Monday 28 November 2016

Meal Planning Monday 2016 - Week 48

It's been a crazy week both at work and personally. On Thursday night I did Sleep Out for Centrepoint which was very cold and uncomfortable but an amazing experience. My dinner that night was cooked by the RAF (chicken curry); the next night, I had a takeaway pizza with my husband as I was far too tired to cook, and the next night I didn't get home til 9pm so we went to the chip shop! My diet has been really bad for several days and as a result I'm really craving broccoli!

I'd already done this week's meal plan and here is what I had planned. Some things may need to shift around or I may need a quicker alternative as I will undoubtedly end up working late at least some of the time this week.

Meal I meant to make last week but didn't: Inspired by a new dish at Leon: chicken thigh with spiralized carrot, mooli and sweet potato, with mint, coriander and a peanut sauce, and a peppered beef grillsteak for him. Only it didn't quite pan out as I couldn't get hold of mooli!

Lahmacun - a sort of Turkish pizza, from a recipe in an old Weightwatchers magazine

Wednesday - I'm out at a colleague's leaving do, my husband will probably go to his mum's

Thursday -honey, ginger and garlic chicken with spiralized veg for me and potatoes for him

chicken nuggets and chips or similar as an end-of-week treat

Lunch: chorizo hash with eggs from an old Weightwatchers magazine (with hash browns on the side)
Dinner: Out with my mother-in-law; I'm taking her to see Dreamgirls in the West End starring Amber Riley as an early Christmas present - and because I really wanted to see it myself! I bought tickets the minute they went on sale at the beginning of this year and if memory serves we are in the 3rd or 4th row!

Lunch: bacon sandwich (my husband's favourite)
Dinner: lamb chop and roast potatoes for me, beef grillsteak for him

Something I was going to make for the last 2 weeks but didn't: pear and hazelnut crumble for me, from Weightwatchers magazine; chocolate crumble from this recipe for my husband as he doesn't eat fruit. Of course the pears I bought will have gone off by now so I will have to buy more!

This is a blog hop, join in!


Sunday 27 November 2016

Cheesy Broccoli Bites

I found this recipe for broccoli bites in a book called America's Most Wanted Recipes, which aims to recreate dishes from popular US restaurant chains. This one comes from Bennigan;'s, which I've never heard of, despite having visited 21 US states over the years.

This is broccoli, but not as you know it! I guess this is one way to get people to eat their vegetables... it's mixed with bacon, cheese, onion, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried! So it's really not very healthy, but it is still broccoli I guess... and it tastes amazing! I made these to go with pasta and they worked really well; the recipe suggests to serve them with a honey mustard dressing.

The recipe said to use  Monterey Jack and Colby cheese, neither of which I could get hold of, so I used cheddar. It also called for a 16 ounce box of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained. You can of course get frozen broccoli here but I wanted to use fresh so I cooked it in a pan of boiling water then chopped it up. So this is what I did:

To serve 4, you need;
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup cheddar, grated
1 head broccoli, cooked and chopped
5 tbsp. bacon bits or pancetta
1 tbsp. finely diced onion
2 tbsp. plain flour
about 100g breadcrumbs
oil for frying

Mix the cheddar, broccoli, bacon, onion and flour in a bowl and refrigerate for an hour. Heat an inch of oil in a large frying pan. Meanwhile form the broccoli mixture into balls, roll in the beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs and fry each one in the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Santa Fe Chicken

After a few road trips around the US I bought a cookery book called 'America's Most Wanted Recipes' - it contains copycat recipes based on dishes served at some of the biggest restaurant chains across the US.

I hadn't used the book in a while so a couple of weeks ago went through and picked out several recipes to try. This one, called Santa Fe Chicken, is apparently based on something served at Applebee's, a restaurant chain I've heard of but never actually been to. Still it sounded like a nice recipe I wanted to try!

It's one of those recipes where exact quantities aren't required and you play it by ear, at least I did.

