Chilli Non Carne

16 Jun

Chilli with cheese on the side

For the past few weeks, I have been wondering what to do, with the collection of ‘mixed bean’ tins that I discovered lurking out of sight on the top shelf of one of my numerous cupboards.  This week I decided it was time for action, and my desire for health and thrift meant this is a vegetarian recipe. This created a huge pot which will easily feed us 2 adults and the children for 2 meals, if not more.

This is more a suggestion and was heavily influenced by the content of my fridge. If there had been garlic to hand I would have added some. And if I was missing one of the other ingredients I would probably have added some sweetcorn.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tins cooked mixed beans
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 red onions chopped
  • 2 red peppers chopped
  • 1/2 head celery chopped
  • 1 aubergine chopped
  • 5 medium carrots chopped
  • 1 courgette chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne chilli powder
  • 1 dessertspoon chopped jalapenos (from the freezer
  • Salt

I did the preparation and initial cooking of this dish just after clearing up from breakfast. Chop all the vegetables roughly (approx 1cm pieces, but don’t worry, no-one is getting the tape measure out!)

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot. Fry the vegetables (reserving the tinned tomatoes and beans) for a couple of minutes, then put lid on and leave to steam/fry for about 10/15 minutes, until they have started to soften. (I had a shower while this was on. but remember to put the time on, as you don’t want it to catch and burn) Add tomatoes, beans and spices and cook on a low heat until the vegetables are tender but not mushy (20/30 minutes depending on their size). The additional time while this was cooking was employed getting the children dressed and getting bags packed for a mini- shopping expedition.

Ready to serve. Or to save for later

SERVING IDEAS

The joy of this meal is you can serve it in so many ways, Tonight we had it with brown basmati rice, yoghurt and grated gruyere.  Alternatively I would use couscous. Flour tortillas work well either gently warmed and filled at the table,  or by encasing the mixture in the tortilla, covering with cheese and baking in the over (15 mins, check it doesn’t burn).  I am considering experimenting and blitzing it to see how it works as a soup. Watch this space.

For the children, I mushed the vegetables a little with a fork, and mixed in some cream cheese to tone down the spice. Mixed with grated cheese and the rice. Although there was some initial reluctance to try it, once they had a little extra sprinkle of cheese, they both started murmuring appreciative noises, and save for a couple of mouthfuls, plates were cleared. Total 10 mins prep, and minimal supervision while the chilli and rice cooked. Job done!

Chilli my way. With rice, yoghurt and coriander

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Self-cook chicken, with asparagus and roasted tomatoes

14 Jun

I love asparagus, and while it’s in season, I add some to my basket every time I shop. My asparagus surplus led to an ‘open door at fridge’ moment on Saturday morning, as I was gazing at my stockpile wondering what to do next..

We are mid-way through packing for a house move, so for the next few weeks, more than ever, speed of preparation is the over-riding priority of my cooking decisions. This is closely followed by my desire make the food as healthy as possible. I have a wedding to attend in 2 weeks time, and no funds to buy a new dress, so I need to pay my penance for the last few weeks of gluttony, and to exert just a modicum of self-control when it comes to meal time. To that end, the cake tin lies empty and abandoned at the rear of a dusty cupboard, and I seem to be eating my weight in fruit and vegetables on a daily basis (chocolate counts as a one of your five a day, doesn’t it?).

Back to the asparagus stockpile. If I had more time to spare I would have considered a risotto, but with a full schedule I had only 5 minutes to spare for the preparation. Luckily, the additional ingredients for this dish were all languishing in the fridge, teetering on the edge of their use by date, calling for a (fridge) search and rescue operation. I am pleased to report, that they were not only found and rescued, but revived with a little TLC and a 30 minute sauna in the oven!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 bunches of asparagus (1 would suffice)
  • 1/2 punnet cherry plum tomatoes
  • a few grinds of sea salt and pepper
  • a dessert spoon of shallots from the freezer
  • a dash of olive oil
  • a splash (maybe a glass) of white wine (or stock if you don’t have wine)
  • fresh rosemary (I am lucky to have some in the garden)

    Step 1 The Asparagus

To prepare the asparagus, bend the bottom half of the spear until it snaps. Discard the end, and keep the remainder. Chop the head off on the diagonal, then continue chopping the remaining spear on the diagonal. Lay the asparagus in the bottom of an oven proof dish.

