Sunday, 22 January 2017

Traditional Poinsettia Decoupage Christmas Card


Poinsettia is a winter-flowering plant, associated with Christmas perhaps because of its red petals. Apparently the star-shaped leaves are thought to be a symbol of the star of Bethlehem that the three wise men followed, with their colour symbolising the blood of Christ.

The plant is commonly seen on Christmas cards, like this one that I made. The kit came free with Cardmaking and Papercraft magazine, with die cuts in different designs including the ones I used to make this card.

I covered a square white card blank with red backing paper then stuck on a square die cut with scalloped edges that filled almost the entire card. It had a circular hole in the middle, into which I stuck the round topper, raising it off the card with adhesive pads. And that's it - really quick and easy to make but a nice looking card for someone who is more of a traditionalist about Christmas.

I'm sharing this with the Crafty Catz weekly cardmaking challenge and Trimmies craft challenge.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

WeightWatchers Curried Fish Pie


Fish pie is a comforting family staple and is usually topped with mashed potato or puff pastry. The former is carb-heavy and the latter high in fat, so using filo pastry is a much lighter option.

I adapted a recipe in an old WeightWatchers magazine to make this, which tasted really good and made a nice change from the usual kind of fish pie. The WeightWatchers recipe had 6.5 syns per serving and I don't think my changes will have affected that.

To serve 2 you need:

175g white fish like cod or haddock, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
75ml double cream (the WeightWatchers recipe calls for less than 55% fat double cream)
100g cooked and peeled prawns
1/2 tbsp. mild curry powder
zest of 1/2 a lime
4 x 15g sheets filo pastry
low fat cooking spray (I use Fry Light)

Preheat oven to 180C. Place the cubed fish and prawns in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and mix with the cream, curry powder and lime zest.

Cut each sheet of filo pastry in half to make 8 squares. Spray one side of the pastry with cooking spray and crumble up each piece of pastry and sit it on top of the pie dish until it is covered. Once you have used all the pastry, spray over them all with cooking spray.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.





 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Restaurant review: Grapeshots, Artillery Passage, London

My work Christmas meal for the past two years has been a curry so this year I lobbied hard for a proper Christmas dinner- and luckily enough of my colleagues agreed. We'd left it relatively last minute to book - at least, we were booking several weeks in advance, for a weekday in mid-December, but places still get booked up really fast!

Not that Grapeshots wasn't my first choice, but.... well, it wasn't my first choice. I wasn't actually familiar with the pub even though it is only a few minutes from my office. But after I rung around a couple of other places I had in mind and found they were fully booked, a colleague suggested Grapeshots, and as they had a festive menu and enough space, that was good enough!

The Christmas menu offered two courses for £24.95 or three for £29.95 and we pre-ordered at the pub's request; I had  a nice starter of crayfish, prawn and smoked salmon cocktail, which was served on a plate with a thick slice of tomato as its base.

 
The main course had a generous portion of meat, a lot of gravy, but only a couple of small-ish roast potatoes, and we were brought two small dishes of vegetables to share between 7. There was barely enough for everyone and one of my colleagues asked if there was more coming, only to be told no.
 
 
My dessert of sticky toffee Christmas pudding was nice - the Christmas pudding was a stronger flavour than the toffee in the cake, but the toffee sauce tipped the balance deliciously the other way.


The pub seemed nice - the ladies is tiny with barely enough room to get through the door - and the food was pretty good, if a little expensive.
 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 3

Another week where I am not in the office very much! This time I have taken three days annual leave to do some coursework then will be in Edinburgh for a day with a very early start, and flying back early the next day and going straight into work that day.

Join in the blog hop below.

Monday - I'm off, my husband is at work
Lunch: jacket potato
Dinner: Stir-fried cauliflower and cashews for me, chicken lattice and mash for him

Tuesday - I'm off, my husband is at work
Lunch: tuna risotto
Dinner: slow cooker macaroni cheese with sausages from this recipe or maybe hidden veg from this recipe

Wednesday - I'm off, my husband is at work
Lunch: leftover macaroni cheese
Dinner: maple mustard chicken thighs from this recipe with mashed potato

Thursday
I'm in Edinburgh for work with a very early start, out for both lunch and dinner

Friday -
Lunch: back at work so straight from the airport so will have to buy lunch
Dinner: peppered beef steaks and chips

Saturday
Lunch: quesadillas
Dinner: chicken wings in old bay seasoning (from this site) with chicken breast for him, with potato croquettes

Sunday
Lunch: hotdogs
Dinner: Tex Mex chicken tacos from this recipe

Join in the blog hop!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

10 Reasons to be Addicted to Soup - Winter Soup Recipes

 
This time of year there can sometimes be nothing better than a steaming bowl of soup - especially if it's one you've made yourself. Whether you're using up leftover veg or trying to persuade yourself to eat more veg (it's much easier blended, trust me!) or you on a diet and looking for a low fat recipe, there is so much you can do.

