friendly suggestions?


Jan62 – day thirteen

Remember I got given a monster pumpkin way back in October (as well as a very large one)? Well, I finally hacked it open over the weekend. I got three 600ml boxes of chunks into the freezer for soups or smoothies, made two different large quantities of curry (coconutty and tomato-y), and roasted two panfuls of chunks to make pumpkin puree, some of which I then used to make pumpkin pie.
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EDIT: it’s a few hours later and I just used the last big slice of pumpkin in place of carrots to make a huge tub of coleslaw. Works really well! And then I ate a bowlful of coleslaw, at 11.40pm, because I am wild and fearless. Oh yes.

Haha, I bet you thought all the bloggers had stopped posting pumpkin-related stuff! What can I tell you? I’m either behnd the times or exceptionally forward-thinking!

For the pie, I used my favourite press-in almond pie crust from the Post-Punk Kitchen website, with oat flour (which I had to up to a cup and a half even without adding milk – think I maybe mismeasured the oil! Still worked though) as I’m totally out of plain wheat flour now. For the filling, I went with Dreena Burton’s soy free, vegan pie because I had nearly all the ingredients and because most of the comments are so positive. And deservedly so! I had to make one or two tweaks, but I’m very pleased with the ease and taste of this pie. I wasn’t sure if my pumpkin would be wetter than commercial stuff, so I used 2 cups (a 15oz can apparently is 1 3/4 cups) and didn’t bother to add the milk. I used sugar instead of maple syrup and instead of arrowroot and vanilla I used 3 tablespoons of custard powder (I like my custard-pies on the rubbery side, as opposed to sloppy. I think 1-2 tablespoons would probably have been adequate). I also added some zest from the lemon – since I paid more for unwaxed it seemed a shame to waste it. This recipe made 2 small pies and 8 bite-sized ones, so should provide teatime treats for several days!

On the money front, I’m not doing so well. I haven’t broken the budget but I’ve got a lean week ahead. I had to buy some DIY tools unexpectedly, and I finally got so fed up with my hair that I took a step I’ve been meaning to for ages and had it drastically shortened by a barber.

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This is obviously not how I wore it to work today! I did have a lot of fun playing with borrowed styling products over the weekend though! The cut only cost £5 (plus tip), at the cheapest place I’ve seen in Leicester, at the top of Welford Road. The guy obviously doesn’t get many, if any, women in there, and seemed a bit nervous about cutting my hair but was fine after I assured him I wanted it short and showed him pictures of men whose hair I thought was the right length.

Also, I went out for pizza. Even though I had vouchers, we ordered over the value of those.

So, although I should only be up to a maximum of £26 out of the total £62 by day 13, I only have £20.32 to last me for the rest of the month. What the heck, I don’t care! It makes the rest of the month even more of a fun challenge, right?


cooking chickpeas cheaply (£100 challenge, day 27)

Wow, it is windy out! I meant to go shopping today for some form of cabbagey thing as I’m total out of green veg,  but I’m really not liking the way the trees are thrashing around!

While I’ve been watching the weather I’ve been cooking up a batch of chickpeas that had been soaking overnight. However, having been recently reminded that it is possible to cook pasta by bringing it to the boil and then turning off the heat and just leaving for about the same cooking time you’d normally give, I wondered if the same thing was possible with chickpeas. So, I brought them to the boil and let them bubble at that temperature for a couple of minutes, then turned off the heat, put the lid on and went to do something else for 40 minutes. The result is firm, but definitely cooked chickpeas. I’ve had undercooked chickpeas before, but these are cooked through, just pleasantly al dente. Result!

(This is a very good batch of chickpeas though. I think results might vary according to how big or old they are. Also, you shouldn’t do this with kidney beans, they need boiling for ten minutes at least for safety.)

I fried up an onion with some cumin seeds, added some of the chickpeas and most of a tin of tomatoes and some bouillon powder. While that was heating through, I blended the last of the roasted medium-sized pumpkin (since I think I did that last Sunday, so it definitely needed using up!) with a red chilli pepper, seeds included, and a bit of water and poured the resultant puree into the pan to make a vibrant orange-coloured sauce. Pretty nice, though a squeeze of lemon might have been a good addition. This was garnished with a few surviving leaves of the reduced-price coriander plants I bought about 9 days ago.

