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Meatball Madness

14 Mar

I was surprised recently to learn that ‘eating clean’ wasn’t just about green juice and limp leaves. After discovering this rather cool little website called The Kitchen Shed I’ve been educated that you can eat cleanly (if you so desire to) and still enjoy meals that seem to be rather at odds with such a notion. Such as Cheese Stuffed Meatballs – no really. Look!

As a big fan of both CHEESE and MEATBALLS (and of course TRYING TO BE HEALTHY) I had to give them a go. Look, this is basically turkey mince, bound with a little pesto and rolled into meatballs into which you press a little square of feta cheese. Easy, even for me.

FullSizeRenderI cooked these in the slow cooker with some homemade pasta sauce, I optimistically dusted with a little flour so they would hopefully keep their shape. I don’t know if flour is ‘eating clean’ I just wanted my little meatballs to stay that way.

11I’m very happy to report that – whilst a little dry – they remained as meatballish as possible (with only a small amount of mushiness).

112Don’t get hung up on the presentation I know it looks like dog food. But they tasted pretty good and the cheesy inside was a nice little surprise.

IMG_5206This is eating clean I can get on board with. No leaves in sight.

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A Right Roasting

14 Jul

I’ve always said that there are SOME things I can do. I can turn out a reasonable fry-up and my roast dinners aren’t too bad.

Actually, apart from the fact they are usually far too large and not presented that well, my roast dinner is probably my best cooked dish.

As long as the meat is something nice and easy like a chicken, rather than a slab of beef – which I would overcook and serve in dried out hunks.

But a Roast Chicken Dinner I CAN DO. Look:

Roast1

Proof!

Admittedly I’ve given up trying to make my own Yorkshire puds and my vegetables come ready prepared and easily steamed but still, it’s not bad.

I also make quite a good gravy using the meat juices. See, you’d never think that about me would you? Using meat juices.

I can also make roasties, I use the Delia par-boil method, give ’em a shake and straight into hot oil. Works for me.

Also a roast dinner HAS to have stuffing – either in slabs, balls or direct from the chicken’s arse. Also bread sauce is a deal breaker. I won’t eat or serve without.

However – and of course there is a however – I absolutely destroy the kitchen. I use every single pot and pan and usually something ends up on the floor.

Sometimes the whole family wonder whether a roast dinner cooked by me is worth the absolute devastation. I know I should clean as I go but I find everything kind of comes together all at the same time and pans, knives, serving spoons, jugs are all needed all at once and so kind of get left.

Roast2

For which I get… a right roasting.

Creme Brûlée Hooray!

2 Apr

Regular readers will know how much I love a cooking ‘kit’, those packets that give you all you need to create a specific dish. I know better cooks than me will obviously sniff at such things but hey – I’m a self confessed rubbish cook so I’ll take all the help I can get.

So… I was very pleased to try out the Creme Brûlée kit sent to me by Sainsbury’s to try out.

Creme Brûlée is one of those mystery puddings, if I was pushed I’d find it hard to describe what was in it or how to make it. I sure do love eating it though and so does my son and so he agreed to help me make it.

FullSizeRenderI agree this doesn’t look too inspiring. But to these two little packets you just add some double cream and semi-skimmed milk and you should end up with four little tasty puds.

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Put the main mix in a pan with the cream and milk and bring to the boil while stirring continuously. First job for the little lad to do.

This eventually turns into a thick custard and smells absolutely delicious!

You pour this unctuous stuff into four little ramekins (those little glass tubs you save up from the GU puds) and put them in the fridge for four hours or until set.

And here are mine going in – admittedly there are some little burnt bits from the bottom of the pan in here making them look a bit bumpy – but I figured it would all add to the flavour? Brûlée means ‘burnt’ right?

FullSizeRender[2]After a few hours take your firm puddings out of the fridge and sprinkle the dark sugar over the top and then grill them until the top crinkles and turns into a crust.

Now, I have to admit I do not have a working grill currently – the one in the oven and the one in the microwave are both so smoky when turned on it renders them useless. Don’t ask why I don’t clean them because I do but they then seem to end up more chemical and worse than ever. So we do not grill anything in my house.

Of course as I never read a recipe to the end before I embark on my cooking adventure I didn’t know a grill would be involved until I was already committed to the custard.

