Sunday, 26 February 2017

CHEESE & BACON GRATIN

We wanted to cook a roast on Sunday but had limited time as we also wanted to go to church and we didn't have a morsel of food in the fridge....not ideal when the recipe I picked out took over 4 hours. So instead I had to improvise and we decided to buy a roast chicken and cook this potato gratin from a Waitrose recipe card. It took about an hour and 15 minutes in total and was pretty easy. 

Ingredients for 4 people:

10 rashes of smoked bacon, cut into 1cm wide strips
900g mix of potatoes and sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
115g pack of baby spinach
350g gated cheddar cheese
1 bunch of salad onions, thinly sliced
200ml reduced fat creme fraiche
100ml vegetable stock
1 tsp English mustard (I used 1tbsp dijon mustard)
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds



You can fry the bacon but I prefer to grill as it is slightly healthier so start by doing this and then preheat the oven to 200 C, gas mark 6. Once the bacon is cooked, cut into 1cm wide strips and set to one side. Meanwhile cut the potatoes into thin slices.




Layer a third of the potatoes and spinach in a medium sized ovenproof dish. Scatter a third of the cheese, cooked bacon and onions on top. Continue to layer up the ingredients, setting aside a handful of cheese for the top.







Whisk together the creme fraiche, stock and mustard and pour over the layered gratin.




Scatter the remaining cheese, add a good grinding of black pepper and then pop into the oven for 40 minutes. Keep your eye on it towards the end in case the topping goes too brown. After 40 minutes, add the breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds, (and if it is too brown, cover with some foil), then put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.





Finally serve either as a main with a side salad or as a side with some roast meat such as chicken or lamb - we went for roast chicken.




I have mentioned before that I am not a huge potato fan however I really enjoyed this. The combination of the potatoes, cheese and bacon works amazingly and we all loved the crispy topping. Both my daughter and husband were also huge fans. Although Arabella (and I) thought we could add a little more cheese....maybe some mozzarella would work well! 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

ONE PAN PUTTANESCA

I am terrible at just cooking for myself - if my husband or daughter are not around I tend to live off soup or chocolate or now, as it is coming up to Easter, I love a hot cross bun - although it's not exactly a well balanced meal. Anyway I found this recipe in Olive magazine and knew I had to give it a go - I loved that everything cooks in the same pan plus it is for one person - simple, quick and easy. Apparently the idea of cooking the pasta in its sauce is all over Pinterest at the moment. The pasta soaks up the flavours and the starch from the pasta makes the sauce rich and creamy.

Ingredients for 1 person:

4 anchovies, chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 tbsp nonpareille capers
8 black olives, sliced
2 vine - ripened tomatoes, diced
4 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
100g short pasta such as penne
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A handful of basil leaves
200-300ml vegetable or chicken stock 


Chop and prepare all the ingredients and then put them in a pan and cover with the stock. You don't want to put too much stock as otherwise the sauce is too watery but you want the pasta to be covered. Season with a good grind of black pepper. 



Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 8-12 minutes, stirring the pasta occasionally to coat in the sauce. After 8 minutes try the pasta and then serve when it is ready with a couple more leaves of basil.



As a cheese addict, I added a sprinkling of Parmesan to mine however it wasn't really necessary, it was delicious on it's own. I loved all the flavours - the saltiness of the capers, anchovies and olives, the freshness of the basil and the sweetness of the tomatoes. I didn't add chilli but I can imagine it gives the dish a good kick.

I loved how easy this was to cook and the fact that you only needed one pan - less washing up is always a bonus. A perfect meal for one.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

REESE'S AND S'MORES RICE CRISPY BARS

After making the Oreo and Reese's Chocolate Sandwiches a couple of weeks ago, my daughter Arabella and I decided to make another Reese's Peanut Butter Cup inspired recipe. I am a huge fan of rice crispy cakes so the thought of one with peanut butter, chocolate and marshmallows had me salivating in a instant!!

