Cheese Stars

These cheesy little biscuits are quick, easy and addictive.

I’ve been making them since my eldest son’s first Birthday – he turns 15 next month! How the hell did that happen – I feel like I’ve skipped a few years somewhere along the way 😲

This is the first in a series of “quick bakes” I’ll be sharing with you over the next couple of months.

The dough for these biscuits is child’s play to work with – you simply pop all the ingredients in a food processor. You can of course do it by hand – it just takes a bit longer for the dough to come together. It helps if your butter is nice and soft.

When it comes to rolling out, the dough is very forgiving. It doesn’t seem to mind being roughly handled and re-rolled. No matter how many times I squige the cut offs back together and re-roll, the biscuits always turn out perfect -cheesy, crisp, melt in your mouth and delicious!

Cheese stars 

Slightly adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe

Obviously the amount of biscuits you will end up with will depend on the size of cutter you use. I used a small 3cm star cutter and got about 40 biscuits.

50g self raising flour

25g soft butter

80g finely grated mature cheddar cheese

20g finely grated Parmesan

1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

Preheat your oven to 200C/fan 180C.

Grease and line a couple of baking trays.

Simply mix together all the ingredients together in a bowl or place in a food processor and process until the dough comes together.

Dust a work surface with flour, then roll out the orange dough and cut out your shapes.

Place on the baking trays and bake for 8-10 minutes or until puffy and golden. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

 

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I shared these cheese stars with Bake of the week at Casa Costello

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Dundee Cake

This Scottish cake is a true classic that has stood the test of time!

As the story goes, the Dundee cake was created in the late 1700s by the Dundee based company Keiller, as a sideline to their very successful marmalade making business. The original recipe contained only sultanas and naturally, lots of orange peel.

I’m not a big fan of peel but I love citrus, so my version of this timeless fruit cake has orange and lemon zest, plus a few spoonfuls of orange marmalade.

The original recipe didn’t include cherries, but I just love them in fruit cake so I include them. If you would rather stick to tradition, just omit them and add another 50g sultanas.

Dundee cake isn’t as rich as a Christmas fruit cake – think buttery, light sponge studded with juicy, whisky soaked dried fruits and topped with crunchy almonds. No wonder it’s still going strong – it’s a fabulous cake.

Dundee Cake

You will need:

Deep 20cm round cake tin, buttered and the bottom and sides lined with baking paper

For soaking the fruits: (optional)

75ml whisky or orange juice

175g sultanas

175g raisins

50g cherries, rinsed and halved

Place the dried fruit in a medium sized bowl and pour over the whisky or orange juice. Cover and leave to soak for a couple of hours.

150g soft butter

150g caster sugar

3 large eggs

250g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

Zest of one lemon

Zest of one orange

3 tbsp orange marmalade

50g ground almonds

50g whole blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C/150C fan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour and baking powder and fold into the creamed mixture. Fold in the soaked dried fruits, lemon and orange zest, orange marmalade and ground almonds. Pour the mixture into your lined cake tin and decorate the top with the blanched almonds.

Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes2 hours (start checking the cake after 1 hour 30 – mine was ready after 1 hour 40) or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Haggis, neeps and tatties cottage pie

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!

On Thursday evening, many people will raising a glass (of whisky, of course) to celebrate the life of Scottish poet Rabbie Burns. A typical celebration includes traditional Scottish dancing, reciting Burns poems and of course haggis. The haggis is accompanied by a piper, who “pipes in” the haggis while everyone in attendance stands and claps in time to the music. Then everyone sits down as the chosen speaker prepares to recite “address to a haggis.” The haggis is cut open to dramatic effect when the speaker says the words ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’ and a toast is then made to the haggis before serving.

If, like me, you haven’t been invited to a grand Burns Supper (boo!) then I have the perfect cosy, stay at home Burns Night supper for you – my haggis, neeps and tatties cottage pie. This is a re-working of another recipe – my haggis cottage pie. This is the new and improved version!

I love haggis too much to only have it once a year – this pie is perfect Winter comfort food! I serve it with either peas or green beans and if you want to really indulge, a jug of whisky cream sauce on the side – it’s rich but bloody heavenly!

Haggis, neeps and tattie cottage pie

Everyone in Scotland has their own way of making mince – this is the way I’ve been making it for years and my family love it. If you want to stick to your own recipe, please do!

500g minced beef

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 Oxo cube

1/2 tbsp plain flour

1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Around 1/2-3/4pint beef stock (to be honest, I use Bisto)

400g haggis

Just over half of a 1.5 kg bag potatoes, peeled and cut into even sized pieces

1 small neep/turnip/swede, peeled and diced (or buy it ready mashed – I loathe cutting neeps!)

50-75g Butter for the mash, and a splash of milk


Place a large pan on the hob to heat. When the pan is hot, tip in the mince and cook until browned. Add the flour to the mince and cook for one minute. Crumble in the Oxo cube and add the onion and carrot. Add the worcestershire sauce, the beef stock, a little salt and pepper and simmer for 30-45 minutes.. Keep an eye on the pan so the mince doesn’t get too dry – you might need to add more stock. I often make the mince in advance, let it cool and pop in the fridge to save time later, plus I think it tastes better if it’s reheated later on or the next day.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place the tatties in a large pan of water.Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain and mash with the butter and milk.

