Monday, 23 September 2013

Meal Planning Monday 23/09/13

Monday Monday....sure there's a song with those words... but its not all down fortunately...despite being up to day 8 of my shift pattern I am still alive, though currently sustained to write this with a little glass of Soave, from Sainsburys #SoOrganic range - which I was sent to review for September Organic Month. I'm not big on white wine, quite hard to please and its not my most favourite white I've partaked in but right now its perfectly drinkable!

So onto the meal plan! As usual its a little hmm huh yeah but no but yeah..this week see's not only my darling boyfriends birthday, but my lovely neighbour and friend too so lots of cooking and eating to be done! Also around shifts its as always fun to decide between what I will cook vs what B will cook so its as always, subject to change! We have a fridge full of veggies but everything else is trying to clear the freezer of things that have been there too long..

Monday - ooh that's now! We are having flatbreads, customised into pizza style, topped with mozzarella, cheese and a little cherry tomato puree, served with salad

Tuesday - am working late...Plan is stirfry..but sometimes I am not that hungry after work so may just end up being another stab at the family sized carton of twiglets I recently bought!

Wednesday - Possibly either beef and spinach stew OR beef chilli con carne, May change altogether! Need to make B's birthday cake so need somethng simple that can just do its own thang on the hob..

Thursday - off for a Chinese to celebrate B's birthday - is proper old fashioned flock wallpaper but we love it!

Friday - My friend's birthday, the plan is to BBQ but so scared of recent chilly weather but the weather forecast looks promising...will be a mixture of Filipino and English food! Bring on the pansit and sausages!

You can see more meal plan's over at Mrs M's Blog

Friday, 20 September 2013

Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza

Now I'm not sure about you but its not everyday you see the words 'cauliflower' and 'pizza' used in the same sentence. But when its 3am, and your working nights the mind often starts to wander and whilst looking for some cauliflower inspiration, thanks to dad picking up a giant beast for me the other week, its amazing what you can stumble across...

One thing in particular that caught my attention was Cauliflower Pizza. I looked at several recipes and after consulting my B about trying it, though with some trepidation as him and cauliflower are not star crossed lovers and I'm not its no1 fan either, but we agreed to make it last week for dinner, on the basis that if all else fails then there's always the Chinese takeaway up the road...!

Fortunately for the wallet (and waistlines) the Chinese did without our business last Friday, as the 'pizza' was delicious! Its a little random, yes, but is definitely worth trying if only for the fact its super healthy and you have more than enough calories leftover to indulge in wine and something decadent for pudding but without the usual guilt after!

Just as a quick overview to show how guiltless it is - according to wiki:
Cauliflower 100g = 25 calories
Plain flour 100g = 366 calories

The original recipe came from Karen at Lavender and Lovage, who kindly gave me permission to post for you. Owing to have marginally different ingredients due to me not giving clearer instructions to the OH whilst he was out shopping, there were minor tweakings but its a near enough match! The mozzarella was a slight cheat as B bought it ready grated and the garlic was from a deli type jar of garlic cloves in herby oil, so no garlic breath after! Or not that we noticed anyway... And I have a chilli and garlic grinder so used that in lieu of the chilli flakes.

Whilst it doesn't of course have the same texture of a bread dough base, it surprisingly holds together well, and has a lovely slightly cheesey flavour, and its something we would definitely make again. It was also nice to have something a little different and makes a perfect light but surprisingly filling dinner. And whilst I was slightly dreading grating so much cauliflower, as I don't like grating anything it wasn't actually that bad, and you end with a bowl of almost fake snow, which feels quite pleasant to touch..

Serves 2:

340g grated cauliflower
1 large beef tomato, finely sliced
75g grated mozzarella
2 heaped tbsp grated grana padano
1 large egg, beaten
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Pinch dried italian herb mix
4 fresh basil leaves, sliced
Few twists chilli grinder or 1/4 tsp chilli flakes

Pre heat oven to 210o/ gas 7
Line a baking sheet with baking paper

1) Start by grating the cauliflower into a large bowl. Place in the microwave and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until softened

2) Allow to cool for a few minutes, then add the 50g of the mozzarella and the grana padano, dried herbs and a little s&p, minced garlic and the egg. Stir well to combine into a sort of dough - the cheese will melt and start gluing it all together.

