In Hels Kitchen #4

Blimey, it has been over a year since I last published a “In Hels Kitchen” post! The main reason for this, is not that I lost my cooking mojo, its more that I have not really had the time to cook stuff properly over the last year or so. Back in Kent, I was working full time hours over odd shift patterns. I mainly worked afternoons, evenings and weekends (i.e the shifts that no one else wants!) As I did not get home until gone 8pm or 9pm, I batch cooked meals and used my slow cooker a hell of a lot. Then just before we moved when I was running the cupboards and freezer down, we ate a lot of ready made pizzas, pre-made sandwiches and pasta parcels!

When we moved here and during the early days of my pregnancy, I was really sick and I could hardly stomach any food. I could only manage to force down ice lollies, toast and mashed potatoes! I felt too rough to cook anything and the kitchen made me heave (it had a funny chemical smell!) Plus the cats litter tray was in there which also made me ill, so Rob was a good boy and stepped up taking over the cooking and made me lots of scrambled egg on toast!

Now that I am feeling much better (although I have been sick twice since I said on here that I am better! Typical!) and currently on the worlds longest maternity leave ever™ I am starting to enjoy cooking once again. I am loving being in my new kitchen and its something to fill my time with during the day.

Its a shame that in a month or so I will no longer have the time or energy to cook again, but at least I have had plenty of practice using my slow cooker and making quick, healthy(ish) meals etc all thanks to working odd hours over the last year or two.*

I am also trying to batch cook and freeze lots of meals in preparation for the kid. So far I have 12 meals stashed away in the freezer. I did a freezer stock take the other day and am now slightly panicking that I have less than two weeks worth of meals! Eek, I had better get my finger out and make some more!

So what have I been cooking lately then?

This vegetable crumble from the Good Food website. It was tasty and something a little bit different. I froze one for later.

Lots of Sunday roasts, while I can of course! This recipe here makes enormous yorkies BTW.

A photo posted by Rob Staerck (@robsbugged) on


Lots of big batch spag bols, curries, chillis and stews etc to freeze. Its a shame that your typical freezer friendly meals are mostly meat based. Does anyone know any good, filling veggie meals that I can stock up my freezer up with? Although I guess that we will be glad of the extra protein when the time comes! Its also a good job that the babe is going to be a winter babe, as who fancies stew or curry on a scorching hot summers day?

I am also gobbling down a bunch of grapes almost daily. I just cannot get enough of them. So sweet and juicy! Nom nom!

*You know that we will end up eating lots of ready made pizzas, fish finger sandwiches, take aways and pasta parcels! All the good stuff!

In Hel’s Kitchen #3

It seems that every time I talk about starting a new feature on here it is the kiss of death for it! Remember Design classics, Slow Cooking Sunday and In Hel’s kitchen anyone? Note to self – I must try harder!

This post has been in my drafts since May (!!) because I have not got my act together and managed to take any photos of our meals. So instead I will talk about food a bit randomly in bullet points, just because food is my favourite thing. Especially the kind of food that comes covered in chocolate!

    • Lately I have become addicted to eating fresh mangos. So good topped with natural yogurt and a little runny honey. Mmmm, mangos…Yes, she does like the mangos

