Spanish Veggie Paella (Easy, Low Cost, One Pot Dinner)

This month I promised I’d share some of all-time favourite one pot meals. After all that meal prepping, cooking and pot washing in December, I need a few weeks of simple meals. Easy, quick prep, cheap, healthy meals that leave only one pot to wash up. Now we’re talking ūüėČ

I’m going to begin with one of my absolute favourite one pot meals – Veggie Paella. This dish is typically made with shellfish, but I’ve used colourful veggies and nutrient-rich nuts instead ūüôā

Spanish Veggie Paella

Here’s how I make it…

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Serves 4    Hands-on time: 15 minutes    Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
300g / 10¬Ĺ oz / 1‚Öď cups Spanish Paella rice
pinch of saffron*
1 medium tomato, diced
1 litre / 34 fl oz / 4 cups hot vegetable stock (broth)
handful fine green beans, trimmed and halved (use fresh or frozen)
6-8 baby corn
80g / ¬Ĺ cup cashews
salt, to taste
ground black or cayenne pepper, to taste
16 black pitted olives
sprinkling of green nori flakes or dried parsley
35g / ¬ľ cup toasted flaked almonds

* Saffron is the spice that gives Paella its distinctive yellow colour and creamy, nutty flavour. It is very expensive though. For a budget-friendly alternative, use ground turmeric (¬Ĺ tsp)

Method

  1. Infuse the saffron in a little hot water and prepare the vegetable stock.
  2. Gently heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan (skillet) and cook the onion until it starts to soften. Meanwhile chop the remaining vegetables.
  3. Add the garlic, bell pepper, cumin and paprika to the pan, and cook for a minute or so. If it starts to stick, add a splash of water to loosen it. Stir in the rice and saffron (or turmeric). Add the tomato and vegetable stock to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.
  4. Add the beans, baby corn and cashews, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir regularly towards the end of the cooking time. If the pan starts to dry out, add a little more stock or water.
  5. When the rice is tender yet retains a bite, remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve on warm plates with a sprinkling of olives, nori flakes/dried parsley and toasted flaked almonds.
  6. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours. As with any rice dish, make sure the leftover rice is cooled quickly and refrigerated within an hour.
  7. This paella is delicious served on its own, however Lil’ L suggested that children may prefer it served with segments of toasted tortilla (like he does ūüėČ ) When the paella is nearly ready, simply place the tortillas under the grill and lightly brown on both sides.¬† This makes them nice and crunchy!

N.B. For a super child-friendly paella, use frozen peas and sweet corn instead of green beans and baby corn. Simply add them to the pan 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

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Spanish Veggie Paella

Enjoy! xx

This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s #WellnessWeekend

Saving Money with mySupermarket – Living Rich on Less #2

When mySupermarket asked if I would consider writing a review of their online grocery comparison and shopping site, I was more than happy to oblige. I’d first heard of mySupermarket about a year ago when a friend recommended that I should try it out as a way of saving money on groceries (which I mentioned in this post). I was so impressed with it that I’ve carried on using it ever since. Thanks to its online comparison tools, I’ve saved a small fortune over the past year as well as a huge amount of my time.

Let me show you some of my favourite features on the site.

Speed & ease of comparing individual prices
If I want to look up the best deal on a particular grocery item, I simply type it into the Search box. With one click I can compare the prices of different brands, volumes/weights, multibuy deals and spot the cheapest. I can also click to compare the same grocery item across five different supermarkets.

This week I found that Alpro milks and Seeds of Change Pasta Sauces were on offer at Waitrose, so I made sure I stocked up.