Chop the tomatoes in half, lay them on top then sprinkle on the shallots. Season with salt and pepper and a few small drops of extra virgin olive oil if you have it.

Step 2. Add tomatoes, shallots and seasoning

Lay a couple of sprigs on top of the mixture. Add the wine. My top tip, whenever I have white wine left over (not that often!) I freeze it, to save opening a full bottle when just a little will do for a recipe.

Add the (frozen!!) wine

Place the chicken breasts on top and cover with tin foil.

Step 4. Adorn with the chicken breasts

Cook for approx 30 mins in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees.

Check that the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear. Then leave it to rest on the side for 5 minutes. Slice on the diagonal. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper, or as I did, with pesto on the chicken breast.

Serves 2 adults (and a couple of toddlers)

'Resting'. Almost ready!

Although I havent tried it, I suspect this would work even better with skin on chicken, and without the foil, which would allow the chicken and the asparagus to crisp up in the oven. One for another day perhaps?

Served with a drizzle of Pesto

Pink Soup

12 Jun

After my cake fest of the last couple of weeks, this week I have tried to reign in the cravings, and up the fruit and vegetable intake. I don’t ‘do’ diets. There is nothing like the lure of the forbidden to make me want something even more. I must be related to Eve!! Instead, I try to make choices that don’t feel like a sacrifice, and that sustain me without leading to hunger pangs.

One of the snippets of wisdom that i have found useful over the years, is that thirst is often mistaken for hunger.  However, I do not seem able to glug the ‘2 litres of water a day’ that seems to be the mantra of every health tipster.(Maybe if it was wine I would give it a try)  Instead, I look for alternative ways of upping the fluid intake to keep the hunger pangs and the cravings at bay.

One of my fast fix solutions to drop a few pounds quickly is to have soup for lunch. It’s quick to make. filling, and full of water.  This week I re-visted an old favourite, which is my twist on Borscht.  The preparation time for this dish is about 2 minutes, hardly a chore, even for the most committed sofa sloth.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 packet organic cooked beetroot (250g) roughly chopped
  • 250g approx plain yoghurt
  • Dessertspoon shallots (i use the pre-chopped frozen ones from the freezer)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • dollop of yoghurt and chives to serve

Mix ingredients then blitz in liquidizer or with a stick blender.

Spicy Beetroot Soup

The resulting soup has an almost smooth as velvet texture, and the spices gently compliment the earthy sweetness of the beets. The bonus is that it is virtually fat-free, without even giving the slightest impression of dietary restraint. I have successfully served this ‘pink soup’ to my little ones, (minus the cumin and cayenne). I don’t know if it is the colour or the sweetness of the beetroot, but they love it.

Garnish with a dollop of yoghurt and chives

The flavours of the spices intensify if you leave this in the fridge overnight and it can be served hot or cold. Take your pick…

Fruit Cake Anyone?

8 Jun

Before you start to gag, and think of musty, dry, traditional christmas cake, just check out the picture! 

Fruit cake, Watermelon, Raspberries, Blueberries and Grapes

 

This is not my work, but the genius idea of one of my yummy mummy friends Marcy. She created this healthy alternative to chocolate cake for her daughters 2nd birthday. And I think it looks so fabulous, that I am going to have to steal the idea and use it next time we host a summer party.

