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Category Archives: Cooking
Last year I was lucky enough to be able to make many jars of blackcurrant jam with the bountiful berries harvested from the bushes in my sister’s garden. Unfortunately, as my sister no longer lives at that house, my blackcurrant picking this summer was not to be. Not to be thwarted, I have been keeping my eyes open for berries growing wild. I have my eyes on a vacant lot with loads of blackberry bushes which I am hoping will bear loads of fruit, as blackberry is my favourite jam of all!
Last night, on my way to work, I spotted a tangle of wild raspberry bushes and decided to pick some on my way home. Unfortunately, it was quite dark and I had to pick what I could without being able to see much. I planned to make jam using them along with the pears and plums I had in the fridge.
Sadly, on seeing the raspberries in the light, they were pretty rank and couldn’t be used. Not to be deterred, I pressed ahead and made pear and plum jam (sans raspberries) instead. I was a little worried it wouldn’t set properly, as I don’t add pectin, instead relying on the pectin naturally present in the fruit.
Fortunately, the jam did set and although it’s a little sweet for my personal tastes (it could do with being just a touch more tart), it’s pretty tasty. As you can see from the photo, I got just shy of four jars filled. I look forward to trying some on a slice of toast, or perhaps a home-made scone!
Ever wondered what to do with that leftover roast chicken? Sick of sandwiches? Why not try this delicious recipe for a change…
Chicken, Spinach and Soft Cheese Stuffed Cannelloni with Tomato Sauce
Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
OK, so it doesn’t look very appetizing, but I promise it tastes good!
- 1 small onion (roughly chopped)
- 2 large garlic cloves (crushed or finely chopped)
- 1 medium carrot (finely grated)
- 100g courgette (finely grated)
- 50g mushrooms (roughly chopped)
- 1 x 400g can plum tomatoes
- 500g passata
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1/4 tsp oil
- large pinch mixed dried herbs
- large pinch paprika
Stuffed Cannelloni Ingredients:
- 10 – 15 cannelloni tubes (depending on how big they are)
- 180g fresh spinach (wilted)
- 150g roast chicken (finely chopped)
- 1 small onion (finely diced)
- 200g extra light soft cheese
- To make the sauce, roughly chop one small onion, crush the garlic, and sautee in the oil till the garlic turns the colour of cappuccino.
- Add the tomatoes, passata, grated carrot and courgette, roughly chopped mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, herbs and paprika, and simmer till you reach the desired consistency and the carrot and courgette “melts” away into the sauce. You may like to add some water and then reduce it.
- To make the cannelloni stuffing, wilt the spinach, then set it aside to cool.
- Finely dice a small onion and the chicken, then stir into the soft cheese.
- Squeeze all the water out of the spinach and roughly chop it, then add to the mixture and stir through.
- Stuff the mixture into the cannelloni tubes allowing 2-3 per person depending on size. Use your fingers – it’s messy, but it’s easier, trust me! (And if your kids like helping in the kitchen, get them to do this bit – they’ll love it!)
- Place the cannelloni tubes in your baking dish, and cover with the tomato sauce.
- Pop it in the oven at 200C for around 30 minutes, till the pasta is cooked.
- Calories: 234
- Carbs: 26g
- Fat: 6g
- Sat Fat: 2g
- Protein: 18g
- Sodium: 249g
This nutritional information is based on the brands I used (Asda smart price passata and tinned tomatoes, Asda cannelloni tubes and tomato puree, Kraft Philadelphia Extra Light soft cheese). Using different brands may well result in different nutritional values.
I made this up in individual portions so I could freeze it (pre-cooking stage) and just defrost and pop it in the oven whenever I fancy some cannelloni. I allowed three cannelloni tubes per serving because the Asda ones are quite small. As you can see, I didn’t mention any cheese sprinkled on top, because I like to leave them without it in case I don’t have enough of my allowances left for the day to have that. It’s lovely with a sprinkling of cheddar melted on top, or even just a sprinkling of parmasan when you serve it. It’s great served with a green salad or some garlic bread, or just alone as a light meal.
We had a bunch of bananas that were getting a little over-ripe, so I was hunting for recipe ideas to use them up. I had a big smoothie for breakfast, but that only used one of them, so Xander and I experimented in the kitchen and came up with a lovely moist banana bread recipe that is surprisingly low in fat and calories.
Makes 1 small loaf yielding 12 slices
- 3 small bananas
- 40g honey
- 2 eggs
- 50g margerine/butter
- 200g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Mash the bananas till they’re all fluffy, then add the honey and eggs and mix well.
- Add the margerine/butter and mix well.
- Stir in the flour and mixed spice.
- Line or lightly grease a 1lb loaf tin and pour in the batter.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the banana loaf is golden and cooked through.