Place the diced neep in a pan of boiling water and cook for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Drain, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and mash well. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. *I’ve been informed by people in the know that a wee nip of whisky is a very good addition here. I’ve yet to try it, so let me know if you do!

Remove the haggis from its packaging.

Place the mince in an ovenproof dish, crumble the haggis the mince, top with the mashed neep, then finally top with the mashed tatties. Rough up the top with a fork to get those lovely crispy bits. Cook for 40-45 minutes or until bubbling and golden.

slàinte mhath!

Easy 4 minute microwave lemon curd

Lemon curd is probably one of the most versatile things you can make. It’s delicious spread on hot toast, freshly baked scones or pancakes, mixed with cream cheese to make a really quick but delicious tart topping (fill your tart case with the lemony filling and top with berries), spread on pavlova, or add a spoonful to buttercream icing for a zesty topping for cupcakes, the list is endless!

I’m not going to claim the idea of making lemon curd in the microwave is a new thing. My friends have been raving about Rita’s recipe for years. I met the lovely Rita through the now defunct Nigella.com forum. Despite not living all that far away from each other, Rita and I have never met but we keep in touch with each other on Facebook. I saved the recipe all those years ago with good intentions, but as with many other things, I never got around to trying it. Until yesterday. I looked at the lemons sitting in the fruit bowl that were originally bought for making lemon drizzle cake (more good intentions!) I decided I would make lemon curd. I immediately thought of Rita’s recipe and decided it was about time I tried it.

I was not sorry.

It was a revelation to me. I now know why my friends love it so much.

It’s so easy!

I felt a bit silly because despite hearing rave reviews about the microwave method for years, there was a small part of me that was a teeny bit sceptical. I don’t completely trust microwaves. Was I going to end up with lemony scrambled eggs? I shouldn’t have worried. I had beautiful lemon curd in just 4 minutes. So if you would like to make this but have some reservations, please please just try it. From now on I will always make lemon curd this way.

Thank you Rita for such a great recipe!

Rita’s easy 4 minute microwave lemon curd

You will need:

Two sterilised jam jars

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

zest and juice of 3 lemons

115g butter, melted and slightly cooled (don’t add it to the egg mixture while still hot!)

In a microwave safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Add the lemon juice and zest. Whisk in the slightly cooled melted butter. Microwave on high, one minute at a time, whisking very well after each minute. This usually takes 3-4 minutes, but depends on your microwave. When you reach 3 minutes, I would play it safe by stopping and whisking after 30 seconds. You don’t want it to reach boiling point. My curd was ready after 4 minutes, but yours may take 30 seconds less or more. Stop when it’s visibly thickened, but do bear in mind that it will firm up quite considerably once cooled. If it coats the back of the spoon; you can draw a visible line down the back of the spoon with your finger, the curd is cooked. Strain through a sieve in case there are any tiny cooked bits of egg, then pour into sterilised jars.

Keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Makes 2 jars.

Fruity bran loaf

My first recipe of 2018 is a good old fashioned fruit bran loaf. If I’m totally honest, it’s the kind of thing I would have turned my nose up at as a teenager in favour of a massive piece of chocolate cake, but now I just adore a piece of squidgy fruit loaf with my cup of tea. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that we have more discerning tastes when we get older? Who knows? Who cares?

These days I just love cake in any form.

This is one of the easiest cakes you can make – you measure out all the ingredients in a teacup. Not an American cup measurement. A normal cup is fine. You don’t need to get your scales out for this recipe. Just remember – the bigger the cup, the bigger the loaf which in turn, may affect the baking time. I actually used a small mug to measure my ingredients, but it’s swings and roundabouts really.

This fruity loaf keeps well for a good few days – I’m not sure if it keeps any longer than that because mine never lasts that long! I love to eat it generously spread with butter.

Fruity bran loaf

1 cup sugar (white or brown)

1 cup mixed dried fruit – I usually use whatever I’ve got in the cupboard – raisins, sultanas, cranberries, chopped apricots and cherries are all good here

1 cup milk

1 cup bran flakes

1 cup self raising flour

Pour the sugar, dried fruit, milk and bran flakes into a large mixing bowl and stir well. Cover the bowl and leave for one hour.

When one hour has passed, preheat the oven to 180C fan 160C/gas mark 4 and lightly butter a 900g/2lb loaf tin. Sift the flour into the fruity mixture and mix gently, taking care not to overmix. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin and bake for 50-60 mins or until a sharp knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

If you give this recipe a go, please let me know what you think! Leave a comment in the box below x

I shared this post with the link up recipe of the week at A Mummy too

A very belated Christmas post

In typical fashion, I’m extremely late saying this but I just wanted to say I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

We had a lovely relaxing time – plenty of eating, drinking and spending time with family.