Curryinahurry

5 Jun

Mellow Madras Chicken

Rice and Peas with Coriander

MELLOW MADRAS STYLE CHICKEN, WITH RICE AND PEAS

Ever fancy a curry but even the thought of choosing which takeaway to use seems like a bit too much effort?  Keep your storecupboard stocked with these ‘cheats’ and you can have all the joy of a takeaway curry with the minimum of effort, and with the money you save by making it yourself, you can treat yourself to a bottle of wine or a few beers, and still have change.

I recommend that you marinade the meat, but if you are short on time, then you can skip that step.

INGREDIENTS LIST (serves 2)

  • 1/2 jar of madras style curry sauce
  • 200ml plain yoghurt
  • chicken thighs 2/3 per person
  • Rice
  • Spring onions
  • Frozen peas or spinach
  • Frozen or fresh chopped coriander
  • Butter
  • Salt
On your marks

My preference is to buy organic chicken thighs with the bone in. These tend to come with skin on top, and for this recipe you will need to remove that, but simply run your finger under the end of the skin and it should come off. You can of course eliminate this step by buying skinless fillets, but these are usually a bit more expensive.

Get Set (removing the skin from the chicken)

Go. Oven Ready Chicken

Mix about half the jar of curry paste with the yoghurt. Add the chicken and make sure its well coated. Cover with cling and leave in the fridge to marinade for as long as you’ve got (I usually manage 2/3 hours)

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees (or 20 degree less if a fan oven)

Cook chicken for 40-45 mins turning occasionally.

For the rice cook to packet instructions. I use the brown basmati which takes a bit longer than the white variety. In a separate pan, sweat off some onions/spring onions in 25g butter, add frozen peas or spinach, and cook for approx 5 mins. Then stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander and a little salt to taste. Add the strained rice to this mixture, combine, then leave in a covered container to keep hot. Serve with the chicken.

I often serve this with a side of broccoli that I cook in a bowl under cling in the microwave. Takes 4 minutes and makes the meal feel like a healthy option!

And if you really want to push the boat out, warm up some Indian Mini Snacks (like samosas and bhajis) in the oven while the chicken is cooking and serve as a starter.

Total prep time is 5 mins. The cooker does most of the work with the rice and the chicken, leaving you to kick back and enjoy a glass of wine, or to chat with your guests if you are entertaining.

Bon Appetit!

Bananas about Bananas

2 Jun

The Best Banana Muffin Ever?

 

There are very few people I have come across in life, that don’t like bananas. I love them. They are amazing. The ultimate fast food that come in their own biodegradable packaging.  

Even the peel is useful. Did you know the peel makes a great fertilizer for plants? Apparently its very good for rose bushes. Next time you are planting or pruning your rose bushes, dig a hole next to the bush and bury the banana peel. Then cover the whole back up. Not a tip I have tried as I am more of a ‘swingseat’ gardener than a get your hands dirty type, but maybe worth a try?  

There is no good reason why you should ever throw away a banana ever again. Ever been faced with a half-eaten/blackened banana and thought there was nothing else for it than the bin? Well stop right there. I say this with someone who is used to having half-eaten bananas discarded by my 2 year old at will.  

Did you know they freeze well? So you can freeze them with or without skin, for use at a later date in a smoothie, as ‘faux’ ice cream, or to put in banana bread.  

Put them in the bin? No chance!

 

Today I was faced with a glut of ‘decaying’ bananas, that were transformed, in under 10 minutes, into a muffin mixture awaiting a breath of life from my *blush* not too clean and slightly temperamental oven. 25 minutes later, and they were resplendent on the cake rack, awaiting almost certain instant demolition from my two little treasures.  

INGREDIENTS LIST  

  • 4.5 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 75g unsalted butter, melted
  • 175 g plain  flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Almost good as new

 

So heres what we did. Whilst still in our pyjamas, the kids washed hands, jumped on their stools and got ready for some ‘we can cook’ time with Mummy.  The banana pile, it has to be said, would not be one to get your heart racing. In fact, I am sure in most houses this would have ended up on the composting pile. However, fearless thrift warrior* that I am, we used the bananas, after checking they were just black from being bruised and not mouldy. Skin off and inside they were almost good as new.  