  • Related – I made these Deliciously Ella lollies. They were good. I used normal cows milk because I could not be bothered to open a can of coconut milk for just five tablespoons BTW.
  • I work a lot of late shifts, so to make my life easier during the summer months, I would typically cook up a load of grains (usually quinoa), wash and chop up loads of lettuce and lots of peppers, carrots, celery etc, all in advance ready for me to chuck together on a plate, with maybe some feta, halloumi, a can of tuna or salad bean mix and whatever dressing I could be bothered to whip up when I get home. Easy peasy.
  • I am also eternally grateful for my slow cooker. I use it at least once a week. I am also thankful that I invested in a decent rice cooker five years ago. My rice cooker has a huge hole in the lid from where I dropped it, the inner bowl is dented out of shape from where I dropped it and will sometimes get stuck in the cooker (yeah, you could say that I am a bit on the clumsy side!) But somehow against all odds it still works!
    When I come home from work after a late shift, straight away I will bung some rice (or quinoa) in the rice cooker, and if I am heating up a defrosted-here’s-one-I-made-earlier-meal instead of using my slow cooker, I bung that in a saucepan and stick it on the stove to warm up at the same time, then go upstairs and get changed into my pj’s, and then by the time I come downstairs, dinner is usually ready. Boom!
  • We also eat a lot of cous cous these days because its so convenient. Chilli or curry with cous cous anyone? I like to break the food rules from time to time. And make my life easier.
  • You might be fooled into thinking that I have got my meal planning game sorted. That is not the case. I do try, but I am just not the organised/type A/super woman/homemaking machine that the internet (or rather a lot of lifestyle blogs and Pinterest) wants me to be. I love this post from Posy Gets Cosy about the pressure we put on ourselves to feed our families with nutritious meals all planned weeks in advance. The comments on the post are good too. There is a lot of wisdom on there.
  • I baked two successful (refined) sugar-free chocolate cakes. First this chocolate cake (not pictured) and these peanut butter brownies (pictured in the photo below). Both were very tasty, and chocolaty enough to kid myself that they were a naughty treat. I am not sure how healthy they are (as honey and dates are still sugar and I think cocoa powder is pretty fattening) but I am definitely going to make these again.
They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

…….I guess you could say this post is a little round up on how we eat in my household in spring/summer. Now that the temperatures are cooling, I am looking forward to cooking and eating more soups, stews and lots and lots of stodge! Mmmmm, stodge!

We Made Some Jam And It Got Me Daydreaming

In my last post I mentioned a chilli eating challenge and I promised to write more on the subject soon.

I think that I might have made things sound more exciting than they actually were, because we took absolutely no part in the challenge! Sorry about that!

Let me explain – There was a person pushing super hot chilli peppers onto poor unsuspecting innocents when we stayed with our friends in Cornwall. Our friends, have a friend who grows extra hot specialist chilli’s as a hobby/side business. A few fools people did take up his challenge and we all laughed at them gurning and crying in pain and then we made unfunny jokes about how they were going to suffer yet again the next morning! Fortunately, Rob and I are now old enough and wise enough to say no to doing stupid things like that just because someone dared us to. Well, most of the time we are sober that is!

Anyway, somehow a tupperware box full of these chilli’s ended up coming home with us as a thank you for the donation we made for the fundraiser.

They look so pretty and innocent. Do not be fooled, these are some mean mofo's!

They look so pretty and innocent. Do not be fooled, these are some mean mofo’s!

That was a very kind gesture from our friends chilli growing friend, but Rob and I cannot handle anything much spicier than a balti. So what were we going to do with this big box full of super duper hot chilli’s?

Well, just for shits and giggles (literally) Rob gave away some to his VW friends down the pub. They were drunk enough to agree to the challenge it seems, but not daft enough to eat them there and then! They promised to film themselves eating them later then upload it to Facebook, as you do. We are still waiting for the videos to appear BTW!

As for the rest of the chilli’s, I was too scared to even handle them without protective gloves! Once upon a time, when I first moved in with Rob, I cooked a meal involving fresh chilli’s and I naively scraped the seeds inside the peppers out with my fingernails and then could not understand why later that night why the tips of my fingers were stinging so bad and my eyes were sore! That was a rookie error that I never made again! (My mum did not cook with chilli’s when I was a kid, nor did I pay any attention to the important bits on Jamie and Nigella’s TV shows, so I was clueless!)

In the end we decided to make some chilli jam with them.

Rob took it upon himself to be my official food stylist and photographer. I kept saying to him 'food photography is so hard' etc and dammit, on his first attempt he is much better than me!

