Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yummy Portuguese Chicken Recipe

This recipe has been appearing regularly on our menu since we found it a month or so ago. The recipe is from the back of a Pams frozen chicken (Pams is a budget brand here in New Zealand).

Whole chicken
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped finely (or a good sprinkle of chilli flakes)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup (125 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1. Pre heat oven to moderate temperature
2. Wash chicken under cold water. Cut along both sides of backbone - discard backbone (or keep for chicken stock). Place chicken skin side up on chopping board, press down on breastbone to flatten the chicken.
3. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
4. Cook for 2 hours.

Now the bonus of this recipe is that we use the leftover carcass (including all the seasoning and leftover meat) to make chicken stock for rice risotto the following day. It makes a delicious risotto - quite spicy and very tasty.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Update on no-spend month - one week to go

With one week to go I thought it was timely to report on how the no-spend thing is going for me. As previous posts show there were some minor slips earlier in November but overall it's gone pretty well.

Until Sunday anyway.

We did go out for dinner as discussed in a previous blog entry, for my eldest son's birthday. Five of us had a wonderful meal at the Southern Cross in Wellington - this place was chosen because they do stone-grill which is a favourite of the birthday boy. To be honest I like stone-grill too - it's one way of ensuring your steak is cooked exactly how you would like. The evening was quite mild so we sat out in the garden bar. We enjoyed watching people who had turned up for the Sunday night free dancing lessons. None of us were game to join in but it was interested to watch.

The evening cost about $250 (eek!) but was worth every cent. That was for five adults including our drinks so not bad overall. After dinner we went home for birthday cake as shown below. Just so everyone is aware, my son just turned 23 but it's a bit of a family joke to have kiddie birthday cakes - last year was a race-track and this year the theme was Batman. My youngest son's girlfriend did a wonderful job with shaping and decorating the cake.

I will draw up a report at the end of the month showing exactly what was spent and maybe some tips on how to "not spend".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sticky Gingerbread Recipe

This is a new recipe I came across. My collegues at work love it so thought I would share it - it's really moist and absolutely delicious.

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup golden syrup (yes, a cup!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
100g butter
1 cup brown sugar (just in case there wasn't enough sweetness in the golden syrup)
1 egg
2 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius

Combine boiling water with golden syrup and baking soda. Leave to cool slightly.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Mix in the golden syrup mix and then add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Pour into lined loaf tin (don't try treat and just grease the tin - I did and it was not a good idea). Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until cooked. If anything it takes a little longer to be cooked through.

The first time I made this loaf I sliced it all up and froze half of it. It was just as good after being thawed from frozen as it was fresh.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One small slip and a big one looming

Today I confess that I bought my breakfast from a cafe - $7.50! It was delicious but it felt so wrong to be eating it. To explain how this came about...... I went to the gym at 5:30am (this is normal for me so don't panic on that!), drove to town and arrived at work too early to get in (7:30am). I then realised that I had an 8am meeting, a 9am meeting and a 10am meeting - no time for breakfast at work which is what I usually do. So I ducked next door to work and had some yummy scrambled eggs on toast with peppermint tea. Maybe this is a justified spend? Or maybe I should have planned things better.

The upcoming big issue is that it's my son's birthday on Monday. I planned ahead on this one and bought his gift last month and thought I was very clever. What I hadn't planned on was his birthday dinner. The way I work birthdays is to let my sons decide what they would like to do for their birthday dinner. I thought I could set things up for a dinner at home - food of his choice. But, when I broached the subject he was dead set on eating out at a stonegrill place. I very subtly tried to sway him but he was firm about what he wanted. So I have agreed - what an indulgent mother I am (some would say over-indulgent). But, you know, it is a long time since we were all out together for a meal (probably February!) so that is what we will do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 11 - fail on no-spending

Well today is day 11 of my no-spend month and I failed! Luckily it wasn't a big fail at all. A total spend of $2 so I am not kicking myself too hard. :) Basically I caught an earlier train to work this morning and then a later one home - I chose to travel on the "comfortable" train (the Wairarapa one) instead of the usual electric unit. Travelling on that train costs me an extra dollar each way on top of my train pass.

I am pretty happy with my progress on this no-spend thing. It has really made me think about the choices I make.

We are moving towards summer here in New Zealand and I was thinking about my summer wardrobe - or lack of it - there are some really yummy fashions in the stores at present and I spotted a few things today that made me drool. Then I thought about the clothes I already have and realised that I am not wearing most of my summer skirts because they are too big for me (a bonus in some ways as it means I haven't put on the weight I lost at the beginning of the year). So I decided today that I will drag my sewing machine out this weekend and alter my skirts. I figured that I used to sew the majority of my clothes in the past so I am more than capable of taking my skirts in to extend my wardrobe. Yay for me!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

8 days down - one slip

As I reach the end of day 8 of my No Spend month I am pretty happy with how it is going. As mentioned in my previous post I met my brother for lunch the other day. We had an awesome lunch sitting in the sun on a glorious Wellington day. It was great to catch up with him and totally worth the $23 it cost for lunch.