My desire to cook really returned with a vengeance in December. I thought that since I shared all my food pictures on my Instagram and Facebook page, it would be a shame not to post the pictures here. The decorations may be all packed away and Christmas Day is all but a slightly hazy memory by now, but let me just take you back there for a minute…..🎄

As always, I made Nigella Lawson’s fabulous chocolate fruit cake. To me, this cake is the smell of Christmas. It’s actually a boiled fruit cake – you simmer the dried fruits with coffee liqueur, orange zest and juice, honey and mixed spice. It makes your home smell amazing. It really is one of my all time favourite cakes.

Lots of mince pies were made and consumed.

I filled my pies with an suet free apple and Amaretto mincemeat. I used a Dan Lepard recipe for the pastry. It’s not your bog standard pastry recipe. Oh no. Dan’s recipe calls for ground almonds and cream cheese and let me tell you, Dan is a genius. The cream cheese helps to produce a gorgeous tender, melt in the mouth shortcrust pastry. I ate far more than I care to admit! And I wonder why I’m now having to pop the top button of my jeans open whenever I sit down. Oops🙊

You’ll find the recipe for Dan’s sweet shortcrust pastry right here To keep the kids happy I made their favourite rocky road crunch bars. After seeing one of my favourite bloggers Foodie Quine make the cutest gingerbread men rocky road, I couldn’t resist topping my sweet treat with these cute little fellas.

Over the festive season my most used cookbook is without a shadow of a doubt Nigella Christmas (quelle surprise!) I’m a huge fan of Nigella’s chilli jam recipe. It’s great for a little foodie gift but I always keep a few jars for myself because I love it so much. It’s great with cheese and cold meats, or in a bacon or sausage sandwich.

This was my breakfast one morning. Well, it was December! And there’s fruit so it’s fine, right? This is Nigella’s spruced up vanilla cake with berry balsamic fruit salad. The fruit salad is from The Mountain cafe (which is in Aviemore, not that far from where I live) cookbook and I have become addicted to making it. It’s very simple – you gently stir icing sugar, vanilla, balsamic vinegar (although you can use orange juice instead) and fresh mint into fresh berries. If you leave it to macerate for a while, the berries soak up all the flavours of the dressing. It’s really delicious and goes really well alongside so many puddings.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a pavlova and this one was pretty epic. We didn’t end up eating it until two days after Christmas because we were just too full up on other food. But once we cut into it it disappeared very quickly! It ended up with a very strange mixture of fruit on top because everyone in my house had a different idea of what fruit should adorn the pav. Note to self – next year make individual meringues! 😆

I didn’t take any pictures of Christmas dinner but we had the usual traditional fare – brined roast turkey, roast potatoes, maple roast parsnips, sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing, sprouts and gravy.

This was my Boxing Day leftovers Christmas sandwich – I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sandwich more in my life! When I think about it, I’m pretty sure I only buy a turkey every year just so I can eat sandwiches like these….

You’ve gotta have cranberry sauce at Christmas time…well I do.

Peanut butter cups from Nigella Christmas. These are so easy and quick. I’m a total peanut butter fiend so these must be hidden away from me.

Just to prove to myself we did eat something healthy! This is Christmas salad from Nigella Christmas. I just adore the colours. So pretty.

What did you eat over Christmas? Did you go traditional or did you try something different this year? Let me know by leaving a comment 🙂

A very long overdue catch up and book review – “At my table” by Nigella Lawson

Hi there! (waves)

Is anyone here? I would totally understand if I’m talking to myself, after all it’s been a long time since I posted anything on here. But just in case even just one of my readers hasn’t given up on me, I’ll continue.

How are you? I hope life has been treating you well. 2017 was a pretty eventful year for me, full of highs and lows. Kind of like being on a rollercoaster. I’m very much hoping that 2018 is a little bit calmer.

One of the main reasons I stopped blogging in 2017 was my health. When my baby boy was around 3 months old I became very ill. To cut a (very) long and boring story short, I’m getting better now. My condition isn’t going to go away overnight but it’s manageable with medication. I feel very grateful for that. There are a lot of people who sadly aren’t so lucky. I’ve learned very quickly not to take my health for granted.

So with the combination being ill, having a new baby, taking care of my older boys and trying to keep my house in an orderly manner (pfffft, who am I kidding – my poor house has been in a permanent state of disarray for as long as I care to remember) something had to give. I wasn’t spending much time in the kitchen either – I just didn’t have the inclination or energy to make anything. We became far too reliant on takeaways and ready meals, which was obviously expensive and for me, a bit depressing. If I’m unable to cook, I get quite anxious. It’s my creative outlet, my stress reliever.

September saw the release of “At my table” by Nigella Lawson. A new Nigella book is always something I look forward to. Honestly I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve! By the time it was released I was starting to feel a tiny bit better and the urge to cook again was starting to return. Plus, I had a lovely brand new kitchen to play in! Well not brand new. We bought the units second hand but thanks to my brother in law’s brilliant diy skills, they look absolutely fab for the price we paid. We had to buy a new worktop because the one that cane with the kitchen had seen better days. It’s not finished yet. We need to re-paint the walls and find new flooring. I’m having trouble deciding which colours to go with. I’m crap at making decisions. But we will get there.