First butterfly a chicken breast to open it out flat and cut a thick slice of cheese - one per chicken breast. The recipe said to use Monterey Jack cheese but I couldn't find that in the supermarket. I think this would be nice with any kind of cheese but the internet tells me Monterey Jack is a mild white cheese and that Cheddar is a close cousin.

Wrap the flattened chicken breast around each piece of cheese and secure with a cocktail stick.

Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, cumin and pepper. Dip the chicken in a shallow bowl of melted butter and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with a cheese sauce and top with chopped red and green peppers - though I left these out as my husband and I don't like them!

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Molten Chocolate Filo Parcels

I had some filo pastry left from making a pie and decided to use it up in a dessert. I found a recipe for molten chocolate parcels on the Good Housekeeping website and decided to give them a go. They did taste nice but were very messy!

To serve 4, you need:
250g dark chocolate, chopped
60g butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
40g plain flour
6 large filo pastry sheets
icing sugar to dust

First melt the chocolate, either in a bowl in the microwave or in a bain-marie. Stir until smooth and allow to cool for 15 mins.

In a large bowl cream 40g of the butter and the sugar together and beat in the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the flour then the melted chocolate. Chill for about an hour in the fridge until firm.

Melt the rest of the butter and cut the filo pastry into large squares (I cut each sheet in half). Brush with the melted butter and lay two pieces of pastry on top of each other. Using a spoon and/or your fingers scoop some of the chocolate mixture into a ball and place on the filo pastry. Gather up the pastry and scrunch together at the top so you have a little parcel.

The recipe said to then chill the parcels for 30 minutes but I decided not to as I was making these after dinner and we wanted dessert!

I put them into an oven that was preheated to 180C and baked the parcels for 10 minutes - less than the 15 minutes in the recipe but these were perfectly done, the pastry crisp and the chocolate soft but not runny. Sprinkle with icing sugar and eat with a spoon - be prepared to get messy!

I'm sharing these with the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary as I was using up leftover filo pastry.

Monday 21 November 2016

Meal Planning Monday 2016 - Week 47

This week should be an interesting one as I'm spending a night sleeping outside on the streets to raise money for homeless charity Centrepoint. It's an organised event that people from companies all over London are taking part in at the same time, so should be perfectly safe, but will certainly be cold - and hopefully not wet! It's quite different to anything I've done before but am going with a team from work (not the team I work with, but a group I belong to within the organisation) and am starting to look forward to it as something of a challenge but hopefully with good camaraderie at the same time. If you want to donate to Centrepoint, you can do so here!

Here's the meal plan for this week

Home late as I'm meeting a contact after work and will probably have to ask my husband to put dinner on so it will be something from the freezer.

Spaghetti and meatballs/ tuna polpette that I didn't do last week

Inspired by a new dish at Leon: chicken thigh with spiralized carrot, mooli and sweet potato, with mint, coriander and a peanut sauce, and a peppered beef grillsteak for him.

Sleep Out for Centrepoint - apparently the army come and cook everyone some dinner!

When I will be very grateful to be returning to my own home, which sadly isn't the case for people who sleep outside every night.
Dinner: honey, ginger and garlic chicken with spiralized veg for me and potatoes for him

During the day I'm in London on a course - the CIPR Certificate in Internal Communications - then popping to see a friend as it's her daughter's birthday after that. I don't know what time I will be home for dinner so something my husband can cook is probably the best approach.

Lunch: breakfast burritos - special request from my husband who loves them
Dinner: lamb chop and roast potatoes for me, beef grillsteak for him

Something I was going to make last week but didn't: pear and hazelnut crumble for me, from Weightwatchers magazine; chocolate crumble from this recipe for my husband as he doesn't eat fruit

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday 20 November 2016

Spiced Roast Lamb Chops with Roots and Alliums

I love lamb though my husband doesn't eat it so I don't cook it very often. But when I was looking through my Sophie Grigson recipe book Country Kitchen I decided it was worth cooking this dish even if I had to make him something else!

The book is divided into seasons and this recipe comes from the autumn section; even though I think we are probably in winter now it is really good for this time of year.