Here are ten of my favourite soup recipes. Check out number 7, it's something a bit different!

1. Chicken mulligatawny - adapted from a Weightwatchers recipe, really filling and robust

 
2. Slimming World cauliflower cheese soup - like cauliflower cheese? Then you will love this!
 
 
3. French onion soup - a classic. I made this after watching a film called Delicatessen. Using cider in the stock is an extra treat!
 

4. Cauliflower soup - a summertime recipe that works well in winter. Moomin flask optional!
 
 
5. Butternut squash soup - a very simple recipe using only a few ingredients - and what's more it's Slimming World.
 
6. Broccoli courgette and Stilton soup - how to sneak some hidden veg into your food!
 
 
7. Zuppa Toscana - a hearty Italian soup that I adapted to make lower in fat. With the sausages it's easily a meal in itself.
 
8. Spiced pumpkin soup  - another very simple recipe that uses leftover pumpkin from Halloween. Admittedly you probably can't get pumpkin at this time of year but if you have any in the freezer you can make this now, otherwise it might have to wait!
 
 
9. Mixed vegetable soup plus a recipe for homemade chilli and cheese bread. This is the easiest soup you can possibly make!
 
10. Slow cooker ham and potato soup - you can also make this on the hob. A great way to use up leftover ham or gammon from a roast.
 
 
What's your favourite kind of soup?

Friday, 13 January 2017

WeightWatchers Rosemary and Butterbean Soup


I've been trying to avoid bread and at the very least not taking sandwiches into work for lunch, which at this time of year means soups instead. I am a pretty fussy eater (for those who hadn't figured that out yet!) and often skip over recipes because they have ingredients I don't like. But, I figured, when you are blending everything together in a soup, you don't really know you are eating it, right? Especially if it isn't an ingredient with a strong overpowering taste.

So I decided to make this rosemary and bean soup from an old WeightWatchers recipe book called Simply Autumn. I used butterbeans, though you can also use cannellini or borlotti beans. I added a little plain yogurt at the end to thicken the soup but if you don't do this, it would be vegan - great for anyone doing #veganuary.

According to the WeightWatchers recipe book this has 3 points per portion.

To make two portions, here's what I did:
 

You need:
Fry Light (low-fat cooking spray)
2 cloves garlic with the skins left on
400g tin butter beans or cannellini beans
1/2 an onion, peeled and chopped into wedges
1/2 a lemon, cut in half
1 small handful rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 pint vegetable stock
2 tbsp. low fat plain yogurt (optional - no longer vegan if you use this)
salt, pepper


Preheat oven to 200C. Spray a roasting tin with Fry Light or similar. Put the garlic, butter beans, onion, lemon, rosemary and oregano into the pan, spray with more Fry Light, toss together and roast in the oven for 20 mins.


Take out of the oven and use a fork or wooden spoon to crush the softened garlic and lemon. Remove the garlic skin and lemon peel and discard.


Scrape everything into a blender and add the stock. Liquidize to make a soup; stir in the yogurt if desired and serve.


I'm sending this to Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes for her veggie soup challenge No Croutons Required.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Spanish Roasted Fish with Patatas Bravas

I love fish, but usually find white fish - even cod - too plain and uninteresting. This recipe from Tesco, in one of their recent free magazines, is a great way to enjoy cod with some new flavours, and with the potatoes it makes a really substantial meal - and one that is really easy to cook.

You can find the recipe on the Tesco website. Don't be afraid of using fennel even if like me you don't really like it - it works really well in this dish and once it's roasted with the other ingredients the aniseed flavour is much less pronounced.

I didn't use the cherry tomatoes as I don't like them though I did use the tinned tomatoes in the patatas bravas sauce. I made this on a weekend as it does take quite a while to cook but is pretty easy - you just bung most things into a roasting tin - and it really was delicious.

 
Here's the fish (salmon, cod and prawns) plus potato, chorizo and onion in a foil-lined roasting tin.