Prior to using mySupermarket, I used to walk up and down the aisles of supermarkets trying to remember prices in order to compare them. Sometimes I found that certain items appeared on three different aisles. One such example is nuts. These often appear on the wholefood aisle, baking aisle and Asian/World foods aisle. By typing the item into the Search box on mySupermarket, I can find out in seconds which brand/volume/weight is the best value for money. This has saved me a huge amount of time and money over the past year (and oh do I hate traipsing round the aisles of supermarkets! ūüėČ )

If you already shop online and have your groceries delivered (like I do), you can click on the ‚ÄėOptions‚Äô tab and import your regular shopping list into your mySupermarket favourites. Each time you shop you can easily amend the basket, adding and deleting food items. If it‚Äôs your first time grocery shopping online, it‚Äôs very easy to set up your shopping basket from scratch.

On the right hand side of the webpage, you see the price of your shopping basket across the five supermarkets. The price comparison automatically adjusts every time you add a new item to the basket.

Once you‚Äôve finished shopping, you can select your preferred supermarket and your basket will automatically be sent to the supermarket‚Äôs website where you pay and select your preferred delivery date. It‚Äôs as simple as that! ūüôā

‚ÄėSwap and Save‚Äô Function
Once you‚Äôve finished adding items to your shopping basket, you can click on the ‚ÄėSaving Centre‚Äô in the bottom right-hand corner of the webpage. This shows you how you can save money by swapping items in your basket to cheaper items (either cheaper brands, larger volumes/weights or multibuy deals). You simply click to swap and your basket is automatically amended.

There are a multitude of money-saving features on mySupermarket and I‚Äôve only explored a fraction of them so far. At the bottom right-hand corner of the home page, there‚Äôs a ‚ÄėQuick Tour‚Äô link which gives a useful overview of all the site‚Äôs features.

Thanks to mySupermarket, I‚Äôve saved hundreds of pounds over the past year, as well as countless hours of my time. So I‚Äôd like to say a big ‚Äúthank you‚ÄĚ to the ‚Äúgenius‚ÄĚ that came up with the idea for this site. It‚Äôs brilliant! ūüôā

– UK friends, have you heard of mySupermarket? If so, have you ever used it?

 РFriends outside the UK, do you have something similar to mySupermarket in your country? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Have a great week everyone! xx

 

Living Rich on Less! A Yummy Budget-Friendly Recipe for the Weekend – Creamy Chana Dal with Cauliflower & Peas

Cutting Back on Personal Spending

In recent years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to cut my personal spending.¬† Since making the decision to leave the day job, I need to do this more than ever!

Here’s a few ways that I’ve cut back on spending so far…

Sold my car saving £100s each year (I now walk/bike/bus)

РStopped my gym membership saving £360 per year (I now exercise outside)

– Negotiated a new deal on my phone, reducing my monthly payments from ¬£30 to ¬£13.50, saving ¬£198 per year. I’ve now got a much better deal for less money!

– Stopped buying so many clothes which is saving me ¬£100s per year. I hardly ever buy clothes these days and, if I do, it’s usually to replace worn out items. I still love quality brands, like Kuyichi, but I’ll buy last season T Shirts etc for half price or less. I also buy from charity shops.

– Stopped buying books & magazines saving about ¬£100 per year. Instead I’ve got an Amazon wishlist for birthdays & Christmas ūüôā

These cutbacks have reduced my personal spending by well over ¬£1,000 per year.¬† And the funny thing is, I’m actually happier as a result of making these cutbacks. My life is simpler, less cluttered and I’m less dependent on money. However, there are two areas where I haven’t cut back, and that’s giving to charity and present-giving. These are too important to me!

Cutting Back on Family Overheads

I’ve also been sorting out the family’s finances in an attempt to cut our overheads. Here’s how I’ve got on so far…

РSwitched our water from rates to a meter. We now pay £35 per month, compared to £61, saving £313 per year

РSwitched our gas & electricity to a new supplier and reduced our consumption. We currently pay £79 per month, compared to £148, saving £828 per year. I check the gas & electricity deals each year now and switch if I find a better deal.

РRenegotiated our house insurance. For the same cover, we now pay £149 compared to £275, saving £126 per year. My advice is to never automatically renew your house insurance each year. You seem to get penalised for loyalty! I use comparison sites to check rates then ring my existing supplier to see if they can match it (they always do!)