However ALL WAS NOT LOST because they were great just with some sugar sprinkled over the top – in fact they tasted absolutely lovely. And to make up the effect I did try and burn a bit of the sugar with a lighter but then I burnt my fingers so really DO NOT TRY THAT AT HOME. See my efforts here:

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But I am totally chalking this one up as a success because:

  • My son and I got to do some simple cooking together
  • I never make puddings because I find them too mysterious
  • They tasted absolutely luscious and what’s not to like about sweet baked custard?
  • This is a cheap and easy way to make something that could be rather impressive – if you have a working grill of course

More Cooking Kits Successes:
Mary Berry’s Christmas Cupcake Mix
Witches Hats on Trial for Halloween 

Witches Hats on Trial for Halloween

1 Nov

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I love Halloween, I love it!

I probably love it more than the rest of the family sadly but they usually humour me. I’ll happily take on anything related to the season and so was happy to be sent these fun little Witches Hat Cake Pops by Asda. I have had great successes in the past with these baking kits (no really they work for those of us who aren’t natural bakers!) but was even more delighted to discover that no actual baking or cooking was involved. Nope, you didn’t even have to turn the oven on but you could still make something quite sweet and impressive and of course fun for the kids to make too.

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All these little hats needed was some butter from your own kitchen and you’re off. Mix the cocoa crumb with softened butter and then shape into the provided wafer cones. Fashion some of the mix into the hat brims (not as easy as described) and leave to set in the fridge with the little skewers inserted into them – the box is a handy holder here.

Then spread with melted chocolate before adding some little edible white stars and abracadabra – Halloween witch hats that taste surprisingly lovely and it looks like some actual effort went into them, when it didn’t.

Now that’s magic!

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Some Summer Holiday Success

4 Sep

Thank goodness it’s all over, am I right mums?
Yes the little loves are finally back to school and no more days spent looking for something to do.
Of course some of those long summer days had to involve cooking – it’s a conspiracy, adverts everywhere talking about easy recipes you can make with the kids, bored children wanting to ‘make cakes with mummy’, it drives me mad but we did partake.

And so here I share with you two actual things that worked out for us this summer holiday!
First up we made these weird ice cream cone cupcakes that came from a £2.50 Asda ready made kit. The fun was more in the making of them because they actually tasted SO SWEET they were inedible. The dog however absolutely loved them:
photo 2-1

And then there was the advert on the TV suggesting we could freeze yogurt into cold, fruity treats, it seemed far too simple to be true, but it really was. My son and I spooned out little dollops of a rather boring strawberry yogurt onto some foil and popped them in the freezer with some toppings, he chose tic-tacs and I chose raspberries.
Going in:
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And here are they are after about an hour in the freezer:

 

 

photo 2-2

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The tic tac ones worked better than the fruit ones because frozen raspberries aren’t great – who knew?

The process of freezing made a rather dull fat free yogurt taste weirdly luxurious and creamy.

I became so happy with my new simple summer holiday cooking (or freezing) that I went a bit mad and made loads. After the initial tasting session my son got a bit bored and declared he didn’t want them anymore and so I now have lots left over. Which reminds me I am glad once more the holidays have finished….

 

 

Some rather racy Thai thanks to Racey

11 Jul

Years ago I used to live in a lovely flat in Notting Hill with a lovely friend called Rachel, I always say that while I lived there I had the time of my life (and I really did), Rachel and I had a lot of fun but I won’t go into any of that here. I knew she had spent a lot of time in Thailand and travelling the far east but I certainly don’t remember her cooking for me and I certainly didn’t for her (I don’t think we ate a lot in those days) but now Rachel is a fully grown up food blogger writing about beautiful, easy Thai food over on Racey’s Easy Thai(ish) Cooking.

We met up recently and in amongst the memories of our shared flat we also discussed me trying out a couple of her (easier) recipes, and so this week I did! She suggested the simplest might be her ‘Lovely Mince & Noodle Thing’ (it doesn’t have a name) and try out her technique to make perfect rice.

photo 1

First up Mince & Noodles.

