Butternut squash macaroni cheese

Butternut squash macaroni cheese

This culinary experiment was brought to you by the woman who saw a picture of a healthy butternut squash based macaroni recipe but did not want to trek to the supermarket for any specific ingredients.So basically a lazy but healthy recipe without much washing up. Winner.

Basically much as we all love creamy or cheesy pasta sauces, they are more something to be enjoyed once in a while. However, pasta is cheap and fills you up for a long time and unless you have dietary reasons for avoiding gluten isn’t a food you necessarily need to avoid. In addition, if you really are watching the calories you’ll be please to know, when cooked down the texture of butternut squash goes lovely and creamy. You’ll be pleased to also note that my very hungry 6ft3 caterpillar found this filling enough after a workout; so its great for those who are watching their weight but do have a larger appetite.

To make enough macaroni for 3 servings you will need:

250g dried macaroni pasta

1 vegetable stock cube

Boiling water

150g butternut squash (frozen chunks are our new mealtime saviour)

50g sweet potato

1 red onion

1 clove of garlic

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

2 large tomatoes or 7 cherry tomatoes (chopped)

25g smoked cheddar (if you follow a vegan diet you could substitute with vegalife, or even try topping with breadcrumbs or chopped nuts)

Slice the onion and crush the garlic. Heat until soft. Add your sweet potato and squash and heat until the edges have started to soften and come away. Add your stock cube, salt, pepper, marjoram and enough water to more than cover everything. Allow the stock cube to dissolve into the water then add the macaroni and tomatoes. Top up the water if it doesn’t cover the pasta by 1/2 an inch.

Boil the pasta in the stock, stirring to make sure that nothing sticks. Keep topping up the water as needed. Once the macaroni is cooked use your spoon/spatula to squash the squash (heh heh heh), tomatoes and sweet potato. Spoon the pasta into a heat proof dish. Grate over your cheese and put under the grill (or in the oven at 200ยฐC) until the cheese begins to crisp. (If using nuts wait until the nuts brown nicely).

This can be served as a side dish or as a main meal. It is entirely up to you.

Quick banana and chocolate cookies

Quick banana and chocolate cookies

In some ways this cookie might be considered dangerous – it took me less that 20 minutes to whip up a batch. However, being able to create something so delicious in such a short time makes me feel something of a domestic goddess – these are perfect for those times when you need to produce baked goods at short notice (think work charity bake sale or mum’s coffee morning). They are also made from ingredients most people have in their cupboards – bananaphobes please note that you can substitute the banana chips for raisins should you wish to do so.

Anyway, the key with these cookies is to be cautious on the timing. Once the edges of these go golden brown remove them from the oven and allow them to cool, rather than letting the whole cookie brown, that way you have the nice contrast between crispy and soft in the cookie.

To make approx 26 cookies you will need:

1 mug soft brown sugar

125g salted butter, softened

1 egg

1 mug self raising flour

50g banana chips

2 tablespoons chocolate spread

Preheat the oven to 180ยฐC and line 2 baking trays (you will probably still need to take the cookies in batches). Using an electric whisk, wooden spoon or food processor beat together the sugar and butter until it is thoroughly mixed. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and crumble in the banana chips. Last, whisk in the chocolate spread so that it has a marbled effect.

Using a teaspoon place small amounts of the cookie mix onto your lined trays. Make sure you leave room for the cookies to spread; even if you have to bake in batches.

Bake for around 11 minutes, until the cookies are golden. They will come out of the oven very soft so be careful removing them from the baking tray. Allow to cool so the cookies can harden.

These cookies can be kept for several days in an airtight container.

Seamore pasta. Sustainable. Gluten free.

Seamore pasta. Sustainable. Gluten free.

The other week we got sent some Seamore seaweed pasta to try. Although excited to try out a new recipe, I must admit I was a bit dubious to try this one. I am happy trying new ingredients but I was a little wary about how this one would taste and what the texture would be like (I think I had had a stressful week, it always makes me wary about my cooking skills). However, this was a dream to cook (I just followed the instructions on the pack), the texture was good, it had a slight bite to it and it wasn’t overpoweringly seasidey tasting. I think it would be a great alternative for people with coeliac disease as I am aware gluten free pasta can get quite soft.

Now the benefits of Seamore are so numerous they provided me with this helpful inforgraphic for you. After all a picture paints a thousand words.seamore infographic

Anyway, as a sea themed meal, I served my Seamore pasta up with baked seabass for a quick weeknight meal.

For baked sea bass and Seamore pasta you will need:

1 sea bass fillet per person

1 preserved lemon

Olive oil

Chilli Flakes

1 handful cherry tomato halves per person

1 serving Seamore pasta per person

Preheat your oven to 200ยฐC. Boil your kettle and start cooking the Seamore pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Place your sea bass skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the chilli, chop your preserved lemon and tomatoesand disperse evenly over the fish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for approx. 15 minutes until the sea bass is opaque.

