Thursday 28 February 2013

Spiced Butternut Squash Cottage Pie

Lurpak (the butter brand) has started a bake club on its website, encouraging users to cook a particular dish every month and upload their pictures in the hope of winning a prize. The first dish this month was the humble cottage pie - something I don't think I've ever made before!

I wanted to put a healthy twist on it, Slimming World style so I decided to give the cottage pie a butternut squash topping.

To start, chop an onion and sweat it in Fry-Light

Add some diced red and green pepper

Chop your butternut squash - I cut up a whole one as I used the leftover to make soup

Boil the butternut squash until tender in some vegetable stock. The green pieces you can see in the picture below are the stock cube I crumbled into the pan before adding the water. I also seasoned it with some cumin and coriander.

This is a particularly frugal recipe as my beef mince was reduced... possibly because the horsemeat scandal has put people off mince!

Add the mince to the pan with the onion and the peppers and fry until browned. I then added 2 tbsp passata (that I had leftover in the fridge from another recipe) and a splash of Lea & Perrins.

When cooked, spoon the mince into the bottom of a pie or baking dish.

When the butternut squash is tender, mash it and spread across the top.

Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 mins. The butternut squash didn't go crispy on top like mashed potato does, but it was a tasty and healthy alternative.

I am sending this to Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Camilla at Fab Food 4 All and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Two-Tone Superfoods Smoothie

I know, it's green... but it's good for you! And I'm sure even picky children would find this fun to drink with the two-tone colour and the different fruits in each layer.

I was recently sent two cartons of Blue Diamond Almond Breeze almond milk, with the challenge of creating a new breakfast smoothie. Obviously I know that most people are in a hurry in the mornings and want something they can drink on the go, but this can be partly made the night before - and in any case, the challenge asked for an "original and interesting smoothie recipe" - and mine is certainly that!

A year or so ago I'd never drunk any sort of dairy-free alternative to milk, but now thanks to a friend who has turned vegan, there is often a carton of soya milk in my fridge. I hadn't tried almond milk before and I can say I definitely enjoyed it - it has a more subtle taste than some dairy-free alternatives I've tried, and most importantly doesn't turn my cup of tea a funny colour like some seem to!

Almond Breeze is vegan and also low-calorie; the unsweetened variety has 60% fewer calories than even skimmed milk, while it is still a good source of calcium. It also comes in original and chocolate flavour. For more information visit

I thought of several different smoothie flavour combinations but none of them seemed original enough for this challenge. As I was finding it hard to choose between my ideas, I decided to combine the two and make a two-layer smoothie!

Here are the ingredients I used. You can obviously adapt this and swap out any ingredients you want, but this is the recipe I used (of my own creation):
For the bottom layer:
1 banana
1 kiwi
1 tsp Matcha Green tea powder
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 cup Almond Breeze

For the top layer:
1 large slice melon
1 pear
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp hemp
1/2 cup Almond Breeze

First to make the bottom layer, I chopped a banana, kiwi and added a spoonful of Matcha Green Tea Powder. This is finely-milled green tea that can be made into a drink or used to flavour foods. It has all sorts of health benefits including being an anti-oxidant, boosting metabolism and reducing cholesterol. However, it's not to everyone's taste so if you were making this for children I might suggest leaving this ingredient out.

I whizzed it up in my blender with a cup of Almond Breeze and a spoonful of agave nectar - I could have used honey, but since Almond Breeze is suitable for vegans, I wanted to make sure the whole recipe was.

Transfer to a small tub that is suitable for freezing and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to drink the smoothie, prepare the top layer. I cut a large slice of melon

And also chopped up a pear

Continuing on the superfoods theme, I added a spoonful of hemp. You can get this in health food shops; I bought a small box from Holland & Barrett that contained different seeds in small sachets (such as flax) so you can try them all and see what you like. Hemp is a seed that is high in protein, magnesium and iron, and the health benefits are numerous. You can add it onto porridge or museli or stir it into yogurt, or as I did, blend it into your smoothie.

I also added some agave nectar


Finally half a cup of Almond Breeze

Whizz it in the blender

If you have frozen the bottom layer of the smoothie overnight, you will need to allow it to come to room temperature so you can crush it up (similar to waiting for ice cream to soften enough to serve). If you have frozen it for a few hours it should be the right consistency - a bit like a slushy, so it's not entirely liquid, but you can still drink it through a straw.

Scoop a few spoonfuls into the bottom of a glass

Now pour the top layer of the smoothie on top; it will sit on top nicely.

I accessorized with a slice of kiwi and a straw. It's actually quite fun to drink one layer at a time or you can mix them both up. I think even though this is green and might put some picky children off, the fun of reaching the bottom layer should hopefully make them drink up!

You can check out the other entries in the Almond Breeze smoothie challenge here.

Monday 25 February 2013

Meal Planning 2013 - Week 9

Last week's meals didn't really go to plan, as both my boyfriend and I were ill; some days I wanted comfort food so switched what I had planned, and one night I went to his house and we had burger and chips. I know chicken soup is meant to be the thing, but I really wanted chips! What's your ultimate comfort food when you're ill?
So this week's plan repeats some of what I was meant to have last week.