It certainly seemed simple enough, and I prepped all the ingredients easily:

This is the mince mixed with soy sauce, curry powder, salt, pepper and flour. Plus chopped celery and garlic, a jug of stock and some red wine vinegar mixed with chilli flakes.

I then browned the mince mix in a frying pan in a little oil before adding the celery, garlic and stock to the pan to simmer for about 15mins.

 

photo 2This bubbling away made the whole kitchen smell lovely .

As soon as the celery started to soften and the stock had absorbed I was left with an unctuous mix that a pack of ‘straight to wok’ noodles was added (well I wouldn’t spoil it by making my own).

After another couple of minutes I added the vinegar and chilli mix and turned it out onto a plate to serve with some salad.

Well…. I have to say it was incredibly tasty, so if you actually have all the right ingredients and follow a recipe exactly as someone has described it works really well? Who knew?

photo 3

As I was on a roll I tried out Rachel’s rice the very same night. Now me and rice do NOT get on very well as this blog will testify. I now use the microwave sachets – which taste terrible – just because I cannot take any more burnt pans, sloppy rice pudding or grains like little bullets, but I thought it was worth another go.

Again I did exactly as Rachel explained, no washing, no  banishing of starch, no stirring, I just put some rice in a pan of salted boiling water and after 12 minutes took out and let it steam in a sieve for another 10 minutes above some remaining hot water. And look – fluffy and separated well cooked grains of rice – a cautious but well received success! My husband couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.
photo 4 Thanks Rachel!

Pot Noodle and I Grow Up

27 May

I used to love a Pot Noodle when I was younger, they seemed incredibly modern and were very useful during my early ‘vegetarian years’ when I lived at home and refused to eat anything my family cooked (and of course never cooked anything for myself).

I grew up, moved out, moved on, started eating meat again, but the hankering for the naughty noodle remained. Chicken and Mushroom was my favourite or Chow Mein at a push (never Beef and Tomato) and so usually once a year the feeling would over take me and not be satisfied until I had mixed up my little sachets and boiled that kettle. Sometimes I couldn’t even wait until it had all softened up and chose to eat those noodles hard.

However, my very real MSG intolerance caught up with me and my beloved PNs had to go because of course they were full of the stuff, which is why they tasted so great. Sigh.

Now I am a lot older and not only have to deal with the fact I can’t eat MSG but wheaty things give me a terrible bloat and almost everything causes my stomach acid to come back up – but that’s a different story – the thing is I have to be a bit more careful with what I eat. So I am always MORE than happy to find things that not only stop my tummy blowing up but are easy and remind me of being young.

photo[1]Bring forth the Kabuto Gluten Free Rice Noodles – and praise them for what they are, for they are decent, tasty noodles in a pot that you activate with boiling water but without that wheat protein that causes me a bit of trouble. Simple enough for students, the inebriated, the hungover, me, everyone. And about as far from a Pot Noodle as you can get without going too far if you know what I mean?

And having just downed both the Chicken and Miso versions I can confirm that there is no sign of any bloating. Win, win, I’m in.

Thanks to Kabuto for sending me some of their Gluten Free Rice Noodles to test out, it’s like they knew about my early love affair with Pot Noodles, it’s like they knew about my poor digestion, it’s like they can see into my very soul…

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Friends Provide The Spice of Life

12 Feb

I have some very lovely friends who often help me out with kitchen tips and ideas.

Creative cook Claire made me up a beautiful parcel of exciting foodie items to help me out recently and I’ve enjoyed trying out various things such as pomegranate molasses, vanilla sticks and harissa. As a big fan of flavours from around the world she also packed in two lovely new spice packs I had no idea even existed! Sumac (or Somaq) and Za’atar:

photo 1Claire gave me some ideas of what to do with them and because I love North African and Middle Eastern food plumped for a chicken and chickpea tagine. (Normally I would buy a paste or a packet marked with the words TAGINE or CURRY or SHEPHERDS PIE so there could be no mistake as to what I was attempting).

I hoped my new flavoursome additions would raise the basic taste of that lovely bird into something all together meatier. And indeed it did! I happily threw my spices around with wild abandon – you know me – and ended up with this gorgeous looking dish:

photo 2The Sumac added the citrusy tang of lemons and the romantic sounding Za’atar provided the spicy, warm depths.