– Renegotiated the mortgage. We’re now on a ‘tracker for life’ deal and currently paying 2.49%, the lowest rate we’ve ever paid on a mortgage.

РCut our grocery bill from around £80 to £70 per week (this includes all household products, food & toiletries), saving £520 per year.

To date, I’ve managed to cut our bills by nearly ¬£2,000 per year, which isn’t too bad considering the cost of living has increased these past few years.¬† It didn’t take a lot of effort either. There are some great online comparison sites available now, which save time & effort. Some of my favourite sites are: www.uswitch.com,¬†www.moneysavingexpert.com, www.gocompare.com and www.mySupermarket.com.

The one area that I still need to work on is landline telephone & broadband. We’re currently paying ¬£109 each quarter which is way too high.¬† I’m currently looking at Sky and Plusnet so, if anyone has experience of either of these two, I’d love to hear what you think of them ūüôā

A Budget-Friendly Recipe for the Weekend

On Wednesday, I promised that I’d give the recipe for one of our favourite lentil dishes which uses Chana Dal (also known as Yellow Split Gram and Gram Dal). This lentil is a relative of the chick pea and has a lovely nutty flavour.

This dish is super duper cheap to make! In Tesco, a 2kg bag of Indus Chana Dal costs just £2.99 (and this size bag will last you ages).

The dish is mildly spiced, so perfect for all the family, though feel free to crank up the heat if you like spice! It’s also deliciously creamy. I use Alpro Soya Cream in this dish, which makes it dairy free and low in fat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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Creamy Chana Dal with Cauliflower & Peas

Serves 6
Hands on time: 10 minutes (& half hour soaking time)
Cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients
225g / 8oz / 1 cup chana dal (aka split yellow gram, gram dal)
695 ml / 24¬Ĺ fl oz / 3 cups water
¬Ĺ tsp ground turmeric
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
130g / 4¬Ĺ oz / 1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 thumb-size piece of fresh or frozen ginger, finely grated
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
¬Ĺ – 1 tsp chilli powder
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (omit for children)
2 large fresh tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
130 ml / 4¬Ĺ fl oz / ¬Ĺ cup non dairy cream (I use Alpro Soya Chilled Single Cream)
¬ľ tsp saffron strands, infused in 2 tbsp hot water (optional)
2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp sugar or natural sweetener (I use agave syrup)
Toasted almonds, sesame seeds and/or finely chopped red chilli for garnish

Serve with: brown rice and/or chapattis

Method

  1. Place the lentils in a sieve and sort through, discarding any hardened kernels or grit. Thoroughly wash the lentils. Place in a container, cover with water and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the lentils, drain well, and put them in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water. Stir in the turmeric. Boil uncovered for 10 minutes (skim off any froth that appears on the surface). Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cauliflower and peas and continue cooking for a further 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan (skillet) and gently cook the grated ginger, dry spices and chilli (if using) for one minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook for two minutes.
  3. Fold the tomato and spices into the lentils, along with the cream, saffron, coriander, salt and sweetener. Cook on a low heat (don’t allow it to boil) for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Delicious served in warm bowls with a garnish of toasted almonds, sesame seeds and/or red chilli, and side dishes of brown rice and chapattis.

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[This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend, November 15-19 2012]

Lentils are so versatile. As well as using them in Indian dishes, we make lentil burgers, lentil loaves and add them to soups. This week I made a large batch of tomato and red lentil soup and it was lush! Lil’ L took it to school, M took it to work, and we had enough left over for dinner one evening too. You can check out the recipe here.

Do you cook with lentils? If so, I’d love to hear about your favourite lentil dish. Add a link to your recipe if possible.

Also, do you keep an eye on your finances and look for ways to cut bills? If so, I’d love to hear your tips!

Right, it’s Friday night and the weekend has officially begun ūüôā Time for me to sign off!