It doesn't look much different after it's cooked, does it?!

Here's the patatas bravas - I cheated slightly and used Aunt Bessie's mini roast potatoes but then followed the recipe for the sauce, which worked really nicely.


The finished dish - really tasty!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 2

There's another train strike this week - so I am working from home for three days and my husband has booked the entire week off, since he couldn't take any time off over Christmas he has several days from 2016 to use up. Much as I'm fed up with the trains, I'm lucky in that I can do my work from home and it will be nice to not have to commute for a few days!

You can link up your own meal plan post below.

Monday - I'm at work, my husband is at home
Lunch: me: gammon, leek and potato soup using leftover gammon from weekend. My husband has requested fresh bread to make a sandwich.
Dinner:  tuna risotto for me, pizza for him (home late thanks to the tube strikes)

Tuesday - both at home
Lunch: Weightwatchers rosemary and bean soup for me (going to make last week but didn't), tomato soup for him, with homemade bread
Dinner: lemony crumbed turkey with broccoli bean smash from this recipe for me; chicken pie for him

Wednesday - both at home
Lunch: gammon, leek and potato soup for me, bacon sandwich for him
Dinner: soy roast carrots with quinoa from WeightWatchers Autumn p.46 for me,  chicken chargrills and mashed potato for him
Thursday - I'm at work, my husband is at home
Lunch: Weightwatchers rosemary and bean soup for me, he will have beans on toast
Dinner: I'll be working late due to an event, so my husband will go to his mum's

Friday: both at home
Lunch: cheese on toast
Dinner: spiced cauliflower steak for me that I didn't do last week, chicken lattice with cheese and ham for him

Saturday:
I'm out all day on a course and my husband is out all day at a car show
Dinner: probably back fairly late so something from the freezer with chips

Sunday
Lunch: fishfinger sandwich/ chicken escalope sandwich
Dinner: I have filo pastry to use up so will make these chicken and chorizo briouats to serve with potato wedges.

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Snowscene Houses Foil Christmas Card


Yes, I know it's January... but some people like to get a head start on making their Christmas cards! This is one I actually made in November, but as I mentioned before, I only managed to make a few Christmas cards so I decided to save them til next Christmas when hopefully I will have made more.

This one uses a set and a design that came with one of the card making magazines I subscribed to for a few months at the end of last year. It came with several sheets of die cut toppers and backing papers of varying sizes.

This card shows a snowy scene with a festive sentiment at the front. I started by choosing a piece of backing paper - this is all one piece, including the stripe two thirds of the way down and the different pattern at the bottom.

I then added the main topper, a silver foil-edged picture of a snowy street, and mounted the small topper with the sentiment overlapping slightly. I cut a piece of border - on another sheet of card provided - into three sections: two to go diagonally over the corners of the card and one to come down from underneath the sentiment. The pieces are all glued flat but this card would also look good if you used adhesive pads to raise some of the elements off the card.

I'm sharing this with Ecletic Ellapu, a blog which is hosting a Christmas card making challenge. There are two themes, one of which is 'anything Christmas'. I'm also sending this to another site called Christmas Card Challenges.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Vegan French Apple Tart


This month's Food 'n' Flix challenge is French Kiss - the 1995 movie starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. The film was chosen by Food 'n' Flix creator Heather at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen - you can see her announcement post here, and you can take part any time this month.

The premise of the film is that Kate (Meg Ryan) is flying to France alone, to confront her cheating fiancé; she is seated on the plane next to Luc (Kevin Kline), a thief who hides a stolen necklace in her bag. Which of course means that he needs to retrieve the necklace later, so Luc offers to help Kate win back her fiancé.
Image result for french kiss movie

They bond and Kate learns that Luc gambled away his birthright to the family vineyard but dreams of buying his own vineyard some day. I won't spoil what happens as Kate goes after her fiancé and Luc tries to sell the stolen necklace - you will have to watch the film yourself!

I enjoyed the film even though it was a bit predictable and quite dated, but Meg Ryan is always good in a rom-com.

There are plenty of nice foodie references as well; for instance Kate finds her errant fiance eating in a restaurant with his new girlfriend's parents. She tries to hide and sneaks around the restaurant so she can spy on them, and predictably ends up crashing into a dessert trolley and getting a face full of food

Kate and Luc are having breakfast on the train of French bread and cheese and Luc tells her that there are 452 official cheeses in France; she tries some but is sick as she is lactose intolerant (presumably the cheese is worth it!). This means they have to get off the train part way, in what is Luc's home town and they stay at his family home, and this is where Kate learns about his dream to create a vineyard.
 

