Hello world!

Inspired by a friend on Twitter, I have decided to set up this new food-related blog.  I have always enjoyed cooking but it was always something I did occasionally – a dinner party here, a cake for colleagues there.  Then I had a baby and suddenly I was responsible for putting food on the table and making sure he ate a balanced diet and didn’t get sick.  It was very overwhelming and although I did cook, he had his fair share of baby jars!  When his little brother came along, I was so exhausted that I could barely run a brush through my hair some days, let alone cook from scratch.  We put on a lot of weight as we ate so many takeaways and ready meals as I didn’t feel like cooking.  We were spending ridiculous amounts in restaurants.  I recently gave up work and have decided to fully embrace being a “housewife” for the (hopefully) fairly limited time I’ll be one.

I have one child who is a human dustbin.  He will regularly polish off seconds AND thirds and then ask “what’s for pudding?!”.  He squeals in delight when I tell him I’ve made him something special for tea and adores to help and watch me in the kitchen.  When I put dinner on the table, he claps and thanks me and tucks into his veggies!  He is 3.  His younger brother is 2 and is a fussy little wotsit.  He appears to be vegetable-phobic.  If it’s not garlic bread, fruit or “gogurt” then he isn’t usually interested.  He also mostly refuses cake and all puddings (is he really mine?).  Something he wolfs down one day will be flatly rejected the next.  He will surprise me though – he ate a whole pile of cauliflower the other day and I nearly fainted in shock.  The child eats spoonfuls of ketchup but leaves the chips.  I am hoping this project means the children will also begin to learn some basic skills, begin to enjoy food and understand more about what we eat.  I hope it will help us to eat heathily, control our weight and save us money.  I am also hoping it helps Mr Fussy become a little less so.

So here it is, the Domestic Goddess Challenge!  I aim to cook from scratch (as much as possible, taking a few shortcuts for time reasons!) every day til the end of the year and for us to eat dinner together as a family every night .  I aim to try as many new recipes as I can, not just churn out old favourites.  However, I also reserve the right to do the odd kid’s tea of fish fingers and chips from the freezer on a Friday night!  There will be no takeaways but perhaps the odd night off in a restaurant.  I will blog as many recipes and tips and pics as I can along the way.

All comments, recipe ideas and tips gratefully received!

Sian x

Chicken Pesto Bake

Hello Strangers!

I haven’t blogged a recipe for a whole year… Lots of things have happened in that time (and will post some photographic evidence at some point).

I have been inspired to keep blogging by some very lovely pink ladies. So here is tonight’s tea, taken from the Aug 2013 edition of Essentials magazine. It is very yummy, full of cheese and great with a nice salad. Enjoy!

Chicken Pesto Bake (serves 4)

450g white sauce/bechamel
250g light mozzarella
80g Parmesan
250g baguette, in 1-2cm thick slices
4 tbsp pesto
Small bunch of chives, snipped
400g approx of chicken

1. Brown your chicken in a pan for about 5 minutes.

2. Pour your bechamel into an ovenproof dish and stir in the snipped chives and two thirds of the mozzarella and Parmesan.

3. Spread the bread slices with the pesto.

4. Stir the chicken pieces into the bechamel mixture.

5. Randomly poke the pesto bread slices into the mixture.

6. Drop blobs of the remaining pesto over the dish, followed by the rest of the cheese.

7. Pop in the oven on 200 degrees for around 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.

It goes without saying that you can make your own white sauce (flour, milk, butter and seasoning) or a jar if you’re short on time. If you have any leftover roast chicken, perhaps on a Monday, then you can use that which would make this dish super speedy!

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Dippy Dino Fun!

Not a recipe (well, I will give you my top secret sponge recipe in my next post) but I had to share this!

I have been doing a cake decorating course.  Always enjoy learning a new skill and indulging my passion for sugar…

 

I have never made my children a birthday cake before and this year I wanted that to change.  My youngest son turns 3 next week and he requested a brachiosaurus cake for his birthday party this weekend.  After panicking, I found a picture and had a go.

Had to share the photo, I am so chuffed!

 

What do you think?!

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Tagine

Another Bill Granger recipe from his new book, for the fussy vegetarian in my life….  I will give you the full recipe as it appears in the book, though I halved to quantities as it was only for one person.

 

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Tagine (serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp ground cumin

1 cinnamon stick

400ml vegetable stock

1/2 tsp saffron threads, soaked in 3 tbsp cold water

800g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained

200g greeen beans, sliced into short lengths

1 tsp honey

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion for a few minutes, until soft.  Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and cinnamon and stir well.  Cook for another couple of minutes.

2.  Add the stock and saffron (plus the water) and bring the pan to the boil.  Add the sweet potato and reduce the heat before simmering for 15 minutes.