So we mashed bananas, melted butter and just mixed all the ingredients together in a very haphazard way. The trick with muffins is that you don’t overmix. I seem to have been drawn to a few streusel recipes of late.  That inspired me to sprinkle some crumble mixture that I found in the freezer, on top of the muffins. I then finished them off with a tiny sprinkle of caster sugar and cinnamon. but you could leave them plain. They still work!  

Then into the oven on 180 degrees for 25 minutes. And result, the perfect portable treat for our day trip to the farm.     

Keep your hands off!

 

Now don’t get me started on banana bread which I love. I make it in big batches then slice it and freeze it, ready for breakfast on the run, and packed lunches. Recipe to follow.  

If you too are bananas for bananas, then I would love to hear your tips and recipes. If you fancy something a little more decadent, maybe involving frosting, then try the Banana and Carrot cake by Mummy Mishaps 

Too good not to eat

 

*When I say thrift I have no intention of implying hardship. Its not a matter of being cheap. More, making sure every penny counts, so there is room left for a few of lifes essential pleasures. Like lipgloss, and champagne.  

 

Bank Holiday Ideas

31 May

I have been taking a break to spend time with the family this weekend, but if you are stuck for ideas on this miserable bank holiday, then here is a copy of my post today on the British Mummy Bloggers website.

Just when you thought that British Summertime had arrived, the good weather fairy packed her bags and went away for the weekend, leaving us with grey overcast skies and drizzle that seem to be mandatory for every Bank Holiday.

Add a couple of children into the mix, and you may by now be wringing your hands with despair at what to do. Do not despair. If you live close to London, then you are spoilt for choice, and most of the ideas below are free, or can be managed even on a tight budget.

I would recommend avoiding the usual suspects like the Science Museum and The Natural History Museum. Instead, spread the net a little wider and you can find a whole host of places to go, that wont break the bank.

One of my favourites, The Horniman Museum is in South-East London. It is to my mind, a scaled down version of The Natural History Museum. It has huge grounds for the children to run around in, and they even have a covered glass conservatory with chairs and tables that you can eat your packed lunch at. And its FREE.

The RAF Museum at Hendon is another great day out. Loads of room for the children to run about, and lots to see and do.

If you prefer a central location, then you could do worse than a visit to the Tate Modern. Although it gets busy, the sheer size and scale of the place means that there is room for the children to run about. And afterwards you can stroll along the riverside, or go for a boat ride if you are feeling up to it.

Another favourite haunt of mine (not the children) is The Wallace Collection. Although the kids may not enjoy it so much, it’s a stones throw from Carluccios in St Christophers Place, and Selfridges, so you can bribe the little ones with pasta or a trip to the toy department after your visit.

Many of the London Attractions offer a 241 deal if you travel by train. Look for the offers on DaysOutGuide.

Another of our favourite days out is a trip to Box Hill. We take a packed lunch (usually eaten in the car) then wander through the woodland looking for ‘The Gruffalo’ . The OH makes Gruffalo noises (!) and the children spend ages checking behind trees and bushes. We never find him, but the children don’t seem to mind!!

If you cannot be bothered with a packed lunch, there are a plethora of meal deals on offer at the moment. Have a look at the vouchercodes website for this weeks best deals.

If you fancy a splurge and want to dine out in style (with toddlers in tow) then look no further than BabyDinesOut. This stylish restaurant reviewer, has done all the work for you, with toddler in tow, so have a browse and take your pick.

Finally, if you just want to snuggle up at home, then roll up your sleeves, and get baking with the kids. Have a look at my site for some fast food ideas, or check out MyDaddyCooks if you want a video demo too!!

Have a great Bank Holiday!!