See – It’s not all doom and gloom in my house when it comes to cooking. Sometimes I can spice things up a bit (with a little help of course). Thanks Claire!

Minecraft Pizza! An education and an abomination.

30 Jan

Son and I got a kids cookery book for Christmas. I tried to hide it, but was reminded of it recently when my son suggested we cook more together. I held his little face in my hands not wanting to let him down, not wanting to remind him of our previous disasters. Hope always springs eternal in the young… so with a heavy heart I got the book out and said we could try to make anything he liked in it.

Happily he chose creative pizzas, I was relieved  because all that means is making shapes out of food on ready made bases. Phew, baking bullet dodged.

Sadly it wasn’t totally without trauma.

First up the Clockface Pizza – telling the time with food – what could be more educational? These pictures need no explanation but just imagine two happy human faces putting this little beauty together:

pizza

 Son happily ate all four quarters telling the time as he did so. Look, it even looks a bit like the picture in the book!
Pizz3Fired up with success and enthusiasm for this creative pizza making lark I then boldly told my son we could try any design he liked. To hell with the constraints of the book what would HE like to see on a pizza. The answer was Steve from Minecraft. What? Steve, you know from Minecraft? Right find me a picture. He did and so not without some trepidation we got stuck in…

For the uninitiated Minecraft is made up solely of squares and blocks, rather at odds with the roundness of pizza and its toppings.  I knew our happy pizza making days were at an end – before they had even really begun…

This is what Steve from Minecraft looks like:
mine-craft-steve-headsteve-head---minecraft-mask---myteespot---your-t-shirt-store-b2e0cutdAnd this is what he looks like on a pizza:

Pizza2

Son was so distraught at the abomination, the desecration of the venerated Steve that he refused to eat it and went off to play Minecraft instead. He asked me not to write about the experience and hasn’t asked to cook with me again.
He has a point. But I challenge any mother to make Steve out of pizza and not scare people?
pizz5

It’s the eyes right? They’re watching you, little pizza eyes… don’t have nightmares ok?

 

Alice’s Laboratory – New Year, New Ways With Pasta

17 Jan

It’s the new year, you’re bored, you’re trying to eat sensibly, you’re so poor you’ve only got dry old pasta in the cupboard… ok I’m painting a terrible picture but you get the idea.

I’m always keen to try new things and new ways with old things (not always successfully of course) and thought that cupboard staple dry pasta deserved another turn in my kitchen this boring January. Happily the lovely chaps at Sainbury’s sent me some of their huge range to experiment on (and no not like the time I slow cooked pasta into jelly and broke my crock pot). Time to set up Alice’s lab…

*Puts on safety goggles*
First up – if you’re trying to eat healthier then more veg is in order right? Well as I was weighing up the contents of my cupboards and thought about what a pain it would be to cook both pasta and vegetables at the same time (because I’d have to wash up two pans) I realised I could just cook them together – in the same pan. Well they both need to be boiled in water right? What’s the problem? Well it turned out there wasn’t one. I happily managed to boil up some rather lovely wholewheat tagliatelle (that’s the healthier brown stuff) with some green beans before adding a pot of fresh tomato pasta sauce:

Pasta1Look – it was really great. Not sure why I don’t cook pasta and vegetables together at lot more? I suppose as long as you wash the veg no harm done right? And you’ve saved on the washing up. Win!

Secondly – everything is not always what it seems – I was sent something called Orzo, a little packet of rice. No, I hear you cry that’s not rice that’s tiny little pasta pellets, it just looks like rice. OK right, I still thought it was rice for quite a while and bought some risotto paste I’ve been desperate to try out to go with it. As soon as I realised  that Orzo is not rice it still did not deter me, I decided to treat it as such and made a PASTA RISOTTO. Yes you read that correct.
photo 1I am unable to make real risotto – see here for evidence – so maybe this is the way forward? Certainly worked well, it behaved just like rice, just without that tiresome age of simmering and stirring, it absorbed my risotto paste and tasted pretty good too.
photo 2Well done Orzo, I applaud you.
And well done Sainsbury’s for your large range of dried pasta, I applaud you too!

PastaNext up – using spaghetti as a dessert, no just joking.
Or am I? *Puts on lab coat again*

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