Monday, 31 January 2011

Chicken and Roast Vegetable Tray Bake

The great thing about tray bakes is that all you need to do is put all the ingredients on a baking tray and whack it in the oven and, as you will probably have started to realise by now, that's the sort of recipe that i like! This recipe for Chicken and Roasted vegetable tray bake is beautiful, the juices from the chicken mix with the roasted vegetables and create an absolutely delicious sauce to spoon over the dish when you are plating it up.  For those following Weight Watchers each serving is 9 points.

You can use any sort of veg that you have lying around in your fridge to roast - I went for a pepper, a red onion, some baby plum tomatoes, some mushrooms and some new potatoes.  I cut them into large chunks and put them in a baking tray with a knob of butter, a tablespoon of olive oil, some salt, pepper, a large clove of garlic cut up into chunks and a sprinkle of dried parsley.  I mixed everything together in the baking tray to make sure the veg was coated in the oil and seasoning.  Then I placed two chicken breasts (skin on) on top of the roasted vegetables and put in a pre-heated oven on gas mark 6 (200 degrees) to cook for 35 minutes.

I served it with some salad leaves drizzled with some of the sauce from the chicken. Mmmm! Give it a try, its so easy!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Scrummy Leek and Potato Soup

Sometimes on a cold winter day I like to take the dog out for a walk and then come back and eat a nice bowl of warming soup.  Its the ultimate comfort food! This one has to be one of my favourites and its so easy to make! If you ask me its the chicken stock that makes all the difference but if you want it to be suitable for vegetarians just swap the chicken stock cube for a veggie one instead.  For those following Weight Watchers each serving is 4 points.

To make this soup to feed two people you'll need:
  • 1 large leek, diced
  • 1 medium sized potato, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Chicken stock cube
  • 1tsp dried parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to season
1) Cut the leek and potato into small chunks.  There's no need to peel the skins of the potato they add to the flavour and thicken the soup.  I use any type of potato that i have in the fridge at the time although I've found the best ones seem to be the ones used for mashing like Maris piper.

2) Add the leek to the pan with a little olive oil and fry over a low heat until it softens.  Once softened add in the potatoes and cook for a couple of minutes to release some of the starch.

3) Dissolve the stock cube in 700ml of boiling water.  Add the stock to the pan and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. 

4) Once cooked, leave it to cool for ten minutes, then add to a blender and blend until smooth.

5) Empty the contents of the blender back into the pan, warm it through and season to taste.

Serve with some crusty bread and some proper butter.  Then treat yourself to a cheeky little slice of raspberry cheesecake for desert!! :-)

Peanut Butter and Beetroot

Surely it can't just be me that eats weird food combinations from time to time? Sometimes, if I've had a hard week at work or I'm just really tired, my diet goes out the window - I eat my lunch late and I usually spend an hour wandering aimlessly around the aisles of my local Tesco or just standing in front of the cupboard turning my nose up at everything.  Then something will pop into my head that I really want and nothing else will do.  I've suffered from that a lot this week! I spent an hour in Tesco the other night not fancying anything until I spied a packet of raisin and lemon scotch pancakes. 

Then yesterday I remembered something my Grandma used to have - peanut butter and beetroot on a slice of bread!  When I first saw her make this I promptly told her how disgusting it was, then she asked me if I'd tried it.  She let me have a taste and to my surprise it was actually rather nice!

What weird food combinations do you like eating that make everyone else go "Eurgh"!?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Chicken in a creamy cider sauce

I first had this in a low fat ready meal which was so nice I wanted to try and recreate it.  The low fat creme fraiche gives it that creamy consistency without all the calories.  For those following Weight Watchers each serving is 11 points, and if you are serving with rice it is 17 points.  The recipe serves 2 and this is what you need:
  • 2 Chicken breasts, diced (1 per person)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 10 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 250ml cider (I used a still cider but i don't think it would make much of a difference if it was the fizzy variety!)
  • 1 chicken oxo cube
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 2 tablespoons half fat creme fraiche
  • Salt and pepper to season
1) First fry off the chicken, onion and mushrooms in a pan until the chicken is cooked. 

2) Crumble the oxo cube over the mixture and then add the cider.  Add the mustard and then stir to make sure everything is mixed in.  Leave to simmer for ten minutes to allow the alcohol to cook off and the sauce to reduce slightly.

3) Add the creme fraiche and simmer for a further 5 minutes.  Then add the parsley and season to taste.