I’m also pretty bad at going slightly off topic, aren’t I….? So back to Nigella. When her new book was released she received a wee bit of flak from certain media outlets claiming the recipes were “too simple.” What rubbish. Sure, some of them were simple ideas, but what’s wrong with that? There are many times in our lives when simple is exactly what is needed. I don’t want to eat complicated, fussy food at home. If I wanted that i would go to a restaurant. I want cosy, simple, good home cooking. At my table is full of those kind of recipes. Sticky toffee pudding, Queen of puddings, the fabulous egg tortilla pie and chicken and pea traybake are just a few I could mention.

I find that I discover at least one new ingredient with every new Nigella book and this time it was Aleppo pepper, also known as Turkish red pepper flakes. They have a mild, slightly sweet heat with a lemony fragrance and I’ve been using them in everything – sprinkled on top of fried eggs, in soup, curry and they are even pretty good sprinkled over salad, especially avocados. I’m not sure if Aleppo pepper is available in supermarkets yet, but I was able to source a pretty generous sized bag of the flakes online for about £2.25.

Here’s a few recipes I’ve made so far from At my table…..

Parmesan French toast. I really love this recipe – I’ve made it for lunch a few times in the last couple of months. It’s really good with a few rashers of bacon on the side and some hot tomato chutney. I actually really want to go and make this now – yum!

Lime and coriander chicken. Tender chicken breasts marinated in lime juice, zest, oil and garlic. Another easy recipe that is on the table super quick. I guess to get even more ahead of the game you could flatten the chicken breast and marinate them a few hours in advance – Nigella says to marinate for 15 minutes but I see no absolutely no reason why you couldn’t leave it for longer. Fast and delicious!

Egg tortilla pie

Oh my. I have made this so many times I’ve lost count. It’s SO good. You place ham, cheese and eggs between two tortilla wraps, press the edges together to make a “pie”, brush with oil, top with more cheese and bake. OMG. It’s perfect. I like mine with lots of sweet chilli sauce. Next time I’m going to try cooked sliced sausages instead of ham. I can imagine this would be a fantastic hangover cure. Not that I get the opportunity to do very much drinking these days! But just saying, for future reference 😉

I don’t have a picture of the finished pie – it gets eaten too quickly for that!

Black pudding hash with fried egg

When I saw this recipe I wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing this before. Everyone in my house is crazy about black pudding and whenever I boil new potatoes I always keep a few for frying the next day, which is what I did here. Mr T is a bit chilli shy so I don’t include it. I however adore a bit of heat, so I added plenty of Sriracha to mine!

Spelt spaghetti with spicy mushrooms. This was my first time trying white spelt spaghetti and definitely won’t be my last. I found it much lighter in texture than regular spaghetti and I wasn’t left with that horrible bloated feeling I always get after a big bowl of pasta. I enjoyed everything about this dish and would definitely make it again. Chicken barley.

This is very similar to something my used to make and I often make thick, “stand your spoon up in it” barley soups. This isn’t the most attractive of dishes but it’s one of my favourites – warming, homely and comforting.

Beef and aubergine fatteh. I wasn’t convinced I was going to like this but it was actually pretty tasty. I would add a bit more spice to the beef next time though – I found it very mild. I really liked the tahini yoghurt.

Moroccan vegetable hotpot. The spices in this – cumin, ginger and cinnamon are lovely and warming. A pinch of saffron adds a gorgeous golden hue. I ate this with herb flecked cous cous on a chilly afternoon.

Chocolate cake with coffee buttercream – this was one luscious cake! The sponge was so light and full of deep dark chocolate flavour (but that would have been down to the type of cocoa powder I used) and the coffee buttercream was perfect. One to make again for sure.

Apple gingerjack. You can’t go wrong with a Nigella pud and this one is fabulous. Soft, fluffy bramley apples underneath a gingery, almost flapjack like crust. This is what you would want to have for pudding on a Sunday evening after a roast dinner. Lovely.

Brussels sprouts with preserved lemon and pomegranate. As much as I love my sprouts cooked with pancetta and chestnuts, this fresh and zingy dish made a really nice change. I’m planning making this again soon with frozen sprouts.

Other recipes I’ve made but didn’t get a chance to photograph are double chocolate and pumpkin seed cookies and Brie, Parma ham and fig toasted sandwich, garlic and parmesan mash and red cabbage with cranberries. All were very good.

Out of all the recipes I’ve tried, I would (and certainly do with a few) make them all again. At my table has proved itself worthy of a permanent place in my kitchen.

If you’ve left a comment on my blog in the last 10 months and I didn’t reply, I want to apologise. I deleted the WordPress app from my phone for a long time so I wasn’t getting any notifications. I also ignored my email for a considerably long time (oh my God never again!!! You can imagine how long it took me to sift through 6 months worth of emails 🙈) so if you’re a Company and I rudely ignored your request for a collaboration/product review, I am sorry. I promise to be much more present from now on!

No Bake Chocolate Easter Fridge Cake

 I absolutely love Easter. To me it’s all about spending time with family, eating good food and there’s no rushing around the shops trying to find the perfect gift! It’s kind of like Christmas but without all the pressure don’t you think?

And of course there’s all the chocolate….

So…how does a no bake chocolate fridge cake loaded with digestive biscuits, mini eggs and mini creme eggs sound?