When I was thinking about recipes to make, I kept thinking of tarte tatin - a lovely French tart that is cooked upside down in a pan using apples or sometimes pears, that I have made a few times and really love. I wanted to make something a bit different but the vineyard idea had put fruit in my head as well.

I was visiting friends for new year's eve and had been asked if I could bring dessert. I made these chocolate brownies with candy cane frosting but wanted to make something that wasn't chocolate, and that my vegan friend could enjoy. (I would have made vegan brownies but was only using ingredients I already had in the house, and didn't have what I need).

I found a recipe on Good to Know for French apple tart and decided to make it vegan by making my own pastry.

What I love about this tart is that you have fluted apple slices on top which look appealing, but underneath a layer of sweet stewed apple. The combination of textures is amazing and it tasted delicious.

This is what I did:

To serve 6, you need:
for the pastry:
125g plain flour
55g vegan (soya) margarine - I used Pure
2-3 tbsp. water
for the filling:
6 eating apples
20g butter
50g caster sugar plus 2 tbsp. for later


First make the pastry, by sifting the flour into a large bowl and using your fingertips rub in the soya margarine to make a breadcrumb texture. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water and mix by hand until you have a dough consistency. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in clingfilm; put the dough in the fridge while you make the filling.

Cut one of the apples in half and peel four and a half. Cut the peeled apples into small chunks and put in a saucepan with the butter and 4 tbsp. water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the apples have softened; you may need to top up the water as you go. You don't want the mixture to be wet at the end, though you can drain it through a sieve if necessary.



When the apples have softened add the 50g sugar (return the apples to the pan if you have drained them) and heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Leave the mixture to cool.

Preheat oven to 190C. Roll out the pastry and line a 9-inch fluted tart tin. Line with greaseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans or raw rice and bake the empty pie crust in the oven for 10 minutes.



Carefully remove the paper and the baking beans and bake the pie case for another 5 mins until golden brown.

Spread the apple filling over the pastry base then peel the remaining apples.


Remove the core with a corer or knife and slice the apples very thinly all the way around so you can fan them out over the top of the tart as shown.



Sprinkle over the remaining caster sugar and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the apples have turned golden brown. Serve warm or cold.


I'm sharing this with Food n Flix as described above.


I'm also sharing this with CookBlogShare, hosted this week by Sneaky Veg.

Hijacked By Twins

Friday, 6 January 2017

Weightwatchers Chicken in a Creamy Tarragon Sauce


This is another WeightWatchers recipe and is low fat but tastes really indulgent with a creamy sauce that even uses white wine. Leeks are in season in autumn and winter so it's a great recipe to make at this time of year.

According to WeightWatchers this has 6 points per serving.

To serve 4, you need:
2 leeks, washed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 a chicken stock cube
150ml WeightWatchers Fruity white wine (you can use any white wine but that will change the WW Points if you are counting them)
400g skinless boneless chicken breasts
100g very low fat fromage frais
100g half-fat crème fraiche
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1/2 bunch fresh tarragon
800g floury potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 tsp low fat spread
4 tbsp. skimmed milk

Bring a pan of water to the boil then summer the potatoes.

Meanwhile put the sliced leeks and garlic in a deep frying pan with a lid. Mix the chicken stock cube with a splash of boiling water and pour into the pan. Cover and steam over a low to medium heat for 10-15 mins until the leeks are tender. Add the wine, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.

Cut the chicken breasts into 12 pieces and add to the pan. Turn down the heat, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Drain the potatoes and mash with the low fat spread and milk.

Stir in the fromage frais, crème fraiche, mustard and tarragon and heat through. Season to taste. Serve with the mashed potatoes and green veg.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the finished dish but taste is more important than looks anyway!
 


I'm sharing this with Simply Seasonal, hosted by Hijacked by Twins.

Hijacked By Twins

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Lahmacun - Weightwatchers Turkish Pizza


This Turkish pizza is topped with minced lamb and spices - and has no cheese, so it isn't what some people would consider a pizza, but trust me, it's delicious!
 

I found the recipe in an old WeightWatchers magazine - I can't remember how they work out the Points system but they say this has 5 points per serving. It uses a packet pizza base mix and lamb is quite a fatty meat so is not what I would call super-healthy but it obviously does fit into the WeightWatchers plan if you are following that.