3.  Add the chickpeas and green beans and simmer for another 5 minutes.

4.  Stir in the honey and season well.  Remove the cinnamon stick and serve with couscous or rice.

 

Stir-Fried Pork with Hoisin & Greens

This week, the new Bill Granger book dropped onto my mat from Amazon and I couldn’t wait to try this recipe out.  I was not disappointed!  It’s from his new book, “Bill Cooks For Kids”.  You could prepare the meat in advance, perhaps in the morning, and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to cook – then this recipe would take hardly any time at all.  You could also use beef or even chicken.  Instead of peeling and slicing fresh ginger, I cheated and used squeezy ginger paste.  You could serve this with rice or noodles.

Stir-Fried Pork With Hoisin & Greens (serves 4)

2 tsp cornflour

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice

400g pork, sliced thinly

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

3 tbsp chicken stock

1 tbsp peanut/groundnut oil

3cm piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 bunch of broccolini (I used tenderstem broccoli)

6 spring onions, chopped

 

1.  Put the sliced pork into a bowl and mix with the cornflour, 5 spice and sesame oil.  Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

2. Mix the soy sauce, hoisin and stock together and put to one side.

3.  Heat the groundnut oil in a wok (or large frying pan) and add the chopped broccoli, ginger and spring onions.  Stir fry for a few minutes, until the broccoli is just done.  Remove from the pan.

4.  Add the pork and stir fry for 3-4 minutes, until the pork is cooked and lightly browned.

5.  Add the greens back into the pan and add the hoisin mixture.  Stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Done!  My children both ate this up and asked for seconds – possibly my new favourite stir-fry….

 

Banana & Peanut Butter Muffins

After the success of the PB+J bars from the other day, I needed to use up the rest of the jar of crunchy peanut butter and came across this recipe from Rachel Allen. They are rather tasty!  I always have spotty brown bananas ready to be used up as well.

Banana & Peanut Butter Muffins (makes 12 large muffins)

275g plain flour

50g oats

1 tbsp baking powder

2 eggs

150g light brown sugar

2 ripe bananas (approx 200g), peeled and mashed

125g crunchy peanut butter

50g melted butter

250ml milk

 

1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees and pop your muffin cases into your muffin tray.

2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, oats and baking powder. Set aside.

3. Whisk your eggs in a clean bowl and then add the sugar.  Add the mashed banana, peanut butter and melted butter and stir until it’s all combined.  Next, add the milk and stir again.

4.  Now gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet bowl.  Try not to over mix!

5.  Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cases and bake for 18-24 minutes (depending on how efficient your oven is).  When they are done, the tops should spring back when touched.

 

Gnocchi Gratin

A fab, quick veggie supper that we all love.  This was a Good Food recipe originally, but I have tweaked it a little to fit my own store cupboard ingredients.  Great with a salad.  You can serve it quicker by leaving off the parmesan and breadcrumb gratin topping, but I like the added texture and crunch.

Gnocchi Gratin (serves 3-4)

1 x 500g pack of gnocchi

2 roasted red peppers (I use the jarred variety). skinned and roughly chopped

150g low fat garlic and herb cream cheese

100ml white wine

Pinch of grated nutmeg

100g spinach leaves (or frozen spinach, defrosted and drained)

Handful of basil leaves

50g grated Parmesan + 50g breadcrumbs for optional gratin topping

Seasoning

1.  In a pan, bring some salted water to the boil for the gnocchi and cook as per the instructions on the packet.  These don’t take more than a few minutes and will float to the surface when cooked.

2.  In another pan, heat the garlic cream cheese, wine and nutmeg until it forms a nice smooth sauce.

3.  Drain the gnocchi and mix with the sauce, peppers and spinach.  Season to taste.  You can serve it here, OR:

4.  Put into an oven-proof dish, sprinkle over the parmesan and breadcrumbs and grill for a few minutes, until golden and crunchy!

Delicious with a salad and/or garlic bread.

Sausage & Broccoli Carbonara

This is what we had for our tea last night!  It’s from this month’s issue of Good Food magazine (June 2012).  I didn’t have enough chipolatas, so I added some streaky bacon and a handful of frozen peas.  I like my carbonaras a bit creamy so I also added a couple of tablespoons of half-fat creme fraiche – which of course, you can leave out!  It may not look very beautiful but it was incredibly tasty and both boys ate lots of it – always a winner.  It took around 20 minutes to get onto the table as well.  What’s not to like!?