I was going to call this Easter rocky road, but silly old me realised that rocky road isn’t rocky road without marshmallows. You could add some if you wanted, but I just love it as it is. I made this on Sunday afternoon and it was all gone by Monday morning. It’s addictive stuff! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Chocolate Easter Fridge Cake

350g Milk chocolate, or 150g each of dark and milk chocolate

125g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

200g digestive biscuits, broken into small pieces – I tip the biscuits into a large freezer bag and pulverize them with a rolling pin – very theraputic! What you’re aiming for is both crumbs and larger pieces of biscuit.

175g mini eggs

1 89g packet Cadbury mini creme eggs

150g milk chocolate for the topping

A few crushed mini eggs for decoration

Grease and line a 22cm square tin with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup together in a large pan over a low heat. When the chocolatey mixture is smooth and melted, take off the heat. Tip in the biscuit pieces. Leave for a few minutes before adding the mini eggs and mini creme eggs. Tip the mixture into the baking tin and pop in the fridge while you get on with the chocolate topping. Melt the 150g chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Pour the melted chocolate over the chocolate slice, slightly tilting the pan so the chocolate reaches the edges. Scatter the mini eggs over the top and place back in the fridge to set before cutting into bars.

Enjoy! Just don’t expect it to hang around for very long….

I shared this post with the following link ups….

Recipe of the week at A Mummy Too

#CookBlogShare at Easy Peasy Foodie

Treat petite at Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer

The sparkle challenge with Highland Spring 

Do you drink enough water? Apparently 66% of Brits don’t feel they drink enough water on a daily basis. Highland Spring are on a mission to change that and get the nation drinking more water.

I have to say I do drink a lot of water. Not just because of the obvious health benefits – I just find it so refreshing. I find I have to keep hydrated because if I’m busy and forget to drink water, I get awful headaches. I’ve been dehydrated a couple of times and it’s awful. So I make an effort to drink at least one litre of water every day. And since I’m breastfeeding at the moment staying hydrated is more important than ever. 

I’m constantly going on my kids about the importance of drinking enough water – they must get sick of it! I’ve drummed into them that drinking water throughout the day helps them to stay alert and also helps prevent cramp when they are doing sports. And that’s just a couple of the numerous health benefits! Do they listen to me? Probably not! But lately I have seen them drinking more water and they don’t drink much diluting juice anymore, so maybe some of my preaching is finally starting to sink in…

A lot of people struggle to drink a lot of water because on its own it can be a bit boring. I like to make my own fruity ice cubes to jazz things up a little. 

It couldn’t be easier – all you do is pop your chosen fruit (or you could use herbs – I use mint) into an ice cube tray and fill with water before freezing. 

From top: Mint leaves, orange pieces, lemon and raspberries

As the ice cubes melt they infuse the water with flavour. My favourite combination is mint and raspberry but anything goes – strawberries, blueberries, the list is endless! 

These fruity ice cubes would be great for kids – anything that encourages them to drink more water and boost their fruit intake at the same time is a winner in my book!

How do you make sure you drink enough water? 

Disclaimer: Highland Spring sent me water to help me create this post. All opinions are my own.

Meal planning Monday 20/03 

Hope you all had a great week! Mine had it’s ups and downs. Hamish is still teething and I didn’t get much sleep again, although one blissful night I did manage to get an unbroken 4 hours! It’s amazing how refreshed you can actually feel on so little shut eye when you’re sleep deprived. I keep telling myself this phase won’t last and Hamish certainly seems to be growing and changing with every passing day. Hopefully he’ll start sleeping a little longer through the night again soon….*yawn* 

By the way…the highlight of last week’s menu was the cornmeal fried pork chops from Smitten Kitchen. They were amazing and will definitely be repeated often. Yum.

So before I fall asleep with my phone in my hand again (I’ve been known to do this a few times lately) here is this week’s meal plan. I’m just too tired for anything too fussy so it’s pretty simple. I’ll be back in a couple of days with an Easter rocky road recipe and a couple of review posts. See you soon! 

Monday – Chicken fried rice made by hubby 

Tuesday – Turkey burgers with sweet potato fries

Wednesday – Mackerel fillets with salad for me and chicken kiev for the boys

Thursday – Salmon fish fingers 

Friday – Steak night

 I’m linking this post with the Meal Planning Monday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

Easiyo mini yoghurt maker review

Last month Easiyo very kindly sent me their mini yoghurt maker to try. 
We go through a lot of yoghurt in our family and I heard a few of my friends rave about the Easiyo, so I was very excited to give it a go. 

The Easiyo mini makes 500g of yoghurt, which is ideal for smaller families or if you don’t want to end up with a huge portion of yoghurt. Once the yoghurt is ready it lasts for up to two weeks in the fridge. 

Why make your own yoghurt? 

Homemade yoghurt is packed full of beneficial live cultures which is very good for your digestive and immune system. And of course, it contains no artificial ingredients like many of the supermarket yoghurts. 

The yoghurt maker is very simple to use – all you need to do is fill the pot with tepid water (between 15-20C) to the first line, sprinkle in the contents of the sachet, pop the lid on and give it a good shake. Then add more tepid water to the fill level and give it another shake. 