You can find the recipe on the Good Food Channel. It uses tamarind pulp; I wasn't sure where to get that from but was able to buy tamarind paste from the supermarket which seemed close enough. It gave the dish a lovely unusual flavour - a little sweet and sour at the same time.

I had a packet of nigella seeds in the cupboard - I can't remember where I got them from, I think it was a Turkish supermarket. I mixed the tamarind, oil, garlic, water, turmeric, cumin seeds and nigella seeds and drizzled it over some lamb chops, chantenay carrots, red onion and potatoes.

That's pretty much all you have to do; roast it all in one pan in the oven and allow the juices and flavours to mingle. Delicious!

Saturday 19 November 2016

Chocolate and Caramel Brownie Mini Cheesecakes


Coming back from our honeymoon in the Galapagos Islands earlier this year, we had a very long layover at Miami airport. To kill some time we went to a nearby shopping mall and had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory - the third US city where I've eaten at one of those restaurants. I can't get enough of the cheesecake!

This time I had the caramel pecan turtle cheesecake - named after a particular brand of chocolate called turtles. It consisted of a pecan brownie and caramel-fudge swirl cheesecake, topped with caramel turtle pecans and chocolate. It was so good- though of course I couldn't eat more than half of it!

Back at the airport, shopping to use up the last of my dollars, I bought a packet of  - which contained a pecan and soft caramel covered in chocolate. I'd had them before so didn't eat them right away and brought them home. A few weeks ago I found them in the cupboard and decided to see if I could recreate the Cheesecake Factory dessert. The only caveat being that my husband doesn't like nuts!

I found this copycat recipe which looks amazing; but I was making the dessert on a night when I had been out all day and needed to make some shortcuts. I also wanted to turn them into mini cheesecakes rather than one large one. I'd just had an Asda delivery a couple of days before so had bought some chocolate brownies; I used these as the base of my dessert, cutting out a circle to put in the bottom of a silicon muffin tray.

I followed the recipe instructions for the filling, using a tin of Carnation caramel for the caramel sauce. This is the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla mixture, poured on top of the brownie base which was obviously already cooked as it was ready made.

I mixed the chocolate sauce with the caramel sauce and swirled it in to the cheesecake mixture:
Here they are after being baked in the oven.
I topped each mini cheesecake with a layer of Carnation caramel and a drizzle of chocolate sauce - I used Choc Shot as you can squeeze out a thin drizzle easily. Finally I topped each one with a mini chocolate turtle.
Here is the view from the side. These were amazing - one mini cheesecake was enough as they are quite rich but the flavours of the caramel and chocolate, and the texture of the cheesecake on the brownie base, were just amazing. Almost as good as at the Cheesecake Factory!
I'm sending these to Treat Petite, hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat, the Baking Explorer, for their monthly baking challenge.
I'm also sharing these with We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

Friday 18 November 2016

Restaurant Review: Bishopsgate Kitchen, London

Poached eggs seem to be a bit of a thing with me at the moment. My team had a very early start recently when the company we work for reported its Q3 financial results, so when all was done, we went for a team breakfast (as it was also my manager's birthday) at the Bishopsgate Kitchen. I didn't realise until I looked at the website just now that it is run by Benugo's which actually runs the café in my office building!

This was definitely better as it is a proper bar and restaurant with quite a wide menu of dishes, far more than it would be feasible to offer in the workplace. I had the chorizo hash, which came with sliced potatoes, a poached duck egg, spinach and parmesan cheese, for £10.50.

It tasted really good though a little on the spicy side because of the chorizo and was very filling, though I think quite expensive for what it was. I also found the potatoes quite dry so I kept needing sips of water while I ate! Overall it was still a good breakfast and a nice change from the norm.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Leon Poached Egg Pots

I love the breakfast egg pots at Leon. Have you come across Leon before? They are largely based around London with branches at airports as well as a couple of other cities and their motto is 'naturally fast food'. I first went to a Leon at Heathrow airport but now there are several around where I work.