I served mine with some mustard mash.  It doesn't look the prettiest but by 'eck lass it's tasty :-)

Naaachooooooooo!!!! (or Nachos to everyone else)

Sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night when I've had a hard week at work and I want to sit down and relax with a film I rustle up these nachos for tea.  They aren't all that healthy since they are covered in cheese but a little plate is enough to fill me and they are ready in no time!  It's great film food because you can eat the nachos with your hands.  The one's below are made with a chicken topping but you can swap the chicken for a meat or veg of your choice.

Here's what I used:
  • 1 pack of mini chicken fillets, diced (1 pack is enough for 2 people)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, cut into small pieces
  • Cheese (I was lazy and used a pack of already grated Cheddar and mozzarella)
  • 1/2 packet fajita seasoning (I use Old El Paso BBQ fajita seasoning)
  • Tortilla Chips (I like to use Doritos sizzling fajita or Asda's own BBQ flavour tortilla chips for a bit of a twist)
  • Various dips to serve - salsa, guacamole, onion and garlic, sour cream whatever you want really!
1) First fry the chicken, onions and pepper in a pan until the chicken is cooked and the onions have softened.  Once cooked, add the fajita seasoning and a tablespoon of water to the pan.  Stir together so that everything is covered in the seasoning.  Put to one side

2) Put a layer of tortilla chips onto a plate and sprinkle with cheese.  Place under a medium grill until the cheese has melted - this doesn't take long so keep an eye on it!

3) Once the cheese is melted remove the plate from under the grill.  Add another layer of tortilla chips then spoon the chicken/onion/pepper on top of these.  Add more cheese and place under the grill again until the cheese has melted.

4) Remove from grill and serve.  Try adding slices of tomato or some jalapeno peppers to the nachos or dollop a little bit of dip around the plate. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

Sometimes you just can't cook without....

There are certain things that I ALWAYS have in my cupboard or fridge and often end up in a lot of my dishes.  I wanted to create a top ten of things that I used quite a lot but it was hard limiting myself to ten!  So here's what I see as must have's:

The top five!!

1) Tinned Tomatoes - whether cherry, chopped or plum I always have to have tinned tomatoes in the cupboard, it suprises me the number of things I actually use tinned tomatoes in - Chorizo and Pancetta Stew, Spaghetti Bolognase, Cod with Tomato and Chorizo sauce, Meatballs with a twist, Lasagna, Soup, Casseroles...I could go on!!

2) Tomato Ketchup - hand in hand with tinned tomatoes, whatever dish I am cooking with them  it usually contains tomato ketchup too.  It's obviously become so popular in cooking that Heinz have started to change the labels to say "your secret ingredient"...and it has been just that for me for a number of years

3) Garlic and Garlic Crusher - I'm combining these two and counting them as one entry.  I've already talked about my love for the garlic crusher and its only recently when i've started to put the remains of the garlic from the crusher into a bottle of olive oil to create garlic infused oil, that i've realised how much garlic i actually use.  You can always take something out of the cupboard or fridge that's a little bit bland like mushrooms, add some garlic and hey bingo already your dish is starting to taste nicer!

4) Worcestershire Sauce - This is great in pasta bake dishes, tomato based dishes and with cheese. If you ask me cheese on toast just isnt the same without a bit of Worcestershire Sauce on top.

5) Dried Parsely - Im sure a lot of chefs would say you should always use fresh herbs, and thats great for people who dont kill the herbs whilst they are growing in a pot! Or for those people who use herbs on a daily basis and they don't rot in the fridge (yes both of these things have happened to me).  Me on the other hand, I dont think there is anything wrong with using dried herbs, yes im sure it does taste a little nicer and it looks prettier but they do the job just the same.  The herb I use most often has to be dried parsley

And the rest.......

6) Balsamic Vinegar - another one of my secret ingredients in my tasty tomato sauce.  Also great in salad dressings

7) Half Fat Creme Fraiche - I use this in all sorts of dishes as a substitue to cream.  The best one I have come across is Tesco's own healthy living half fat creme fraiche.  It's not as sickly as cream but its not as watery as other half fat creme fraiche.  I use it in currys for taking some of the heat out, in stroganoff's and in chicken in creamy cider sauce (the recipe for which is coming up later!)

8) Dijon Mustard - it was only really last year that I started to use Dijon Mustard.  Im not that keen on it in sandwiches but if I use it in my cooking I find that it takes on a whole new flavour (one which doesnt burn the inside of your nostrils!).  I mainly use it in stroganoff's and mustard stuffed chicken but it also makes a mean mustard mash!

9) Onions - I ALWAYS have onions in my fridge in the vegetable drawer, and use them a lot in cooking, from meatballs to soups, paella to a basic tomato sauce

10) Stock cubes - stock cubes are excellent and I have every available stock cube flavour; lamb, beef, chicken, fish, vegetable.  The two I use the most are the beef and chicken stock cubes.  The chicken is great in dishes where you have a white meat like turkey, chicken or pork, and it makes the best leek and potato soup!