Pour boiling water inside the Easiyo right up to the top of the red spacer, then place the pot inside the Easiyo and leave for 8-12 hours. By that time, you should have a pot of delicious, creamy yoghurt!

If you have any problems ( my first batch turned out quite runny – it turned out I didn’t pour the boiling water all the way to the top of the spacer!) then there is a lot of information and advice on the website

I received three flavours of the powdered sachets – an unsweetened Greek yoghurt, strawberry and toffee. The Greek yoghurt and strawberry were a big success for me. I loved the flavour of the strawberry. The toffee yoghurt is setting in the Easiyo as I type. The lovely toffee smell hit me as soon as I opened the packet so if it tastes as good as it smells, it should be a winner! 

***UPDATE***

The toffee yoghurt set really well! It’s thick, creamy and really tastes of toffee. Absolutely gorgeous.

The liquid sitting on the top is simply whey – sometimes it can separate but no worries – it is full of b vitamins and goodness so just stir it back in.

It’s pretty fair to say I’m impressed with the Easiyo yoghurt maker and I have already ordered some more sachets and a couple of extra yoghurt pots online so I can have a few different yoghurts on the go at once.  This could be addictive!

Easiyo sent me a mini yoghurt maker to review along with some yoghurt mixes. I was not obliged to write a positive review. 

Meal Planning Monday 13th March

I know I say this often but I seriously don’t know where last week went. Having said that, I was glad to see the back of it. I didn’t feel well at all and my mood was pretty low. I kept getting migraines and I felt really sick. I don’t know if it was a bug or if my migraines are returning with a vengeance (hopefully not.) 

I had planned to do some baking, but I was feeling so rotten I had to sleep when Hamish went down for his morning/afternoon naps. They can vary in length from 20 minutes to 2 hours, so you can never tell how long you’re going to get! 

Surprisingly, I actually stuck to the meal plan except for one night when I felt so ill my husband picked up a ready meal for us and pizza for the boys. The highlight of the week was the chicken parmigana from the new Hairy Biker’s book chicken and egg. I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, but it was really enjoyed by everyone. 

So here’s this week’s meal planner…..

Monday – chicken goujons and salad

Tuesday – Busy night with the boys having different things on after school so I’m making a super quick version of tomato and chorizo pasta

Wednesday – cornmeal fried pork chops with smashed potatoes (from the Smitten Kitchen website) 

Thursday – Sage and onion chicken and sausage traybake from Nigella. I’ve been making this recipe for years and love it!

Friday – Minced beef canelloni 

 As always I’m linking this post with the Meal Planning Monday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

Meal Planning Monday 6th March

Last week’s meal planning didn’t totally go to plan…we had a few sleepless nights with the wee one and he was extremely clingy to Mummy…so it didn’t leave me with much time for cooking. We ended up pleasing ourselves most nights…which meant chicken burgers and salad for the boys and beans or scrambled egg on toast for us! Last night’s dinner didn’t go to plan at all (see below) but hopefully we’ll get back on track this week! 

Monday – Takeaway. Oops! It was supposed to be roast chicken but we had a bit of a disaster. I went to carve the chicken after it had rested for around 30 minutes while I got everything else prepared and blood spurted out of it. Ewwwww. So annoying! 

Tuesday – Heck sausages, fried tatties and cauliflower cheese (leftovers from last night!)

Wednesday – Chicken parmigiana from the new Hairy Bikers book Chicken and egg 

Thursday – Cheesy sweet potato skins (since we didn’t have them last week!)

Friday – Creamy ham and sweetcorn pasta

 As always I’m linking this post with the Meal Planning Monday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

Roasted sweet potato and carrot soup

I’ve been making this soup a lot recently. It’s so lovely and warming, which is much needed now the weather has turned nippy. I guess it was going to happen sooner or later – we had a pretty mild Winter so it was inevitable we were going to pay for it at some point!

Roasting the sweet potatoes and carrots really brings out their natural sweetness. If you wanted to add a little spice to counteract the sweetness, you could easily add some chilli flakes but I just love this soup the way it is. It goes down very  well with kids too!

Roasted sweet potato and carrot soup

500g sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 4-5cm pieces

300g carrots, peeled and chopped into similar sized pieces as the sweet potatoes

1 large or 2 small red onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil

Salt and pepper

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 200C. Place the sweet potatoes, carrots, onion and unpeeled garlic in a roasting tin. Drizzle over the oil, add a grinding of salt and pepper and roast for 45-50 minutes or until the veg is very tender.

Leave the veg to cool a little and remove the garlic. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and set aside. Transfer the veg to a large saucepan, add the garlic and blitz with a blender until smooth. Taste the soup to see if it needs more seasoning before transferring to bowls.

I linked this post with recipe of the week atA Mummy Too

Spiralized sweet potato, courgette and spinach quiche

Spiralizing seems to be all the rage the moment. There are dozens of Pinterest boards dedicated to spiralized recipes, numerous blogs and website articles telling you how to get the most out of your spiralizer and Sainsburys are selling courgetti and butternut squash noodles.