I still remember how good the egg pot was that I had at the airport three years ago - it was simple but a combination I hadn't come across before, with a poached egg, cheese sauce and chopped ham served in a little pot. I decided to make it for my husband and me for brunch last weekend and found this recipe on Lovefood, written by Leon founder Henry Dimbleby.

I didn't follow the recipe that closely as I didn't have any truffle oil to put in the cheese sauce and to poach the eggs I cheated and used 'poachies' - little bags that you crack the eggs into and put them in a pan of boiling water. I have an egg poaching pan, and a microwave egg poacher that I use sometimes at work, and have tried various ways to poach eggs and have found these to be the best by far, so I recommend them if you have trouble getting perfectly poached eggs!

So all I did was whip up a quick cheese sauce from a roux of flour and butter and then milk and melted cheese, poach the eggs and fry some chorizo. I served them in ramekins with the egg on the bottom, some salt and pepper, then the cheese then the chorizo on top - I can't begin to tell you how good these are!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Butterfly Thinking of You Cards

While I was sorting out my craft cupboard - which is a narrow (single) wardrobe from Ikea, with shelves and two drawers instead of a hanging rail - I came across some cards I made ages ago (probably a couple of years).

Sometimes you need a card for a sombre or sorry occasion, or sometimes just to wish people well and let them know you are thinking of them. All the elements on both of these cards came from one big pack; the butterflies are die cuts that I thought went well with the patterns of the backing paper. In fact they are decoupage and though you can't really tell from this picture, the butterflies have several layers raised up from the card. The 'thinking of you' sentiments are also both die cuts, with gold words and edging on white card; I mounted them on the cards with adhesive pads so they would stand out.

I'm entering this in the Butterfly Spot Challenge where the theme each time is a butterfly and a colour or something beginning with a particular letter; this time it is navy. The butterflies have navy blue in their wings and though you can't quite tell, the dots on the background of the bottom card are navy blue.

I'm also sending it to the Crafty Boots challenge as the theme is 'things with wings'.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Cowboy Pie

This pie is based on an idea I saw in a Slimming World book or magazine a while ago but isn't actually particularly Slimming - I wanted an excuse to use my cow print rolling pin again! It came from Etsy and was a Christmas gift last year I think but I've only used it a few times. The rolling pin leaves an imprint of a cow pattern on anything you roll out!

I decided to theme a pie around it and use it to roll out the pastry to go on the top. The cow theme would work for cottage pie (which uses minced beef) but I decided to make what I call a cowboy pie - based on sausage and beans which have associations with cowboys sitting around a camp fire!

Preheat the oven to 180C. First fry or grill a couple of sausages per person until they are just cooked and cut into chunks. You can also add some diced chorizo or pancetta to the pan and fry. Put into a pie dish (either an individual dish or a large one - I did an individual one for my husband) and pour over half a tin of baked beans and mix together.

You can see how the rolling pin leaves the cow pattern on the pastry. I used ready-made shortcrust pastry though you can make your own.

Top the pie with the pastry and trim the edges; make a small hole for any steam to escape

When baked the pastry should turn golden brown (though it doesn't look very brown in this picture)

You also can't see the cow pattern very well any more in this photo, but it was there!

This is what the pie looks like inside - my husband said it was good. It's a nice change to the way you might normally serve sausage and beans, anyway!

Monday 14 November 2016

Meal Planning Monday 2016 - Week 46

I was supposed to be away for three nights this week but have cancelled as my cat is very ill and I don't want to leave her on her own. It's been a very upsetting few days as I'm so worried about her. I don't much feel like eating but know I need to eat proper food and not live off junk food, and we are going back to the vet on Wednesday so hopefully will get some better news, otherwise the rest of the week's meal plan might go out the window.

Prior to my cat being ill I was trying to declutter and found a huge folder of Weightwatchers recipes torn out of their magazines. I haven't followed Weightwatchers for a long time and have probably enough recipes to cook something different every day for the rest of my life, but wanted to use a few of them before getting rid of the rest! So these recipes are from various magazines from several years ago - I will share some of my versions of the recipes on my blog over the coming weeks, if I get back into blogging - giving my kitty cat some extra love has been my priority recently.