This recipe was from the website Delish. It was tricky as the ingredients were in American measurements and I think I overdid the rice crispies but hopefully I have them right here.

Ingredients for 16 squares:

Cooking spray
110g stick of butter
200g mini marshmallows
130g smooth peanut butter
130g chocolate
70g digestive biscuits, crushed
6 peanut butter, chopped
160g rice crispies
A pinch of salt




Spray an 8" baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.



In a medium, heavy based saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat until melted and beginning to brown. It will start to foam and smell nutty. Immediately add 3/4 of the marshmallows (150g) and 1/2 the peanut butter (65g) and a pinch of salt. Stir immediately until the mixture is smooth.





Turn off the heat and add 3/4 of the rice crispies (120g) stirring quickly and making sure all the cereal is coated in the marshmallow mixture. I think I overdid the amount of rice crispies as I did the measurements wrong!!




Pour the rice crispies mixture into the baking dish and flatten down to make it compact - I used the back of a spoon to do this.



Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (or you can use a microwave). Once it is melted, stir in the remaining peanut butter and cereal and then pour this over the marshmallow rice crispies base.







Press the chopped peanut butter cups and crushed digestive biscuits on top of the chocolate and let set until firm - you can speed this up by putting it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. We did this as we were so impatient to tuck in.



Even though it already looks good enough to eat, finish off by sprinkling the remaining marshmallows on top and grilling for 1-2 minutes until the marshmallows are brown. This happens quickly so keep an eye on it.




Then eat as is or wait a bit until the chocolate firms up. We obviously could not wait and ate massive slices there and then. It was absolutely delicious and I am so pleased I wasn't put off by the complicated American measurements. I loved this twist on normal chocolate rice crispies cakes and it was really easy. A treat for both adults and kids.

Nutrition Facts Widget Image

Thursday, 2 February 2017

EASY-PEASY CUPCAKES

One of my new year's resolutions was to be more creative with my daughter Arabella. I am a complete neat freak and so am not a fan of sticking, gluing, painting etc therefore I figured we can get creative in the kitchen instead. We recently made the Oreo and Reese's Chocolate Sandwiches and to continue the sugar theme we made cupcakes. This was a recipe she had ripped out of one of her magazines so it is very kid friendly.

Ingredients for 12 cupcakes:

For the cakes:
110g self-raising flour
110g butter
110g caster sugar
2 eggs

For the icing:
140g butter
280g icing sugar
1-2 drops of pink food colouring (if you have it - we didn't)
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Hundreds and thousands
A topper such as marshmallows, sweets, chocolate mini eggs



Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Mix the butter and the sugar together and then beat in the eggs - Arabella used an electric whisk so it was quicker and easier but you could do it by hand - good for building muscles!!







Fold in the flour and mix well - we used a wooden spoon for this part.



Spoon the mixture into cake cases and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. We did 15 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.





Whilst these were cooking and cooling, we started making the icing. Beat the butter and the icing sugar together until soft with one teaspoon of vanilla extract. If you have it, mix in some pink food colouring. We didn't have some unfortunately. Arabella used the electric whisk once again and it took about 5 minutes.




Using a blunt knife, spread the icing across the cakes - I am terrible at this and have no idea how to make them "even". Thankfully we were going for the "homemade" look. 




Arabella was in charge of decorating - she sprinkled the hundreds and thousands on some and on others she put the sprinkles on a plate and rolled the cake in them. Then they were all topped with a marshmallow. 

Finally eat!!



These were really simple and quick to make - we made them from start to finish including clearing up in under an hour. Plus they were absolutely delicious. We only decided to make them that afternoon so did not have too many "decorations" however we have decided we will make pink and red ones (using food dye) with heart haribo sweets for valentines and then yellow ones with mini eggs for easter. I feel some weight gain coming on!!! A fantastic child friendly recipe.
Nutrition Facts Widget Image