Have a great weekend everyone! xx

School’s Out! Planning Summer Activities on a Shoe-String Budget

The school summer holidays officially start for us today. I can’t believe that another school year has finished already. These years are flying by!

I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with Lil’ L over the next six weeks.¬†However, as I’m not working at the moment, I need to make sure that we keep spending to a minimum.¬†

We did lots of great free/ low cost activities last summer that we’re¬†hoping to repeat or improve on¬†this year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far…

– Bike Rides
Inspired by the Tour de France, we’re going to devise our own ‘Tour de Bath’ where we explore different areas of the city by bike and record our ‘stages’ on a map, noting the distance and time.

– Hiking
There’s so much local countryside that we’ve yet to explore.¬† We’re going to pack¬†some sandwiches, binoculars,¬†a map, and waterproofs, and¬†hike¬†along footpaths and bridleways in the hills around Bath. Luckily my ‘smartphone’ has got GPS, just in case we get lost ūüėČ

– Photography
Lil’ L loved the challenge I set him over the Jubilee weekend of photographing red, white and blue images. This summer I’m going to¬†set him some more photographic challenges and show him how to edit photos¬†and make online albums.

– Creating in the kitchen
Lil’ L has already devised a list of 15 new smoothies and milkshakes¬†that he’d like to try making. During the holidays, we’ll work our way through his list, photograph the successes and blog about them.
I’m also really looking forward to teaching him how to make other treats, such as granola bars, chocolates, ice cream sundaes¬†and so forth.

 

– Summer Reading Challenge
Last weekend, the children’s summer reading challenge was launched in Bath by Olympic Gold Medallist Amy Williams. It was such a pleasure to meet her!¬†I didn’t get to hold the Olympic torch (like my mum did!) but I have now held an Olympic Gold Medal. It was beautiful… and way bigger and heavier than I imagined it would be!

The library reading challenge has really fired up Lil’ L. The¬†first thing he wanted to do when he broke¬†up from school today¬†was¬†to go to the library and borrow some more books!

– Maths Challenge
To¬†keep our¬†‘maths brains’ ticking over, we’re going to take part in¬†Carol Vorderman’s Online Maths Factor Summer School (I need this as much as Lil’ L ūüėČ ).¬†The school costs ¬£15 but is so worth it. Carol Vorderman has got to be the ultimate Maths teacher. Not only is she fantastic at explaining maths, but she actually makes maths fun. Her online schools are perfect for kids like Lil’ L who are yet to develop a passion for numbers.

– Summer Diary Writing
Lil’ L has recently started to get interested in writing and his¬†stories¬†are¬†way more creative than anything I’ve ever written! I’d love to encourage him to keep writing over the holidays, maybe in the form of a summer diary or scrap book. As well as writing, he could add photos, ticket stubs, drawings and so forth.

– Family Activities at Local Museums and Galleries
There are¬†lots¬†of¬†drop-in activities on offer¬†at the museums and¬†galleries in Bath which are free for residents,¬†and I’m planning to make the¬†most of them!¬† Does anyone¬†fancy¬†investigating Roman gods and goddesses and making Minerva’s wise owl?¬†Or¬†how about learning¬†some Roman language and make a Roman book mark?¬†I know I do! ūüôā¬†
If you’re planning to be in the Bath area over the school holidays, you must check out the family activity programme. Here’s the link.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

[Source]

– Play Dates
It’s really important that I arrange some play dates for Lil’ L so he gets to spend time with his¬†friends during the summer. I need to do this ASAP as I know diaries get filled really quick.

– Quality time with grandparents
Lil’ L rarely gets to have one-to-one time with his grandparents and this is something that he mentioned he would really like this summer. Next week, he’s going to spend a couple of nights with his nan and her two dogs in Dorset and he’s really excited about it! Hopefully, at some point during the summer, he’ll be able to¬†have some one-to-one time with¬†his other grandparents too.