 

Sausage & Broccoli Carbonara (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil

8 chipolatas, skinned and rolled into balls

3 large eggs

50g Parmesan, grated (plus extra for serving)

300g spaghetti

1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets

2 crushed garlic cloves

OPTIONAL: handful of frozen peas, 2 tbsp creme fraiche, 150g streaky bacon (cut into small strips)

1.  In a pan, bring some water to the boil for the spaghetti.

2.  In a frying pan, add the olive oil and cook the sausage pieces.  Add the bacon here if using.

3.  Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet and add the broccoli (and peas) in the last 3 minutes of cooking time.

4.  In a large jug or bowl, mix the eggs and cheese (and creme fraiche is using) and seasoning.

5.  Drain the pasta and veg and turn off the heat.  Now put everything back into the saucepan (spaghetti, sausages and egg mix).  Keep stirring, the heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs.

6.  Serve immediately, with a grating of Parmesan over the top.

Lush!

PB+J Bars

I made these yesterday for my book group, taken from The Boy Who Bakes book by Edd Kimber.  Amazing!  He says it makes 12 bars but I cut mine into smaller squares as I don’t think you need much of this at a time.  You’ll need a large baking tray, approx 23 x 33cm.

PB+J Bars (makes 12 bars or 24 squares)

450g plain flour

150g caster sugar

300g unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

150g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, up to you)

300g raspberry jam

1.  Line your tin with foil and preheat the oven to 160 degrees (fan oven).

2.  Rub the flour, sugar, butter and salt together until it looks like breadcrumbs (or put into a food processor and pulse til it starts to form a dough).  Knead lightly until it forms a dough.

2.  Take 2/3s of the mixture and press it into the bottom of the tin.  Wrap the rest up and chill.  Chill the tin for 15 minutes and then bake for 25-30 minutes.

3.  When the base is cool, spread over the peanut butter.  Then spread the jam over the top.  Take the rest of your shortbread mixture and crumble it all over the top.  Bake again for 25-30 minutes, until the crumbled shortbread begins to look golden.

4.  Make sure it is completely cool before cutting up!

Enjoy!

 

 

Pan Haggerty

This is rainy weather comfort food at it’s best!  Makes sure you serve it with some nice crusty bread for mopping up all the nice juices.   The recipe I used served 6, so I halved it but you can easily re-double this recipe here if you need to.  It takes about 30 minutes in total, depending on how fast you can peel and slice the veg!  You’ll need a large frying pan or sautee pan.

 

Pan Haggerty (serves 3)

1 tbsp olive oil

200g streaky bacon

3 baking potatoes (any potatoes will do, as long as they are medium/large)

1 large onion, finely sliced

2-3 carrots (depending on size), finely sliced into rounds

250ml chicken stock

80g grated cheddar

Salt and pepper

 

1.  In your pan, add the oil and fry your bacon til crisp.  Then pop the bacon on some kitchen paper to drain while you chop the veg.

2.  Peel and finely slice the potatoes, carrots and onion.

3.  Put a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the pan, followed by a layer of onions and a layer of carrots.  Season well and add a layer of bacon.

4.  Repeat the layers again, and add a layer of potatoes on the top.

5.  Pour over the chicken stock and cover the pan with a lid or some foil.  leave it to simmer away for about 20 minutes, until all the veg is nice and cooked through.

6.  Sprinkle over the grated cheese and pop the pan under the grill for a few minutes until golden and bubbling.

 

 

 

 

Croque Madame Muffins

I really enjoyed Rachel Khoo’s new series that was recently on the BBC.  Luckily, my children bought me her book for my birthday and this was the recipe we decided to make first!  We love having a more special breakfast at the weekend rather than the rushed cereal, toast and yoghurt during the week.  These took around 25-30 minutes to get onto the table and you can cook them slightly less if you like your eggs runnier.  I left out the ham and added a bit more cheese sauce in the two I made for my husband.  You will need a deep muffin tray.

 

Croque Madame Muffins (makes 6)

6 slices of white bread, crusts removed

6 small/medium eggs

few slices of ham (approx 75g), roughly chopped

3 tbsp butter, melted

For the sauce:

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp plain flour

200ml milk

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

30g gruyere (or cheddar/parmesan), grated

Salt and pepper

1.  First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Brush the muffin pan lightly with some of the melted butter.

2.  Next, make the cheese sauce: on a medium heat, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, whisking together.  Add the milk (keep whisking!).  Add the mustard and nutmeg and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.  Then whisk in the cheese until melted.

3.  Roll the bread flat with a rolling pin and brush each side with the melted butter.

4.  Gently press the bread into the muffin pan, one slice in each hole.

5.  Add some ham into each muffin.

6.  Crack an egg into each one.  If it looks like it will overflow, take away some of the egg white.

7.  Drizzle 2 tbsp of the cheese sauce over each one and add some grated cheese and pepper on the top.

8.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs done.

 

Delicious!