Rob took it upon himself to be my official food stylist and photographer. I kept saying to him ‘food photography is so hard’ etc and dammit, on his first attempt he is much better than me!

Around seven years ago, I tried to make chilli jam (funnily enough, with a recipe from Nigella’s Xmas book) and it was a total disaster. It was messy, it took forever, the jam never set, it tasted really disgusting (far too vinegary), it was a waste of ingredients and it all ended up in the bin. Basically, the experience put me off jam making for life.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like cooking and I like making things from scratch, but I think there are certain things that are just far easier and cheaper to buy readymade in the supermarkets. Like ketchup, Nutella and yogurt for instance (yep, the yogurt maker was donated unused to the charity shop). Ive made my peace with the wasteful packaging and preservatives by pretending they don’t exist. La, la la…whats that you say….Nutella contains palm oil? Plastic doesn’t get recycled it gets shipped to India and then burnt polluting the atmosphere with lovely chemicals?? La, la, la….fluffy bunnies and kittens….think happy thoughts Helen!!!

This time I used a different recipe. I used a top rated recipe from Good Food and I read some of the comments for advice and googled how to sterilise jam jars etc.

This was a project that Rob and I undertook together. It was stressful, sticky, time consuming and for the most part, I hated it. The recipe said that it would take 50 minutes to thicken. It took 2.5 hours. I do not have the patience to spend all evening standing over the stove stirring jam waiting for it to thicken!

But then after pouring it into tiny jars with a huge ladle (fiddly as f**k) and being unsure when to put the lids on (when its hot or after its cooled? They never tell you this kind of useful stuff in the recipe! We did it when the jam was hot BTW. I was to tired to care and I wanted to go to bed!) The next day we excitedly tasted it the fruits of our labour, and boy was it good if I do say so myself! Really tasty and flavoursome, not too hot but with a definite spicy kick to it.

A hot mess.

A hot mess.

The thing that shocked me the most from this project, over than it actually setting and turning out ok, was the feeling of pride that I got from making it!

Call me a smug bastard, but I love knowing that the chutney in my lunchtime sandwich was made from scratch by yours truly! And that it includes homegrown vegetables from a friend of a friend non the less!

Which brings me nicely to the daydreaming part of my post title (well done if you are still reading this post BTW! I do go on a bit, don’t I!) Back in the early days of my blog I talked a little about how I wanted to grow my own veg and keep some chickens etc. Well in the last few years, I have come down to earth and reasoned to myself that its a lot of work, its not the cheapest way to do things and whats the point really when I live a short walk away from a supermarket?

So of course this chilli jam making has now re-triggered the Tom and Barbara Good in me! Also influenced by the fact that we have been eating and enjoying lots of beetroot, sweetcorn, carrots, runner beans (5 days in a row – we have so many bloody runner beans!), spinach and curly kale all grown by my parents on their allotment. And it does taste fresher and better than the veg from the supermarket. It has made me think again that it is worth all the agro and effort after all, cos you cannot beat the feeling of knowing that you grew/made that with your own fair hand.

Rob designed me a special label, bless him!

Rob designed me a special label, bless him!

Plus as an extra bonus I can become a future Instgram bore sharing square (or rectangle!) photos of my homegrown tucker!

Watch this space!chilli jam 3chill jam 4

By space I mean at least five years! Our garden is still a state work in progress!

In Hel’s Kitchen #2

Here is what we have been scofing down lately –

  • As I work until 8 pm on average four nights a week, We eat this meal quite often. Its a favourite in our house because its quick and easy to prepare, foolproof and super tasty. (I never bother adding the extra 1/4 cup of water BTW). We eat one meal of this with brown basmati rice and freeze the other portion to have on Tacos Tuesdays!!! Thank you Instagram for introducing me to this institution! Shove some lettuce then shredded salsa chicken mix into a taco shell and top with cheese, bite into it and then pick up the broken taco pieces off your top, the table, the floor and eat them up. Messy food on Tuesdays is the best!