3) Turn out the mixture onto the baking sheet, to form a large circle about 1/2 inch deep. Smooth over and spray or glaze with a little oil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm to touch.

4) Remove from the oven, and place the tomatoes in a nice pattern, sprinkle over the basil, remaining cheese, chilli and garlic flakes and a little seasoning. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until bubbling lightly and the cheese has melted. Garnish with a little extra fresh basil on serving.

Serve with a nice green salad and enjoy!

Many thanks to Karen

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sweet Potato Bean Burgers

This week brings another veggie posting, apologies to my more carnivorous readers but these burgers might just convince you to try going meat free one night...not only are they so cheap to make but they are easy, delicious and leave you satisfied. We actually went out yesterday to a new burger chain, which come from my boyfriends home town of South Africa, and I found myself wanting one of these veggie bad boys as it just was so good. They were pretty tasty cold for lunch the next day too smeared with chilli pepper jam!

We have been eating a lot of veggie food lately, both vegetarian and vegan and its been not only purse friendly but a great way to discover that vegetables are not just a side dish but can be the main event, my recent post of stuffed aubergines proved that! Most of the dishes are healthier too which is never a bad thing either! My boyfriend B has been really happy with all the dishes too, which always helps! Clean plates everytime are always a good sign!

I had actually secretly been wanting to make my own veggie burgers for a long time, but when I lived alone seemed a bit much to make a batch of 8 or more, especially with a microscopic freezer but with B being a willing guinea pig, the planning began!

In the fridge I still had an assortment of vegetables from dad's recent visit, and a variety of tinned beans in the cupboard and so I tried to find something that would combine them and whilst working a night shift, around 3am on my break I was browsing the net and stumbled across several hundred recipes but one that stood out was this one involving black beans and sweet potatoes. I didn't have all the ingredients but near enough could make some good substitutions and following a nice long sleep me and B set about making them together...

...And they were near perfect! A little spicy, nicely textured, held together well and we thoroughly enjoyed them! Depending on how big you make them, you will probably get between 5 and 8 burgers, we used a chef's ring to mould five of them and then the last was a giant burger that B had! Alongside the burgers, we had for the first time 'red rice' which I bought recently yellow stickered, and a spicy vegetable kinda stew, which was delicious but I only have a vague recollection of its ingredients! Certainly got most of our 5 a day I think anyway!

Makes 6-8

350g grated sweet potato
1 tbsp (a glug) of vegetable oil
1 tin kidney beans
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
5 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
1 beaten egg

Prepare a grill pan by lining with foil and greasing - spray oil makes this easy!

1) Start by getting your assistant to grate the potatoes. Meanwhile heat the oil and gently soften the spring onions, garlic and chilli.

2) Drain and mash the beans, stir into the sweet potato mix, along with the cooked onion garlic mix and seasoning.

3) Shape into patties, about 1.5cm deep and place on the prepared tray. Grill on a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until they are going nice and golden brown, gently turn over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve immediately with your desired accompaniments. We also had a tub of ready made allioli, which we are completely addicted to!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Baked Olive and Herb Stuffed Aubergines

Whilst I have flirted along since my teenage years with going veggie I never quite follow it through, something always draws me back, convenience perhaps or maybe a sausage roll wafting its evilly delicious aroma! However, I still frequently tread the veggie path as I just adore my vegetables and love to try out new vegetable based recipes, and fortunately my boyfriend B, a former meat and token veg man is most willing guinea pig and we both really enjoyed this dish last night and with very minor tweakings is definitely on the keeper list.

I do think sometimes making veggie food stand out can take a little more effort than for example cooking a chunk of meat but is so worth it, these baked aubergines were full of flavour with great texture and enjoyable to make too. They look good as well on the plate, always a bonus as they do say we eat first with our eyes!

When it comes to recipes I am a bit of a magpie, collecting them from papers, blogs, and frequently in-store magazines, sometimes they get filed away and forgotten about but I had kept this one out on purpose to remind me to make! The inspiration for these came from a little Tesco magazine but tweaked to what we had in etc. The original recipe calls for chunks of sourdough to be used but a while back I picked up from Sainsburys reduced a tub of Pistachio and herb laced chunky breadcrumbs and they did a great job, I think anything similar would suffice.