- Slice into 12 equal portions and keep in an air-tight container.
- Calories: 127
- Carbs: 22g
- Fat: 3g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 19g
These values are based on the brands I used (Asda Smart Price flour, honey and eggs, and Lurpack Lightest). If you use different brands, your nutritional values may differ slightly. The values offered here are merely a rough guide for you.
I think this would also be really good if sultanas/raisins were added, but you’d have to adjust the values for that.
A lovely moist banana bread that doesn’t really need anything on it! The honey lends an indulgent slight stickiness that is just gorgeous, and the banana flavour is light rather than overpowering. Just enough spice to give it a little extra flavour. Xan and I both enjoyed this and Xan LOVED mashing the bananas and stirring everything up.
I enjoyed mine with a glass of skimmed milk and I’ll be taking a couple of slices in to work with me this evening so my colleagues can try it out too!
Xander is really getting into making things in the kitchen, so when he begged me to make some cakes with him this afternoon, I couldn’t say no, and we headed through to experiment and make up a new recipe. Here’s what we came up with…
Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate On Top
Makes 6 cupcakes
- 90g banana
- 30g reduced fat peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 egg
- 40mls skimmed milk
- 100g self raising flour
- 30g sugar
- 18g chocolate buttons (3 buttons per cupcake)
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Mash the banana and mix well with the peanut butter, vanilla essence, egg and milk.
- Add the flour and sugar and mix well so that the cake batter is light and fluffy.
- Spoon into six cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.
- Remove from the oven and immediately place three chocolate buttons on top of each cupcake so that the chocolate melts, then spread it over the top of the cupcakes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Calories: 154
- Carbs: 25g
- Fat: 4g
- Sat Fat: 4g
- Protein: 4g
- Sodium: 1g
These values are based on the products I used (Asda reduced fat peanut butter; Asda Smart Price eggs and flour; Asda chocolate buttons), so if you use different brands, the values may differ slightly, but as a rough guideline, this will give you an idea.
These only have a very slightly peanut buttery taste, but the banana wasn’t so overpowering as to completely cover it – it was a very tasty combination. There was just enough chocolate on top to make it feel indulgent but without it being too much. Xander certainly enjoyed his! We had a lovely time making them together too!
Xander and I love experimenting in the kitchen together, and sometimes I like a savoury snack rather than a sweet one, so I thought we’d play around with an idea for savoury muffins and this is what we came up with. It’s a very simple recipe and it turned out delicious! Xander even enjoyed licking the batter off the spoon before it was cooked (he likes to do that with cakes, but I didn’t expect it with savoury muffins!)
Cheese, Onion and Sweetcorn Savoury Muffins
Makes 4 muffins
- 30g onion
- 30g sweetcorn
- 30g cheese
- 60mls skimmed milk
- 60g self raising flour
- 1 egg
- pinch of mixed herbs
- Preheat oven to 200C
- Dice the onion as finely as you can, and grate the cheese on the finest grate setting.
- Lightly beat the egg and milk together, then add the onion, sweetcorn, cheese, herbs and flour, and mix well.
- Spoon into four cupcake cases.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden on top.
Info for your food diary (per serving):
- Calories: 120
- Carbs: 14g
- Fat: 5g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 6g
- Sodium: 8g
These values are based on the products I used – Asda Smart Price flour and Asda Mature Scottish Cheddar (the rest are generic) – please remember to adjust the values according to the products you use – these are only a basic indication. I think a touch of broccoli and/or carrot might work well. I also like using courgette in recipes like this, so I might try adding some of those next time. If you like extra cheesy, use an extra mature cheddar and perhaps a touch of parmesan, but remember to adjust your values!
These turned out fluffy and light and just the right size to pop in a lunch box. Xan’s not keen on sweetcorn, but he only picked out a couple of pieces that he spotted in his muffin and ate the rest no bother. I’ll definitely be making these, and variations on this recipe, again – sometimes it’s nice to have a savoury snack instead of something sweet and these just hit the spot!
I love the summer – not because of the sunny weather, but because of all the summer berries that come into season! (I’m not a warm weather person – I think I was supposed to be born in the Arctic Circle, but the stork missed his mark and dropped me in the UK instead!).
Xander (my three-year-old son) is having a phase of “I don’t like that” with most fruit and veg, so I have to come up with ways of getting him to eat them without realising it. I based this recipe on the Celebration Cornet Cakes on the CBeebies website, but wanted to cut a few calories here and there to make it a treat I could also enjoy now and then. Here’s what I did:
- 1 egg white
- 30 mls oil
- 30 mls skimmed milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 20g caster sugar
- 60g self raising flour
- 60g fresh raspberries
- a few drops of pink food colouring (optional)
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Lightly whisk the egg white, and add the oil, milk and vanilla.