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Pie! (£100 challenge – day 25)

The pie was pretty tasty! I used the same almond crust as the cherry-almond pie I made for MoFo, but just used whole almonds – if they’re going to get blended anyway there’s no real advantage to using slivered almonds unless those happen to be cheaper. The filling was also from the Post Punk Kitchen/Vegan Pie in the  Sky book, from the pumpkin cheesecake recipe, only I was out of a few ingredients. I had no bananas so left them out. I used about 1 2/3 cups of roasted pumpkin instead of canned, had no coconut oil so I just left that out and put an extra spoon of cornstarch in. I also had no lemons so I put a quarter teaspoon of citric acid and two tablespoons of water in. Oh, and I didn’t have any pecans, so I just left the nut topping off – the filling seemed pretty sweet already, plus it meant we got to see the marbling a bit better ( night-time photo doesn’t quite pick it up).
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There was spare piecrust mix, so I popped that in a small oblong dish and topped it with my chestnut truffle recipe, only of course I used the last of my rum the previous time, but fortunately there was just over a tablespoon of brandy left.

Both desserts were really nice, although they didn’t have the several hours of fridge cooling they deserved, so weren’t as firm as they could have been.

For the main course, Rich made delicious panfuls of food. We had cabbage sabzi (not sure of the spelling!), braised kale and chestnuts, roasted butternut squash with whole roasted cloves of garlic, runner beans in tomato sauce, and onion gravy flavoured with juniper. A great meal with lovely people! 🙂

By today, I could be up to a spend of £80.64, but haven’t had to buy anything since Monday so I’m still on a total month’s spend of £67.79. Dare I go into town to buy tissues? Will I be able to just spend that pound or will I suddenly spot loads of things that seem like too good a bargain to pass up?…


Spicy squash stew (£100 challenge, day twenty)

Finally got up the courage to hack open the pumpkin my mum gave me last weekend. Anything that big is daunting, not only because I worry about being able to use or process it before it goes bad, but things with thick skin requiring removal always seem to lead to minor injury for me. This time was no exception; I thought I was being careful and still managed to peel my thumb a bit along with the pumpkin! Oh well, it doesn’t hurt at the moment so is nothing serious.

With the last of the lentils, around 1/6 of the pumpkin and one of the remaining courgettes (so this has both summer and winter squashes in it), along with another of the red chillies given to me, I made a super warming autumnal stew.

white bowl half full of mostly orange-tone stew, garnished with fresh green coriander, on a blue tablecloth

I’m not sure the recipe is going to be much use to people who like measurements, but here goes anyway!

Spicy squash stew

Ingredients:

2 onions, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1 tin tomatoes

1 red chilli

1 big clove of garlic

dried red lentils – maybe 2/3 cup?

a medium-large courgette

about 1/6 of a medium pumpkin

Seasoning to taste – I used a couple of spoonfuls of Marigold bouillon powder

Fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

Method:

Heat oil in medium-large saucepan, fry cumin seeds for a minute, add onion and lower heat, sweat them until softened. While that’s happening put tomatoes, chilli and garlic in blender and whizz until smooth. Add to saucepan. Fill tomato can with water then pour that into blender so as not to waste any of the spicy tomato goodness. Briefly turn blender on, then pour liquid into saucepan. Add lentils, turn up heat until bubbling then down to simmer. Start chopping up the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces after taking the skin off (hopefully of the pumpkin, not yourself!). Add them and whatever seasonings such as salt and pepper, stock cube, etc. you are using. Chop the courgette into bite sized pieces and add that too. Simmer until everything is cooked (probably about 12-15 more minutes) and serve garnished with fresh coriander.

I enjoyed this very much, it’s light yet filling. I had planned to have a sandwich on the side but didn’t need one in the end. There are probably about 3-4 servings left in the saucepan as well.

Now I just need to think of what to do with the remaining pumpkin. If anyone has any suggestions or recipes please let me know!

pumpkin cut open to show seeds