All in all the challenge is going well. It has certainly changed how I think about what I am doing every day. The only issue I have is that I have a list of things that is growing day by day of items I need to spend money on - next month. I need some putty to repair my garage window. I need some chicken wire to repair my strawberry bed cover. I am also plotting an extension to my chicken coop so that will require a bit of timber as well as chicken wire.

We've had a great weekend weather-wise - if this is indicative of what summer is going to be like I will be more than happy. The fine weekend has meant I have almost managed to finish painting the garage, mowed all the lawns and been busy in the garden weeding, planting seeds and watering. I made a point of taking my "before" photos of the garden on Friday so will post those sometime soon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

4 days down

My No spend challenge has been all good so far.

I have needed to make sure I bring a couple of extra small snacks to work and have tended to stay away from shops to avoid temptation. I was worried yesterday as I flew to Auckland for the day for a training course and felt sure I would end up hungry or thirsty on the trip home. Luckily the lunch provided on the course was substantial and the airline provided some very nice cheese and crackers (and a free beer) so I didn't end up spending a cent! In fact I couldn't face eating any dinner when I did get home.

Sadly tomorrow I think I will fail. I am meeting my brother for lunch in the city and am certain we will end up going to a cafe for lunch. We only meet a few times a year so I figure this slip is ok (with me anyway). What I plan to do is have a late morning snack so I won't need to buy a lot and probably skip having a drink. That will keep the cost down. If I can do lunch for under $10 I won't be too worried as I sold a chess board on Trade Me for $10 so that can pay for lunch.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No-spend month is underway

I mentioned last month that November was going to be a no-spend month for me. Well, today is the 2nd November and so far so good. :) Only another 28 days to get through.

Just to re-cap, no-spending to me means no spending on anything other than essentials. So I will still be paying the mortgage and other bills and will still be buying groceries. But no spending is allowed on entertainment, eating out, hair appointments, clothing purchases etc.

Yesterday was a struggle but I managed to get through with no spending. On Saturday night (still October) I went out to celebrate an impending wedding with friends. This was a big night out for me and I had booked into a budget hotel for the night so I didn't have to find my way home. I woke in the morning feeling slightly under the weather and quite tired. Normally I would have found a nearby cafe and had a nice hot breakfast to kickstart my day. But it was the first day of my no-spend month so I headed home and made myself breakfast. It was a lovely sunny morning so was nice to be at home having breakfast in the sun. After breakfast I spot-primed two walls of the garage in preparation - I get all the fun!

In the afternoon I met a friend to go to the movies. I made sure I ate lunch beforehand and took along a bottle of water from home. That was a successful strategy except that the movie (Julie and Julia) made me feel hungry! I had a voucher for the movies (part of my birthday gift from one of my sons) so no money spent there. After the movie I went straight home and cooked dinner. So no money spent on Day 1! Yay!

Today I have made sure I have brought along plenty of food from home to work so no need to go buy any snacks through the day or on my way home. I made a muesli slice on Saturday to use up some old cereal so that is my "treat" for the day.

I will be posting a bit more frequently this month to give you progress reports.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A healthy spring meal

At the weekly market today I picked up some lovely asparagus which reminded me about this dish. The combination of the ingredients may sound unusual but the result is delicious.

Asparagus Pasta Combo

Ingredients :
350g small-medium waxy potatoes
100g spiral or penne pasta
1 large lemon
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
400g fresh asparagus
400g zucchini
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered (optional but a good way of getting some protein)
1 cup black olives (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil

Cook the potatoes until just tended. Drain then cut into small bite-sized portions and immediately toss in 1 tbsp lemon juice (half a large lemon), 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp mint leaves and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside and allow to cool.

Cook the pasta to al dente, drain and immediately refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent sticking.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

Snap ends off asparagus and lay in a single layer on a baking tray. Toss in 1-2 tbsp oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Trim the zucchini and slice each thinly down its length. Place zucchini on a baking tray and toss in oil, salt and pepper. Place trays (or tray if you have only used one) in oven and roast, tossing once, for 7-12 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, place the pasta and potatoes on a large serving platter and pile the vegetables on top with the hard-boiled egg quarters (if using).

Just before serving, toss everything with the remaining juice of the lemon, olive oil, remainder of mint leaves, salt and pepper to taste and olives (if using).

This should be served warm and with warm crusty bread. Enjoy!