Tag Archives: Cooking

First jam of the season!

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!

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Chicken, Spinach and Soft Cheese Stuffed Cannelloni with Tomato Sauce

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
Serves 5

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

Directions:

  • 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.

Nutritional info:
(per serving)

  • 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.

Results:
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.

Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate On Top

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

Banana peanut butter cupcakes topped with chocolate. Delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

  • 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.

Nutritional info:

  • Calories: 154
  • Carbs: 25g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Sat Fat: 4g
  • Protein: 4g
  • Sodium: 1g

A nice B-I-G bite!

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.

The Results:
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!

Kid-speak Sunday

Being a Mum is the best job in the world and sometimes there’s the added bonus of hearing your kids come out with an absolute gem…

~***~

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?

All Things Baked And Beautiful

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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!

How do you get fussy kids to eat vegetables?

… 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.

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Tip-Top Marshmallow Hats!

After the Great Cake Pops Disaster, I decided something a lot more simple and easier to make was on the cards for the party (I’ll be making other things too, but we’ll get to those later).

To my mind, there’s nothing simpler to make than marshmallow hats. After all, they consist of only three ingredients – marshmallows, melted chocolate and Smarties. What could be simpler? I was certain I could make these for the party without messing it up!

I was still wary after screwing up the seemingly simple task of melting chocolate yesterday, so I resorted to a super-duper mega-high-tech method instead – I chopped up the bar of chocolate into really small pieces, and popped them into a small bowl, boiled the kettle, filled a large mug with boiling water, and sat the bowl of chocolate on top. Result! Perfectly smooth melted chocolate and no having to throw out four bars’ worth of mess – hurrah!

While the chocolate was melting, I cut a piece of greaseproof paper and lined the bottom of my roasting pan with it to cut on any more mess from chocolate drips. Then I simply dipped the marshmallows in the chocolate and topped each one with a Smartie.

Don’t they look lovely?

I am now wondering, however, why most of the Smarties were pink and purple with only one or two of each of the other colours? I wanted a whole rainbow of marshmallow hats, but they’re definitely dominated by the girlier shades. I’m sure I remember a more even spread of colours when I was a kid, and I particularly mourn the orange ones (there were only two!) as they were always my favourites.

Anyway, they are done. I’m just waiting for the chocolate to set so I can pop them all in an air-tight container till Sunday…