– Family quality time
The three of us (me, M and Lil’ L) are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks’ of¬†quality time together during the school hols, which means switching all the¬†gadgets off (phones, computers, etc) and giving each other our full attention. We really value our¬†quality family time. For me, it’s priceless ūüôā

– Buddhist Festivals and Daily Meditation
There’s lots of Buddhist festivals in the UK this summer, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to¬†attend at least a couple.¬†As well as inspiring teachings and meditation sessions, there’s always lots of fun activities arranged for the kids. Lil’ L made some great friends at the festivals last year and hopefully they’ll¬†meet up again this summer.


I’m also¬†hoping that we’ll get into the habit of daily meditation, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. With Lil’ L’s help, I’ll set¬†up a dedicated ‘meditation space’ upstairs. We’ll make it cosy with cushions and¬†blankets, and light incense and candles. It’ll be great ūüôā

¬†So that’s just a few ideas of what we’ll be able to do this summer on my shoe-string budget.¬† I can’t wait to get started!

I wish you all a¬†wonderful summer. ūüôā xx

p.s. If¬†anyone’s got a bit of sunshine to spare, we would really appreciate it if you could send¬†it¬†over here. Thank you ūüôā

Be the Change (Book Giveaway)

A week ago, I mentioned that I’d recently made a big decision about my future.¬† I’ve been putting off writing about it, but¬†it’s time to¬†bite the bullet.¬†¬†Big deep breath in.¬† Here goes…

I’m quitting my job.¬†

I can’t believe how hard¬†my heart was thudding as I typed those words!¬† It seems so official now it’s in black and white!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been¬†reflecting on how much my life has changed since I took a sabbatical from my paid job.¬†¬†The change has been so extensive that I feel like I’ve transformed into a¬†different person!¬†¬†

Pre-sabbatical,¬†I was running a successful research consultancy but basically had no time for anything but work.¬† I spent very little time with Lil’ L.¬†¬†I had no time to exercise and had no interest whatsoever in cooking.¬† To me, cooking was simply an inconvenient interruption to my work.¬†

Wow, haven’t I changed?¬†

It’s not just my lifestyle that’s changed, but my values and priorities.¬† I haven’t worked out¬†exactly what I’m going to do yet,¬†but I do know that I want¬†my life to reflect the¬†advice given by¬†Gandhi

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”

I haven’t got the power to change the world, but I do have the power to change myself,¬†so that’s where I’m going to start!¬†

I haven’t worked out¬†how I’m going¬†to manage financially yet, and¬†I definitely don’t want to¬†have to rely on M for money but, for now,¬†I’m cutting back¬†on my¬†spending as much as I possibly can.

I’ve got a few ideas of¬†projects that I’d like to embark on,¬†however I’m going to make sure that I focus on one project at a time.¬† Better to emark on one project and get it finished, then start five¬†and finish none (you can tell I’m talking from experience here ūüėČ )

I’ve read a lot of great books that have inspired me on making this change in my life.¬† One such book is:

“Be the Change
Action and reflection from people transforming our world”

Based on interviews conducted by Trenna Cormack, this book is a collection of first hand accounts of¬†28 amazing¬†people who have made positive changes at global, national, local and¬†grassroots levels.¬† The book is filled with passion.¬† It’s thought-provoking, uplifting and, above all, inspiring.

Would you like a chance to read it yourselves?¬†¬†I don’t¬†want my copy¬†to sit¬†on a bookshelf gathering dust.¬† It¬†deserves¬†more than that.¬† So,¬†to commemorate the start of a¬†new¬†chapter in my life, I’m going to give away my¬†copy¬†to one of you¬†lovely people ūüôā

There are two ways to enter the giveaway:
1. Leave me a comment below
2. Tweet the giveaway, and leave a comment below to let me know that you did so.

 A winner will be chosen at random next Friday, 4th May at 5pm GMT.  The giveaway is open to everyone, no matter where you live.

Good luck everyone!  x