And a little sneaky one that I just couldnt resist!

11) Salt - I know, I know its really bad for you! I never used to put salt in any of my cooking until i met my other half who is a salt addict (he salts ready salted crisps!).  Since then i've added salt into my food and although I hate admitting it, it really does make things taste a lot nicer.  I'm not talking about a ton of salt, i'm just talking a pinch of the stuff.

What things are in your cupboard or fridge that you couldnt cook without, and would your top 5 look any different to mine?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Beef Stroganoff

I always had this idea in my head that stroganoff was disgusting, it just never looked appetising, but then again the image I always had in my head was of this dark gray or brown mush in a tray because that's how it used to look when they served it in school..and lets face it, it probably didn't taste all that great either.  Then one day I had some lovely beef strips and wanted to do something a bit different with them from what I normally cooked.  I trawled the Internet and found a recipe for beef stroganoff and decided after all these years it might be worth giving it a go - and boy was that the right decision, this stroganoff is lush! For those following Weight Watchers each serving is 10 points and if you are serving it with rice it is 16 points

The recipe makes enough for two people and you will need the following to make it:
  • 1/2 pack of button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pack of beef strips
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
And here's what you need to do:

1) Briefly fry off the beef in a pan, then add the onions and mushrooms and cook gently until the onions and mushrooms soften.  Once the onions and mushrooms have softened add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes.

2) Dissolve the stock cube in 250ml of boiling water and add the stock to the pan, simmering for 5 minutes.

3) In a bowl or a cup, mix together the Dijon mustard and the tomato puree, adding a teaspoon of water to make it a bit easier to mix and pour into the pan.  Stir it and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

4) Add in 3 tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche (you can add full fat if you like but I'm on a diet!) and stir into the mixture.  Leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes, then add the parsley and season to taste.

You can serve the stroganoff with rice or tagliatelle

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Thai Salmon Kebabs

This is another tasty recipe I originally came across on BBC Good Food but then changed slightly to suit my own tastes.  It's low in fat, really easy to make and the sweet chilli marinade goes perfectly with the salmon.  To make the dish you will need

  • Salmon fillets, skinless and boneless (1 per person)
  • Half bottle of Sweet Chilli Sauce (I used original but you could also use hot)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Teaspoons dried ginger
  • Kebab skewers
And here's what you do:

1) Combine the sweet chilli sauce, lime and ginger in a bowl.  Cut the salmon into strips big enough to fit on kebab skewers.  Add the salmon strips to the marinade and leave for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb some of the flavours.

2) Thread the salmon onto the kebab skewers and grill under a medium grill for 8 to 10 minutes, turning half way through.  The salmon is done when it turns opaque.

3) Serve the kebabs with whatever you feel, I have mine with a nice salad and some new potatoes.  I tend to take the salmon off the skewers once its cooked to make it easier to serve - although it disappears a lot faster that way :-)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Meatballs with a twist

What's the twist I hear you ask? Well stuffed inside the meatball is a little bit of goats cheese.  It might not sound all that appealing but trust me you have to try it! Its nice to bite into the meatball and discover some tasty goats cheese and because some of the flavour from the goats cheese seeps through the meat when you're cooking this, it makes the tomato sauce taste gorgeous too.  Here's what you need to serve two:
  • 250g mince beef
  • 1 onion
  • goats cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley
  • basil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • sun dried tomato paste or tomato puree
  • tomato ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 500 ml beef stock
Its quite a long list of ingredients but it is worth it.  Here's what you do.  Firstly make your meatballs - to do that mix the mince with 1 teaspoon of parsley, 1 teaspoon of basil, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a squirt of ketchup (I'm allergic to eggs so i used this to bind the mixture together but actually it really adds to the flavour).  Season the mixture with salt and pepper then get your hands in the bowl and start squishing it all together...great!

Cut up some goats cheese into little squares and then take a little bit of the mince mixture and flatten it in your hand to form a circle shape.  In the middle of each circle, create a little dent and place some goats cheese in (see picture above).  Roughly fold all the meat in over the cheese and then roll between your hands to create a ball. 

Once you have made all your meatballs seal them in the pan so that they will stay together when you are cooking them later on in the tomato sauce.  Set them to one side for a bit.  To make your tomato sauce, chop 1 onion, add to the pan and soften for a few minutes along with half of the garlic.  Add your chopped tomatoes, a generous teaspoon of tomato paste, a squirt of tomato ketchup, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of balsamic vinegar and stir.  The reason i say a dash of this and a squirt of that is because you cant really say specifically how much to put in, its all a matter of taste so keep tasting as you go along.  