Steamer trading cookshop sent me a Gefu spirelli spiral slicer so I could create my own spiralized recipe. I was originally going to make a spiralized salad, but I fancied trying something a little different. The night before I received the slicer I had made some shortcrust pastry for a quiche. I started to think about incorporating the spiralised veg in the quiche, but I wasn’t sure if it would work. My initial concern was that the thinly sliced veg would catch in the oven and burn or end up overcooked. There’s only one way to find out, I told myself! 

It actually worked really well – the veg was perfectly cooked through, with no mushiness at all. 

The Gefu spiral slicer did a great job of spiralising the courgette and sweet potato. The extremely sharp Japanese blades sliced through the veg super fast. But what I really love about this spiralizer is how easy it is to clean. All it needs is a quick rinse under the tap. It doesn’t take up much room either, which is perfect if you’re like me and don’t have much space left for new kitchen gadgets! 

There are 2 settings which creates 2mm or 3.5mm spirals.

Compact, simple to use and easy to clean – the Gefu spiral slicer would be a great purchase if you are interested in buying a spiralizer but don’t want a huge gadget taking up space on your work top.

The courgette fit perfectly inside the slicer but I had to cut the sweet potato which left me with a few odd pieces leftover – they won’t be wasted though, they are in the fridge destined for soup!

The nutmeg in the filling is crucial for flavour – it makes all the difference. 

Spiralized sweet potato, courgette and spinach quiche

For the parmesan shortcrust pastry:

180g plain flour

100g very cold, cubed butter

25g grated parmesan

1 large egg yolk

1-2 tsp chilled water 

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and parmesan and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1tsp water and mix until you have a dough. If the mixture isn’t forming together, add a little more water, a few drops at a time. Cover the dough with cling film and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180/350F/gas mark 4. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.

Roll out your pastry on a floured surface to fit a tart tin. Place a circle of baking paper over the pastry in the tin and fill with baking beans. I don’t have baking beans – I use pasta, dried butter beans or anything similar. Just one word of advice – don’t use lentils! I did once and I ended up with crunchy lentils in my cooked pastry. There was a slight tear in the baking paper I used to line the tin and they ended up embedded in the pastry! Not great. Place the pastry lined tin in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and the edges are golden brown. 

For the filling

Splash of oil and 25g butter

One large red onion, sliced thinly

2 tsp sugar

I large or two small sweet potatoes

One courgette

80g fresh spinach

4 large eggs

300ml double cream

2 tsp grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Handful fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

Melt the oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the onions, sprinkle over the sugar and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are very soft and caramelised. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. 

Spiralize the sweet potato and courgette. Place the onions in the pastry case and place the spinach on top. Add your spiralized veg, spreading it all out so you have an even covering. Beat together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Pour this mixture into your pastry case, going slowly to allow the mixture to sink in. Try and make sure the spinach is covered or it will catch in the oven.

As you can see my pastry shrunk a little in the top left hand corner - probably because I didn't chill the pastry case before baking!

Carefully transfer the quiche to the oven, placing on the preheated baking tray. Bake for 50 minutes or until the filling is set. 

 

I was sent a Gefu spiral slicer for review. I was not paid in cash for this review. All opinions and photographs are my own. 
The Gefu spiral slicer is available to buy online here at Steamer trading cookshop.

I shared this post over at Taming Twins for #CookBlogShare. 


Hijacked By Twins



Meal Planning Monday 20th February

Last week flew past. I genuinely don’t know where it went! It wasn’t the best week for us – I kept getting migraines and the boys weren’t 100% either. It just seemed to be one thing after another. On top of that, baby Hamish started teething and decided that sleeping is for wimps. Coffee and chocolate is keeping me going!

I’m finding meal planning really helpful though. No matter how hectic things can get, if I know what I’m cooking that night it just feels like one less thing to worry about. 

Here’s this week’s meal plan:

Monday – Chicken and chorizo pasta bake

Tuesday – Fish and wedges for me, chicken burgers for the boys

Wednesday – Leek, potato and roasted garlic soup with crusy bread

Thursday – Sausages cheesy mash and peas

Friday – Stuffed sweet potato skins

As usual, I’m not making plans for the weekend yet – my eldest son turns 14 (14!!! htf did that happen!) on Saturday  and I’m not too sure how we’ll be celebrating yet. 

Have a great week! 

 I’m linking this post with the Meal Planning Monday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

White chocolate and raspberry shortbread hearts

I’m not competely against St Valentine’s Day, but I’m not a massive fan of it either. Why do we need a date on the calendar to tell someone we love them? We should be telling them every single day anyway. 

I didn’t always feel that way. I remember those school days and the crushing disappointment you felt when you didn’t get a card from the object of your desires. Oh well, maybe next year, you told yourself. Of course by then, you’d moved on to someone else. Oh to be a teenager again…maybe not. I don’t think I could  go back to those days. 

Whether you love St Valentine’s Day or think it’s all a load of commercial crap, I hope you spent it with the ones you love x

White chocolate and raspberry shortbread hearts

Makes about 20, depending on the size of your cutter

225g soft butter

200g plain flour

100g icing sugar 

100g cornflour

150g white chocolate

Freeze dried raspberries

Grease and line two baking trays. Preheat the oven to 180C. 

