Lazy Day Cheaty Meals

I have been feeling a bit under the weather lately due to a busy life, my health issues and worry about my son's health - gourmet cooking has been off the menu and in a bid to avoid a week of takeaways I have done a bit of cheating.

I thought I'd share my top cheating tips with you now. In the summer it's easy to be lazy. You could throw a bag of salad onto a plate with some feta or tuna or whatever - voila! Though to be fair that would never actually happen in my house - I didn't get a figure like this eating salad! No I use sumer as an excuse to sit outside with a glass of something chilled while DS#3 and his friends BBQ.

But crisps, pitta and dip followed by barbecued stuff which my teens are happy to incinerate is a meal which needs sunshine really. So here are my winter cheats.

boy eating mashed potato Frozen mash. I know it sounds disgusting and the odd pellets in the bag look revolting but trust me on this one. I have tried a variety of brands of frozen mashed potato and they are all pretty good. We've come a long way since the first dried mash advertised by the happy aliens. (if you don't get this reference go and ask your mum!)

I love it because you can cook as little or as much as you need.  It's fast, there's no peeling and you don't even have to season it! It's buttery and smooth and I defy anyone who didn't know it was frozen to tell the difference. You can top mince, add to roasts, and even use the pellets individually to thinker stews and soups.

Frozen vegetables. If you aren't already using frozen veg - why not? It's true they are more nutritious than "fresh" veg which has sat in the shop then your kitchen for days and it's convenient.

Some veg lends itself beautifully to freezing - peas, beans, ready mashed carrot and swede. And others are great with a bit of work - frozen cabbage can be lightly steamed then pan fried with garlic butter, my family love cauliflower and broccoli with a cheese sauce (packet or a simple homemade sauce) then bunged in oven with a sprinkling of your favourite grated cheese.

The only veg I find doesn't work terribly well frozen is the humble sprout - I love them and although they are bearable boiled in water (steaming doesn't seem to work very well) they are much better fresh in my opinion.

Ready-made Yorkshire Puds. Not as good as the real thing but generally cheap and only take minutes to cook, my kids would rather have ready-made than no Yorkshire puddings! Tarts up boring sausage and mash, bulks up weekday roasts so you can get away with a smaller joint of meat and lovely as a cheeky treat with a thick gravy dip!

Slow cooked anything! Never mind the recipes which tell you to pre-fry things. On the whole you can bung anything in in the morning when your energy levels are a bit higher, slope off for an afternoon nap and feel virtuous at suppertime when the whole house smells yummy.

Yesterday I made a rice pudding in my slow cooker. It was thick and creamy after a couple of hours and then I set it onto "warm" until we needed it. You don't get a skin on top unless you finish it in the oven but equally you don't get burnt dry rice pudding after you forget it's in the oven!

And some cheaty cheap quick hot meals for kids- beans and sausages (which are sold together in a tin) with hot buttered toast, scrambled egg on potato waffles cooked in toaster on high setting, microwave rice with microwavable swedish meatballs, home-made pizza using a simple pizza dough (made in bread maker in my case) topped with a cheap pasta sauce and ready-grated cheese.

Left over chip shop chips? Throw into an omelette with your favourite ingredients for easy Spanish Omelette, or my children's favourite (and mine when I'm getting ready to go out) DIY wraps. All their favourite fillings and a pack of wraps! My children like to wrap cheese, chips, salsa, sour cream, chicken, ham, onion rings, frankfurters and savoury mince in their own combinations!

And my own go-to quick lunch? A salt and vinegar crisp sandwich with too much butter or a bowl of cereal on lazy days, smoked salmon scraps , creme fraiche and red onion thrown onto hot pasta on other days.

What's your favourite quick meal?