Sausage, broccoli and courgette risotto

D and I are both pretty busy working full time, writing and doing amdram (he’s just landed a part doing the History Boys!). In fact you could technically say we were a busy family if you count the rabbits demolishing cardboard boxes and hiding behind the sofa. Anyway I’ve started trying to think of some relatively quick and healthy recipes that’ll keep us going all evening.

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Anyway, I felt like a start home maker (for once) making this as I used home made chicken stock in this, which did actually make all the difference (but is absolutely not essential and alas I now have no more).

To make enough risotto for 4 people you will need:

6 sausages

250g-300g risotto rice (not going to lie, I just used up a bag of rice and didn’t measure)

1 small onion – sliced

1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed

Chicken stock (about 1L)

1 glass white wine

1/2 broccoli head – cut into small pieces

1 courgette

Rosemary

Pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper

Butter

Fry the onion and garlic in butter until soft over a gentle heat. Remove the sausages from their skins and fry them with the onion and squish this into small pieces before the sausage is cooked.

Fry the rice in this for 1 minute and then add half the chicken stock, rosemary and wine and turn down to a low heat. Stir this occasionally and add more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid (and it evaporates). Once the rice seems partially cooked add the broccoli and either spiralize in the courgette (or use a potato peeler to make small pieces of it). Once the rice and vegetables are cooked season with salt and pepper. To serve top with the percorino cheese.

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Serve to your busy (and hungry) family members. Although perhaps not to your bunnies/cat/goldfish.

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Pasta bake with sage and feta meatballs

This is definitely a recipe of procrastination. I saw a picture on instagram of a meatball based pasta bake and resolved to make my own. This is a little faffy and requires a bit of early preparation but them end result looks pretty cool and this is definitely one of those you want to keep in reserve if you have to cook for somebody you’d like to impress. Also, for those of you who are more health concious or appreciate a bit of a healthy balance in your cooking I did actually make some courgetti (or is it zoodles) in amongst all the pasta which makes it feel less stodgy. Even D who can be a bit suspicious of courgettes commented how he liked that part. I think part of enjoying vegetables might just be having them might just be cutting them and seasoning them the right way. (However, I might reassess this opinion if/when we decide to actually have children).

Anyway, for this recipe it is better to make the meatballs in advance and allow them to chill and firm up. (It also makes them washing up seem less overwhelming) The actual construction of the pasta bake doesn’t take much time to put together.

For this recipe you will need:

For the meatballs

375-400g mince (I just used half of one of those big packs you can buy)

2 cloves garlic

1 handful sage leaves

1 egg

100g (approx) feta cheese

2 slices brown bread

For the pasta bake

2 mugs full of pasta shapes

1 large jar of passata

1 teaspoon chilli sauce

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 courgette

Gouda or similar cheese

Salt and pepper

Serves 4

To make the meatballs first put the feta, bread and sage in a food processor and blend. To this add the egg and meat. Roll the meat mix into your desired meatball size and set aside to cool in a sealed box for a few hours.

Now I made a bit of a schoolboy error when I made this and thought it would be like lasagne where I could get away with not cooking the pasta but you do in fact need to cook this. If you try to cook it in the sauce you will be waiting for ages while your intended food recipients almost cry with hunger. Anyway, cook the pasta and brown your meatballs.

Put the pasta in a casserole dish (I used my beloved Le Creuset). Make a sauce by mixing together your passata, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and chilli sauce. Pour this over the pasta and spiralize or grate over your courgette. (I have one like this, thanks Grandma!). Top the courgetti with the meatballs and cheese. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 30 minutes.

Delicious and filling when you’re in the mood for pasta.

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Blueberry yogurt swirl brownies (dairy and gluten free!)

Anyone who is a regular follower of this blog knows I periodically post another variation on brownies. What can I say? I like a good traybake and occasionally get a massive craving for brownies. Anyway, these came about while thinking of cheesecake brownies and wondering if I could make a swirl type brownie without using dairy products. Turns out it works pretty well and I managed to do it without using any wheat or gluten containing products. Perfect for treating your friend with the dietary requirements as you can still get all of the ingredients in your local supermarket.