In a large bowl or using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the flour, icing sugar and cornflour and mix until you have a soft dough. 

Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to an even thickness. Cut out shapes and place onto the baking tray. Bake for around 12-15 mins or until very light golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Melt your chocolate. Dip one half of the shortbread into the melted chocolate. Scatter over a few freeze dried raspberries before the chocolate sets.  

I linked this post up to Treat Petite, hosted by Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer.

#Meal planning Monday 13/02

Hi folks! How can it be Monday again already?

This menu planning is harder to do than I thought. Not impossible, just hard. The difficulty is this. Picky teenage/pre-teen kids and fussy food fads. One week they like something, next week they don’t. Son number two loves sausages. Son number one hates them. Son number one loves roast chicken. Son number 2 doesn’t. One likes fish. One hates it with a passion. I could go on but I won’t – you get the picture! 

It’s a challenge but I’m not going to let it put me off – I’ve started making whatever I want and if the boys refuse to try it, I just tell them they can make themselves scrambled eggs/beans/cheese on toast. They are old enough to make themselves something else if they don’t want what’s on offer. I refuse to get into battles with them over food. I find it exhausting and trying to force them to eat it doesn’t work anyway. 

Do you have fussy eaters in your household? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips!

This week’s menu is pretty much centered around what I know my boys will definitely eat without question and what I have to use up in the freezer. I’m trying to empty my freezer and cupboard before I do a big shop at the end of the week.

Monday – Just me and the boys tonight so I’m making a quick and easy pasta carbonara.

Tuesday – Tattie soup and oatcakes

Wednesday – Burgers, sweet potato fries and salad

Thursday – Chicken wraps

Friday – Home made pizzas

I’m not sure about Saturday and Sunday so I won’t meal plan yet. 

I’m linking this post with the #MealPlanningMonday bloghop, hosted at Hijacked by Twins and Little Paper Swans

Celebrating National Bagel Day with New York Bakery Co

Happy National Bagel Day!

I loves me a bagel. Plain, sesame, cinnamon and raisin, doesn’t matter what flavour, I’ll happily scoff them all.

I became addicted to the New York Bakery Co red onion and chive bagels last year while I was pregnant. I was especially fond of them with turkey, lettuce, mayo and cranberry sauce. Yum.

New York Bakery Co very kindly sent me a selection of bagels so I could come up with some new bagel toppings. 

I called this one sausage mozzarella melt – pork sausages, fresh sliced tomato, basil and lots of melted mozzarella on the oh so good cheese bagel. On a side note, I think the cheese bagels would be really good with bacon and sweet chilli sauce – I’ll be trying that soon.

Next was a little spin on the NY classic pastrami sandwich – American mustard, layers of pastrami and gherkins on a red onion and chive bagel. 

I wanted to come up with a sweet bagel so here’s a super easy and quick idea – lemon blueberry cheesecake bagel. Stir a little icing sugar and lemon zest into cream cheese. Spread on a cinnamon and raisin bagel and top with fresh blueberry sauce.

Here are some more bagel toppings we are currently addicted to:

Ham and cheese, melted under the grill (my eldest son loves this)

Banana and peanut butter

Cream cheese cucumber and chives

Cream cheese and strawberry jam (on a cinnamon and raisin)

What’s your favourite bagel filling?
New York Bakery Co supplied me with the bagels. All ideas and opinions are my own. 

#NationalBagelDay

Meal Planning Monday 6/2/17

Hello Monday! I can’t believe we’re now into February. I’ve been meaning to start this weekly menu planning thing for ages but kept putting it off. But I’m going to give it a go because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself staring at the contents of the fridge/freezer/my bulging food cupboard at 5pm (my name is Nicola and I have a terrible food hoarding addiction) with no clue what I’m going to make.

It doesn’t help that my teenage boys have suddenly turned very fussy and trying to find meal ideas that everyone is happy to eat has become quite frankly, a real headache.

So I’ve devised a meal plan for the week ahead (not including the weekend because I won’t know what our plans will be until the middle of the week) going by food I already have in the freezer/cupboard so the only shopping I should have to do this week is for bread, milk and a few fresh bits.

So here goes! 

Monday – Beef fried rice (made with leftover roast beef from last night’s dinner)

Tuesday – Orange glazed pork loin steaks with tomato couscous 

 Wednesday: Chicken Fajitas

Thursday: Blood orange glazed salmon for myself and Son number 2, Southern breaded chicken for Hubby and Son number 1

Friday:  Sausage, sweet potato and apple traybake from A glug of oil

There we have it..my first weekly meal planner. It might be a tad ambitious for the first week – we don’t always eat this well! Thankfully my hubby is on holiday this week so at least he will be on hand to help amuse the wee one while I cook. Here’s hoping it will make life a bit easier for us! 

 

Hijacked By Twins

I shared this post with the #MealPlanningMonday link up, which is hosted by Kirsty at Hijacked by twins and Cathryn at Little Paper Swans. I’ll be checking out the other blogger’s meal plans tonight for inspiration! 

Do you meal plan? Leave a comment and let me know if it works for you!