I also managed to lose two and a half pounds last week, which I'm really pleased and also quite surprised about! I hope I don't put any back on this week...

Breakfast Mullerlight
Lunch Leftover cottage pie from Sunday
Dinner Choir rehearsal -  sandwich then will probably have a hot snack when I get home

Breakfast Mullerlight
Lunch Out with a friend
Dinner Having my boyfriend over so I will make the chicken katsu curry I planned for last week, possibly followed by Earl Grey Panna Cotta from Breakfast for Dinner, p146, if I have the ingredients as I haven't checked :-) But otherwise if he wants dessert there are some of my chocolate and ginger cookies left.

Breakfast Mullerlight
Lunch Butternut squash soup and a bread roll
Dinner Tuna steak and noodles

Breakfast Cereal
Lunch Salmon in lemon sauce (in a tin, haven't tried this before) with cold new potatoes and salad or hot potatoes and veg
Dinner Out with my boyfriend (TBA)

Breakfast Cereal
Lunch Butternut squash soup and a bread roll
Dinner Coca-Cola Bayou Gumbo from Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola, p69

Breakfast Cereal
Lunch pizza pitta pocket
Dinner With my boyfriend, dinner takeaway-style curry from the supermarket for a treat as I haven't had that in years (and I'm not going to think about the syns)
Dessert: Sprite Apple Pie from Classic Cooking With Coca-Cola, p.150

It now looks like we've got friends coming round for dinner on Saturday so I'm replanning the menu... I think I'll do the gammon I was going to cook tomorrow, but with a honey glaze, with roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese, followed by a Green & Black's chocolate and peanut butter pie.

Brunch with my boyfriend - Moroccan chicken cinnamon rolls from Breakfast for Dinner, p89
Dinner Roast gammon joint with parsley sauce
Update - will depend on what we have on Saturday and whether there are leftovers!

Sunday 24 February 2013

Chocolate and Ginger Oaty Cookies

It's my Grandad's birthday and since I won't be seeing him for a few more weeks I wanted to send him home-baked something in the post. I also wanted to make something I could enter in We Should Cocoa, where this month's theme was ginger (and chocolate) so I looked online and found a recipe for chocolate and ginger cookies, which I adapted slightly. I probably should have halved the recipe as well as I ended up with a lot of cookies - about 20 large ones - and as there were too many to fit into the posting box, I had to sample a few. I can happily vouch for the fact that these cookies are very nice!

I got the original recipe from the BBC Food website. You can find it here.

For my adapted recipe, you need:
(And it may be worth considering halving the quantities)

225g butter
100g golden syrup
200g brown sugar
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
400g rolled oats
100g bag Dr Oetker chocolate chunks
2 eggs
175g crystallised ginger
300g dark chocolate

Heat the butter and golden syrup in a small pan until melted

Mix the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and cinnamon

Stir in the rolled oats. It looks like a lot at this stage but trust me, it works!

Mix in the melted butter and golden syrup. At this point the mixture tastes exactly like Hob Nobs!

Though this wasn't in the original recipe, I decided to add in a bag of Dr. Oetker chocolate chunks I was sent for review. These come in a 100g bag and are widely available in supermarkets.

I was expecting these to be like chocolate chips but instead they are almost square-shaped chunks and made of a tasty dark chocolate. I like the fact that they are bigger than chocolate chips.

Next beat two eggs then add to the cookie mixture.

The recipe called for stem ginger but I couldn't find any in my local supermarket, so got this crystallised ginger from a health food shop instead.

Chop it into pieces and add to the cookie mixture

Shape into balls and press down onto a greased and lined baking tray

Bake at 180C for about 15 minutes; they may need longer depending on the size of the cookie.

Melt some chocolate; I used a small deep dish as this was easier for dippping.

Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate and allow to set on a wire rack

You can see how well the Dr. Oetker chocolate chunks hold their shape inside the cookie. I will definitely use these again!

I packaged these up in a box I bought from the Post Office to send to my Grandad

I also added some Palmiers I had made the day before, and of course a birthday card.

I'm sending these to We Should Cocoa, the blog challenge created by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Tea Pot.  This month the guest host is Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes and she has chosen ginger as the ingredient.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Elephant Ears or Palmiers

I came across these when I was looking on the internet for things I could bake beginning with E for this month's Alphabakes. These are palmiers, a classic French cookie, that is also known as Elephant Ears due to their shape. They are very easy to make and taste great.

All you need is puff pastry and sugar. I used a sheet of Jus-Rol

Sprinkle some sugar on your work surface and lay or roll out your pastry on top. Sprinkle the pastry with more sugar.

Roll up the pastry from both sides so you have two rolls that meet in the middle.

Slice the rolls into rounds.

Place on a grease and lined baking sheet and bake for about ten minutes.

They will expand and flatten when they cook

Done! Do you think these look like elephant ears?

I am sending this to Alphabakes, hosted this month by Ros from TheMoreThanOccasionalBaker. I'm hosting the challenge again next month so come back to my blog to find out which letter we are baking with!