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To make a batch of brownies you will need:

100g coconut oil

200g good quality dark chocolate

250g brown sugar

30g cocoa powder

4 large eggs

100g cornflour

2 tablespoons vanilla soy yogurt

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 handful frozen blueberries

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a deep baking tin with baking paper or greaseproof paper. Using an electric whisk beat together your eggs and sugar until the mix leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl melt your chocolate and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Set this aside to cool and then slowly fold this into the egg mixture.

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Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold this into the mix. Pour this into the lined baking tin.

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Mix together the yogurt, blueberries and maple syrup in a small bowl. Swirl this over the chocolate mix, but down mix too thoroughly to create a fetching pattern.

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Bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes out almost clean.

Share with your friends, especially the poor one who usually has to pass on all baked goods for dietary reasons.

Confidence

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As I write this post I have the first line of Parklife going round my head. I’ve just eating a bowl of ice cream and I’m curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle with cramps. Such is life.

I’m not one of those people who gets inundated with people asking how I get so confident; but I’m also not one of those people who is worried about talking to new people or obsesses and over thinks everything either. However, a few things this week have reminded me of how far I’ve coming in terms of feeling confident and self assured so I was hoping people could relate.

In addition, I think when you are close to rock bottom in terms of confidence one of the worst things you can be told is that “nobody will love you until you learn to love yourself.” The less said about the person that told me that one the better. Anyway; before I start my actual list I will say this is completely not true. You are worthy of love in your darkest hour. You might look in the mirror and see a monster that you aren’t, or be racked with self loathing and you will still be loved. You’ll still be wonderful, worthy of adoration and interesting to talk to. It just might take you a bit of time to like yourself and that’s ok too. Be kinder to yourself and it’ll creep in.

Anyway, here are some things that helped me with confidence in all aspects of my life:

  1. Break out of your comfort zone. Start small, go along with friends to an activity you’d think twice about, talk to someone new at a party (try not to get distracted talking to the host’s cats or dogs like I often do). But keep chipping away at it, keep the momentum of trying new things. The first time I met D in the flesh I was shaking with nerves when I was waiting for him and I often have to force myself to talk in situations where I feel uncomfortable; however in pretty much every scenario where I’ve been dreading something I feel amazing afterwards.
  2. Get moving. Find exercise you like, try new things. One of the most fun Saturday nights I have had recently was going to a trampoline park with my friend and jumping for a good 60 minutes. Anything that puts you moving and puts your heart rate up will give you a nice dose of endorphins.
  3. Give yourself some downtime. Light a few candles, bake, put on comfy clothes or watch films with your significant other (sounds so adult), with friends or on your lonesome. Anything that gives your mind a chance to relax. As I have mentioned before I am a particular fan of sofa nests.
  4. Give other people genuine compliments. This puts me in such a happy mood making people smile and it made me realise when people were saying nice things to me, they genuinely meant it. Just maybe don’t give the same people compliments every hour of every day or you’ll look like a creep (hahaha).
  5. Fake it until you make it. This one actually comes partially from my mother (Happy Mothers Day). Dress in clothes that make you happy and things that suit you, do your hair and make-up how you like, make yourself walk taller and smile. I can’t remember when I stopped doing it because it felt like the most sensible thing and it just became my life.

Obviously if you have major issues with self confidence and self esteem it is always worth talking to somebody about it and taking steps to seeking help. Nobody should have to suffer alone. But hopefully this will help somebody who is having a bad day and my experience might help someone else.

If you’re lucky and I remember I will write a sister post to this one (because I am in fact my brother’s favourite sister) in a few days about body confidence and how I found mine a bit more in my mid 20s. Thank goodness for instagram filters and boyfriends with decent fashion sense.

Anyway, in all seriousness I hope this post has cheered somebody up. I feel I have come a long way since I was the girl with shattered confidence in 2013 and I cannot thank certain people enough for giving me pep talks and encouraging me to like myself again.

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