Monday - curried fish pie from Weightwatchers magazine for me, with chicken for him as he doesn't eat fish.

Tuesday - tortelloni pasta with pumpkin and sage from Weightwatchers magazine - but I think I will use butternut squash

Wednesday - teriyaki salmon from Weightwatchers magazine for me, with beef medallions  for him

Thursday - chicken in a creamy tarragon sauce from Weightwatchers magazine

Friday - tuna polpette in red pepper sauce from Weightwatchers magazine; spaghetti and meatballs for him

Saturday lunch - soup with crusty bread
dinner: chicken fajitas and enchiladas I was going to do last week but didn't
dessert: pear and hazelnut crumble for me, from Weightwatchers magazine; chocolate crumble from this recipe for my husband as he doesn't eat fruit

lunch- spicy prawn pockets from Weightwatchers magazine for me, with pizza filling for him
dinner - chicken basque from Weightwatchers magazine

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday 13 November 2016

MidWeek Coconut Fish Curry

I love prawns, and think they work really well with pasta or curry, so when I came across this recipe for a coconut fish curry on the BBC Good Food website, where the prawns took centre stage, I knew I had to make it. The flavours are inspired by both India and Thailand and doesn't take that long to cook -the part that took longest was probably finding all the ingredients in the cupboard! So it makes a great mid-week meal.

The shrimp paste in the recipe is not the kind that you may have had n your sandwiches as a child; it is an essential ingredient in Thai cooking. These days it is easy to find in supermarkets like Tesco though, in the speciality ingredients aisle.

To serve 4, you need:
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, split and bruised with a rolling pin
1 heaped tbsp. medium curry powder
1 heaped tbsp. light muscovado sugar
small bunch of coriander, stems finely chopped
400g can coconut milk
450g skinless hake or other white fish fillets, cut into large chunks
220g prawns
1 lime, halved
cooked rice to serve
I also served mine with some broccoli

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the ginger, garlic, shrimp paste, chilli and lemongrass and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the curry powder and sugar and stir until the sugar starts to melt, then add the coriander stems, coconut milk and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to a simmer.

Add the fish and prawns and squeeze in half the lime. Simmer for 5 minutes until the fish is cooked, scatter over the coriander leaves and serve.

Saturday 12 November 2016

GBBO Pistachio and White Chocolate Churros

I treated myself to the latest Great British Bake Off recipe book since it was only £7 at a Book People book sale at work. This was when the series was only part-way through and I wasn't sure what they would be making each week though the recipes in the book do give a clue. I really liked the look of the pistachio and white chocolate churros, which I think I remember were made by Jane, the eventual runner-up of the show.

The full recipe is available on the BBC Food website which is helpful as it would have taken me ages to write out everything I did! I consider myself a fairly proficient baker, but I found these really hard - not to make as much as to assemble.

The book had a good explanation of how to shell pistachios; after you remove the hard shell there is still a brown skin covering the green nut. Bring the pistachios to boil in a pan of water and simmer for ten seconds; drain them in a sieve then rub with kitchen paper or use your fingers and the brown skins come off easily.

When I made the pistachio custard and pulsed the nuts in a food processor, I just couldn't get them smooth enough, so my custard was quite lumpy, even after I sieved it.

Making the churros was fairly easy but the largest star nozzle I have isn't that big - I wasn't aware that they come in bigger sizes but it meant that the churros that I piped were pretty thin. This wouldn't normally be a problem - I just rolled some of them in sugar and served them with chocolate sauce and they were brilliant. However, the idea is to pipe the pistachio custard inside the churros which I found absolutely impossible as they were so thin, and my custard was quite thick. I ended up splitting them down the middle and serving as a sort of open churro!

These did taste really nice but were quite fiddly to make with the various stages and I couldn't work out how to pipe them big enough to fill. I won't be making these again, or applying to go on the Great British Bake Off any time soon!

I'm sharing these with Treat Petite, hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat the Baking Explorer.