- Add the raspberries to the mixture and break them up to make the mixture go pink (you can add a few drops of pink food colouring if you wish).
- Add the flour and sugar and mix well. The mixture will be very sloppy.
- Divide into four cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy with a glass of milk or a cup of iced tea!
Info for your food diary (per serving):
- Calories: 146
- Carbs: 17g
- Fat: 7g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 18g
Values are based on the products I used – they may vary slightly from brand to brand. As you can see, it’s a very simple recipe, and you could easily swap out the raspberries for other soft fruit – blueberries or blackberries, or even cherries might be nice, but remember to change your nutritional values to correct them.
I have to say, I’m very pleased with how these turned out. They weren’t particularly pink, but then I didn’t use any food colouring in mine – if you want your cupcakes more rosy, you can add a little extra colour if you wish. These are very light little cupcakes and have a pleasantly fruity flavour which is complemented by the vanilla, but neither overpowers the other. The verdict from my 3-year-old son is that they are yummy, so I’m happy with that!
If you try this recipe, or a variation on it, please do let me know what you think of it!
We all know kids love watching television (well, most of them do) and they get bombarded with all kinds of shows aimed at them, from Ballamory to In the Night Garden to Mr Bloom’s Nursery to I Can Cook. However, it’s not always the kids’ shows they like best, as was proven to me this week.
Xander has recently taken an interest in helping me in the kitchen. Mostly I’m baking when he wants to lend a hand – biscuits, cakes, scones, you name it, I’ve baked it – but he’s also been slowly creeping into wanting to help me make our meals too. It started with pizza – helping make he base from scratch, spreading the sauce, grating the cheese, and adding the toppings – but it’s happening more and more often with other foods too.
Although I love cooking, I think one of the main reasons Xander has suddenly shown an interest in the kitchen is because we’ve been watching Fabio Viviani‘s Chow Ciao videos on Yahoo together and he really enjoys them. In fact, whenever we watch one of those videos, Xander shouts out,
“Chow Ciao, Fabio!”
Then he snuggles on my lap and watches, all the while giving a running commentary on what’s happening, “Look, Mummy, he’s putting the oil in. Now he’s got the tomatoes. Now he’s got it on the cooker. Mmmmm it looks yummy. Is it tasty, Fabio?”
So, it seems that children’s shows can take a back seat once in a while, and we can watch a cookery show or two, even if they’re all under seven minutes long, and we can both learn something new together.
And then we can try to recreate it together in the kitchen!
What did your kid say lately?
Continuing with my baking for Xan’s party (which is today) here are the last yummies I put together to take along for everyone to enjoy.
First off, I thought I’d cater specifically for the vegetarians (my sister is a demi-veg and is going to be there today) and thought I’d offer an alternative to the sausage rolls we’ll no doubt be having. My vegetarian (not vegan, I’m afraid) version is cheese and tomato rolls.
I’m afraid I didn’t make my own puff pastry. Rather than leave it to chance, I bought some ready-made stuff (also, I was fast running out of time, so I really needed to go down the route of convenience here!), rolled it out and trimmed off the edges so they were nice and straight and even. Then I painted on a load of tomato puree, grated some cheese on top of that, and finally sprinkled on some mixed herbs. Then all I had to do was roll them up, cut them up and bake them in the oven till they were crisp and golden. Delish!
Then it was the turn of the brownies! I’ve only made these once before, so it was a bit of a risk, but they turned out so good last time I just had to try it again. They certainly look good and while I was cutting them into little bite-sized squares, I tried a little crumb that fell off and it tasted gorgeous, so I’m hopeful these will go down well. I’ve left them in the trays for easy transport so I hope they come out easily and don’t fall apart!
Last, but not least, I made some flapjacks. Chocolate chip flapjacks. Except I mucked them up a little bit. See, you have to melt the syrup, butter and sugar then stir in the oats, and I didn’t leave them to cool long enough before stirring in the chocolate chips so they got sort of, well, melty. Still, judging by the bit I licked off the spoon after smooshing the mixture into the trays, they should still taste pretty good (at least, I hope they will!). They’re all cut into squares, ready to pop out of the trays, so here’s hoping they hold together rather than crumbling – I guess we’ll see when we get them out at the party!
… Bake them into muffins!
Yup, you heard me. Lovely, yummy muffins. With carrots and courgettes in them. Trust me on this, they’re lovely!
I used the recipe from the CBeebies show I Can Cook and can highly recommend them as both kid-friendly and appealing to grown-ups alike. On this occasion, I multiplied everything by four so I could get two dozen muffins in two batches for Xan’s birthday party. And I’ll admit I threw in a few extra big, fat, juicy raisins for good measure too.