To the sauce, add the remainder of the garlic, a teaspoon of parsley, a teaspoon of basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for a few minutes then add the beef stock.  Add the meatballs to the pan and leave to simmer for around 20-25 minutes until the sauce has reduced and the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with some spaghetti and maybe some tasty garlic bread (although the meatballs are pretty filling on their own!)

Mustard stuffed chicken

I found this dish on my favourite website, Good Food and as usual I have put my own little twist on it.  My boyfriend and I love eating this dish, its just so tasty! If you don't like mustard don't add it, leave it with just plain cheese and maybe add some slices of tomato too, its still just as tasty.  The recipe serves two and here's what you need:

  • Prosciutto
  • Cheese of your choice (I went for low fat mozzarella and some mature Cheddar)
  • 2 skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Firstly mix the cheese and mustard together in a bowl and set to one side,  then cut your chicken breasts in half length ways.  In order to make the process of stuffing and wrapping the chicken easier I lay out a little bit of clingfilm and put two slices of prosciutto on top of the cling film.  Then lay the sliced chicken breast directly on top of the prosciutto (see photo above).  Stuff one half of the chicken breast with half of the cheese and mustard mix and fold together so that it looks like a normal chicken breast again. 

Fold one side of the prosciutto over the chicken and then the other to seal the chicken breast.  This is where the cling film comes in handy as it helps you to fold the prosciutto over the chicken.  Once the prosciutto is over the chicken breast, tuck in both sides so that it creates a little parcel. Place in a pan and seal on both sides. 

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees or gas mark 6.  Transfer the chicken breasts onto a baking tray or ceramic dish and place in the oven to cook for 20 minutes.  Don't worry if some of the cheese melts out, there'll still be plenty left inside the chicken.  I put the cheese that has oozed out on top of the chicken and serve it with a nice salad and some potatoes.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Low-fat mushrooms on toast

I first saw this recipe last summer when I was on a diet for my holidays and when the guy cooking this on the telly said it was a low fat breakfast alternative my ears pricked up...I was getting a bit sick of special k! I only tend to make this on a weekend for brunch as I am far to sleepy during the week to make anything other than a bowl of cereal.  It also makes a tasty vegetarian dish.  The recipe below serves one and for those following weight watchers it is only 4 points!

To make the mushrooms on toast you will need the following:
  • 1/2 pack of sliced mushrooms or 7 largish mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1tsp parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp half fat creme fraiche
  • bread of your choice
Firstly add a little olive oil to your pan and add the mushrooms and garlic to it.  Cook for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until the mushrooms start to go brown. While the mushrooms are cooking, toast or grill your bread.  Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and some parsley.

Add in the creme fraiche and leave to cook for a couple of minutes to warm it through.  Serve immediately on top of your toast.  

A tasty alternative to that bacon sarnie (oh who am I kidding a bacon sarnie would win every time, but still if you are on a diet its nice to know that something is low fat AND tastes nice!)


I only started to eat ribs about a year and a half ago when I went to France and had some delicious BBQ ribs.  I thought they would be difficult to cook at home since I don't have a BBQ, but no, I was wrong! You'll see from the recipe that it takes quite a while for these ribs to be ready but trust me, its totally worth spending that extra bit of time as they fall off the bone and the meat melts in your mouth.  And you'll see that it doesn't actually involve you doing a lot..bonus!

You don't need a lot of ingredients to make these ribs.  You would need a few more if you were to prepare your own marinade but I'll tackle that in another post.  For today I am cheating and using a ready made BBQ marinade (Paul Newman).

For the ribs you will need:
  • A pack of pork ribs
  • 300ml boiling water
  • BBQ marinade (either your own or a ready prepared one)
  • Salt and Pepper
 Pre-heat your oven to 130 degrees or gas mark 3.  Put your ribs into a deep baking tray or casserole dish and add 300 ml of boiling water.  Cover the dish with tin foil and leave in the oven to cook for 2 hours (I told you it took a while).

After 2 hours take the ribs out of the oven, drain off the water that is in the dish, season and cover the ribs in the marinade.  You can either leave it to marinade for a while (this is best done on a weekend when you can cook the ribs earlier in the day for later on that night) or cook them straight away.  You can either cook the ribs under a medium grill for 10-15 minutes (they get nice and caramelised that way..yum) or turn the heat up in your oven to 200 degrees or gas mark 6 and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with some onion rings and some coleslaw. 
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