Keeping it simple, alongside I roasted baby new potatoes and these gorgeous beefsteak tomatoes, which work perfectly, providing juice. My oven is a nightmare and the only real change is longer cooking time but for a regular oven I would just stick to the recipe!

Serves two

1 medium sized aubergine
2 tbs olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Half an onion, diced
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp herby breadcrumbs
6 green olives sliced
2 tbsp grated grana padano (or veg equivalent)
1/2 lemon zest
1 heaped tbsp fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Pre-heat oven to 180/ gas 4

1) Slice the aubergine lengthways, and using a small knife and spoon remove most of the flesh from the bulbous end. Brush the shells with olive oil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until softening nicely and going golden in colour. If they are quite wobbly, take a small slice of the outer shells to give stability.

2) Finely chop the removed aubergine flesh. Heat the remaining oil in a large saute pan, and gently fry the flesh, celery, onion and garlic for about 15 minutes, add a splash of water if it looks too dry. Cool slightly and combine with remaining ingredients

3) Stuff the mixture into the aubergine shells, return to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown.

With autumn gently arriving, now that awful heat of our short summer has passed, the colour of aubergine always makes me think of darker nights drawing in and also that being they are perfectly in season, I have sent my dish over the Four Seasons Food who's current theme is Sliding into Autumn.

As this recipe came from a stashed magazine cutting, its also going into Tinned Tomatoes Bookmarked Recipes #28 challenge

Monday, 2 September 2013

Getting back on the right track..and into the kitchen

Its taken a while, but following last months tummy upset it seems to *finally* be behaving itself, and my appetite is slowly returning, along with the desire to cook. I always seem susceptible to tummy stuff, fifteen years of IBS and chronic indigestion over the past few years to add a little extra fun to the party, and after a long spell of being settled it decided to remind me its still there. I wish it wouldn't but I am back in my smaller jeans so its not all bad....!

Food plays a huge part in my happiness too, and I had felt a little low in mood again, with poor appetite and finding myself making food but then not wanting to eat it (shock horror!) but that seems to be back on the right track and the sun is starting to shine again. I recently discovered a site called Happify which I am exploring in a bid to boost myself naturally. Also letting go of the guilt of buying pre-prepared stuff helps... Nutrition plays a huge part in our overall health, eating the right foods does help boost things but occasional treats never go amiss, especially if your appetite has been off! Vegetables are great, not to mention fruit and we are well stocked up right now thanks to my dad having access to a local market and discounters, but sometimes a girl has got to have chocolate! Cadbury's often send me a few treats, most recently was their share bag of Crunchum's. Me and B couldn't decide if we liked them or not. However it took three bags to fully decide. And whilst we like the slightly salty crunch, after strenuous testing we prefer hands down their chocolate Pretzels which managed to sneak in the weekly shop!

Now I am cooking again with more thought, there has been quite a few decent dishes coming out of the kitchen, and the odd cheat item! I am baring my soul here and admitting not everything here gets made from scratch and that its okay to cheat some times!

Last week when I had my eldest niece A over, and we decided to explore some of our Polish heritage and purchased a packet of Pierogi from the local deli, which visually reminded my of the Chinese dumplings we so love to eat and pudding. Yep, pudding. Ours was translated as being cottage cheese flavour, and expecting a savoury meal I quickly made up a butter and pine nut find out they were slighly sweet, almost like icing sugar sweet! We still ate them, washed down with some Polish Kiwi and Strawberry juice but was unusual...

Another bit of a guilty pleasure sort of cheat was newly discovered 'sesame ramen' instant noodles, tarted up with some peppers and sliced frankfurters. Not very glamourous but was exactly what I fancied to eat! My dad had originally picked up the sesame noodles, and I recently found an oriental supermarket only ten minutes away so can buy them to my hearts content!

Last on my list of cheat delights was discovering those pre-filled pastas with a gorganzola and walnut filling! Dressed with a little oil, on a bed of rocket and baby spinach it made for a lovely late night after work dinner!

So I promise some 'real' dishes will start featuring again soon and thankyou for baring with me!

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