To serve 4, you need:
Low fat cooking spray eg Fry Light
145g sachet pizza base mix
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
225g lean lamb mince
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large ripe vine tomato, chopped (I left this out as we don't like tomatoes)
4 tsp sun dried tomato puree (I used regular tomato puree)
4 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
lemon wedges to serve (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 C. Spray a large baking tray with low fat spray or Fry Light.

Make up the pizza dough according to pack instructions then divide into four and shape into ovals. Or if you want a larger meal make two - but if you are counting WeightWatchers points you will have to double them per person. Place the pizza bases on the baking tray and leave in a warm place for ten minutes.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until softened. Add the mince, garlic and cumin and fry for 5 minutes. Add the tomato and fry over a medium heat for another 5 minutes. Season.

Spread the pizza bases with the tomato puree and spread the mince mixture on top.


 Bake in the oven for ten minutes then sprinkle with parsley to serve, and squeeze over a wedge of lemon if desired.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Spitalfields Street Food - 5 meals reviewed

My company recently moved to a new office near Spitalfields market. We weren't very far away before but for some reason I never made the effort to go there - now I have no excuse! I usually bring my own lunch to work but there were a few times in December when I wasn't able to (as I was out too late the night before, or sleeping out for Centrepoint), and rather than go to Tesco like I often would, I wandered into Spitalfields.

There are chain restaurants, independent boutiques, market stalls and food stalls galore. The food stalls are quite busy at lunchtime but it doesn't take more than a few minutes to queue, and the choice is fantastic - everything from vegan to Caribbean to burgers and fish and chips. I've tried a few over the past six weeks and thought I'd share my recommendations with you here.


The first place I tried was a chicken shack called Coop, with the wonderfully named 'fat cock roll'. For just £5.50 you could have a chicken portion and two sides, or a chicken burger with various trimmings - I had a pulled chicken burger with roast potatoes actually in the burger, which was so good! It was very filling and something I would definitely have again.


Even so, next time I went into Spitalfields for lunch I tried something different, this time a 'dirty bagel' (£4.50) from the Pulled Pork House.


This consisted of a large amount of pulled pork, some lettuce and I think barbecue sauce in a roll, topped with cheese; the cheese was then melted by the stallholder with a cook's blowtorch.



It was really good and extremely filling - a nice tangy zing from the BBQ sauce as well. It was very messy to eat though so grab plenty of napkins, you will need them!

Next time a couple of weeks later I fancied something different (i.e. not in a bun) and noticed a takeaway stand just outside the Real Greek restaurant. For £5.50 you could have two mains and two (I think) sides from a selection of five or six in each case, which were boxed up in front of you. I chose a halloumi kebab and a chicken kebab along with potato salad and a bulgur wheat salad. It was a pretty substantial meal and drew envious glances from my colleagues; definitely something a bit different to the usual sandwich!

Bleecker Street Burgers was a name I was familiar with but had never tried - they claim to bring New York style burgers to London. There's a small, unassuming stand in Spitalfields which always has a decent queue at lunchtimes, and a few times I've been tempted but decided a burger was a bit much for lunch. Eventually I gave in, deciding to only order the burger and not the fries, which was a wise move as the burger was very filling.

I've eaten at Shake Shack and Five Guys (the latter several times) and can confirm this is a proper American-style burger from the fairly thin but tasty patty (chunky burgers are too meaty sometimes) and the oozing cheese.

 
It's not cheap - a simple cheeseburger is £6 with fries at £3 which is more than I would normally spend on lunch but as I said you don't really need the fries. A double cheeseburger and 'angry' fries (I assume spicy) would set you back £13 though which is quite a lot for a street food stand, even a good one. They are open til 9pm and serve beer as well as milkshakes so I expect this place does quite well in the evenings too. It was certainly a good burger but I have to say I prefer Five Guys (which is similarly priced but a sit-down restaurant).


 
This last one isn't technically a food stall - there's a Carluccio's restaurant just next to Spitalfields market, which has a takeout counter serving hot food. There's a choice of pastas and salads and things like chicken escalopes in breadcrumbs; for about a fiver, I had a mixture of lasagne and pasta arrabiata. The lasagne was delicious but the arrabiata a bit too spicy for me! It was probably the least interesting of the five meals I had from Spitalfields, which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it, but what I particularly like about the food market is that you can try dishes that are quite unusual.


If you are in the area check out the food stalls and let me know which ones you like!