Serve the fish, lemon and tomatoes on a bed of your seaweed and enjoy!

We both really enjoyed this recipe and trying something new. Sometimes its good to get out of your comfort zone.

Seamore pasta is available to buy online and at Wholefoods stores. For more information click here.

Hello Fresh – Week One

Hello Fresh – Week One

Hello Fresh has become immensely popular of late and for good reason; it provides customers with healthy, easy to follow recipes in more or less the exact quantities required. So when a Hello Fresh sales representative came to my door I decided to give it a whirl and do a review for the first two weeks. (I do have to admit I did keep talking to the man because D had literally just got out of the shower!)

Anyway, the first box was pretty lovely. We had a steak ginger and beef stir fry, a Moroccan salmon salad and a pasta dish with lemon and tarragon. The stir fry and salmon in particular were a success and we will definitely be repeating them again.

Now D and I were discussing our first impressions and we both agreed the food was delicious, and as the cook of the household I noticed how nice it was to just have everything you need for a recipe without having to pop out to the shop for some forgotten ingredient. However, I do think it kills some of the spontaneity of cooking. I like to throw ingredients I think will work together to see what happens. However, during a busy week it was absolutely wonderful to go home and have a healthy meal on the table in less than 30 minutes without really thinking too much.

I will post a full run down after we have finished our second box but we have been really impressed. I don’t think this is something we’d opt for on a weekly basis but like I said before, it makes eating healthily on a busy week seem a lot more appealing.

I also think this might inspire less confident chefs to try new things. Sending ingredients in smaller quantities gives budding chefs a chance to cook with new ingredients without the pressure of having a lot of something left in their cupboard that they may dislike. The service that the company provides is actually amazing. Our box came on the hottest day of the year and everything remained cool and nothing spoiled. The communication of when the box was going to be delivered and where it had been left was very well organised too. Overall I am impressed so far.

Have you tried Hello Fresh or anything similar yet? Or do you have any other box subscriptions you want to recommend?

Rice Krispy Treats (Marshmallow Squares)

Rice Krispy Treats (Marshmallow Squares)

There’s something about cobbling a recipe together based on something you’ve been in a cartoon vaguely therapeutic. While throwing together ingredients for this I couldn’t help thinking back to an old episode of the Simpsons. You know the one where Marge is sent to jail and the town riots because they can’t get her rice krispy treats. While I can’t claim I need a statue erecting in my honour for making these, I do concede that they were delicious and they were very well received by the people I made them for (the cast of a play D is going to be in). Another plus is that they take barely any time to make, they’re not messy to eat and you don’t need an oven to make them. Probably perfect for a harrassed mother of 3 (or perhaps somebody who has promised his or her services helping with a bake sale and then promptly forgotten).

To make approximately 20 rice krispy treats you will need:

200-250g rice krispies

400g marshmallows

180g milk chocolate

 

Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Break up the chocolate and put in a large microwave proof bowl with the marshmallows. Heat on high for 1 minute. Check and stir. Repeat every 30 seconds until the mixture is melted. Stir vigorously.

Add the rice krispies and keep stirring until all the cereal is coated in the chocolate marshmallow mix. Spread this into the brownie tin in a thick layer. Set aside to cool for half an hour. Once the rice krispy mix is cool and everything has set; cut into squares (you decide the portion size).

Now if anyone is looking for me I’ll be dying my hair blue and styling it into a beehive.

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Sausage, broccoli and courgette risotto

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 squishย 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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Very easy slow cooked beef curry

Very easy slow cooked beef curry

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This curry is hardly a recipe. It can be knocked together in less that 4 minutes on a busy morning. While it isn’t quite as delicious as the curry my father has made me and its not a patch on the ones made by my friends from work (who have their own favourite blends of spices); it does provide a healthy comforting meal after a busy day. It can be made by even the most inexperienced cook and its a good way of using up peppers that are past their best, or beef that’s nearly at its expiry date.

Anyway; to make this “throw together curry” you will need:

1 small onion, sliced

1 1/2 peppers or a large handful of frozen peppers

1 can chopped tomatoes or 1/2 jar of passata

400g diced beef

100ml chicken stock

1 heaped tablespoon curry paste of your choice (or any blend of spices you fancy)

Switch the slow cooker on low. Place all the ingredients into your slow cooker and give a gentle mix. Cover and leave to cook for 6-8 hours. For the last half hour (or while your rice is cooking) uncover to let the sauce thicken.

I serve mine with rice. If you’re not sure how to make rice (some people struggle to get it fluffy) I usually put my rice in a jug. Measure the volume of it and cover with 1 and 1/2 times as much cold water. Put the rice on a high heat. Once the rice is simmering, turn the heat right down, stir the rice and cover the pan. Allow to simmer for 11 minutes. After the 11 minutes remove from the heat and leave to stand still covered) for another 11 minutes until fluffy.

D was working from home while this cooked and said the smell of this was making him hungry all day (I think he is a fan of this recipe).