    Wow, look at my food styling and photography skills. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on oven tray and bowl of un appetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

    Wow, look at my mad food styling and photography skillz. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on the oven tray and a bowl of brown unappetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

  • When I first left home, before I started worrying about processed foods, I cooked a lot of frozen things covered in breadcrumbs. The only thing that I really miss eating from those days is Spicy Bean Burgers (and maybe chicken Kiev’s, a guilty, trashy, food pleasure of mine!), so I have been on the hunt for a good homemade bean burger recipe for a long time. I have made a few duds over the years, let me tell you! I find that veggie burger recipes that involve breadcrumbs just taste bland with a horrible, overpowering soggy bread flavour. Yuck. Plus there are loads of over complex veggie burger recipes out there – like this one that involve hours in the kitchen and tons of washing up! I finally hit the bean burger recipe jackpot with this one from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites. Its so easy and tasty. Win, win! And wowzers, Rob does not complain about the lack of beef in his burger! I just fry up my onions etc, then bung all the ingredients (halved, using just one can of kidney beans) into my food processor, wiz it up, shape them and fry them, then enjoy them with salad for tea and the left overs for lunch the next day.beany babies
  • This recipe here from the Moosewood resturant (again) was very easy to cook and the most hippy chow type meal that I have made in a while. I felt some serious good vibes from all those greens, legumes and grains (I served ours with bulgar wheat) man. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo. I was too busy making peace signs and sticking it to the man, man.
  • This tamale bean pie recipe pictured below, that I tore out of the Sainsburys magazine ages ago, and now cannot find online or anything like it. Although this recipe here has similar ingredients and what not, but is done in the slow cooker with the cheese in the bottom, rather than the top like mine (so not at all like it then!). This is yummy, proper, stodgy comfort food that deserves its very own post. I will sort one out eventually. By eventually, I mean next year probably!

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

  • On my never ending quest to make the perfect sugar free oaty energy type bar, I made these healthy apple flapjacks. Which were not quite as good as this favourite bake of mine. I felt they were missing something. Maybe a little butter or marg and some sugar maybe? But still, it was an healthier acceptable alternative and I used up some apples that were about to turn.

Its Meat Free Week this week and Rob and I are taking part as I love a challenge! I always do dry January, Sober October and took part in the blog every day thing a few years back, and not forgetting my upcoming 35 mile bike ride (which I might have mentioned once or twice on here!) Are you taking part in meat free week? I will do a little blog post about our week and reveal if we have made it all the way. Or rather, if I make it all the way, as Rob has already cracked and eaten a ham and Philadelphia wrap for lunch!*

*Amendment – I stand corrected. Rob is not taking part. He didn’t crack at lunch time because he is not taking part.

Update 13/05/15 – I ate no meat for a week and a half in the end. I would have been happy to carry on indefinitely, but Rob wanted a chicken curry and I could not be bothered to cook two meals. We still have meat free meals 3-4 times a week though.

In Hel’s Kitchen #1

I love food, cooking and eating.

Maybe, just maybe, I love the eating part a little bit too much for my own good!

Never mind eh! Even though I love talking about food, I don’t really like blogging about food. I find typing up the ingredients and method really tedious. And, if Im honest, my posts are dull, too long and my food photography is lacking good lighting, pretty props and all the rest of the stuff that passes as good blogging!

But I still want to share the best of the wholesome, cheap ‘n’ easy recipes that I cook on here. So I thought I would start a new series similar to my Lately# posts where I just round up my thoughts and share a link and a picture or two.

I know plenty of other bloggers do these type of posts (thanks for the inspiration gals) and I really like them. I always click on the links to see if I fancy trying out the recipes and I love having a nosey at other peoples meal planning and daily eating habits. So its only fair that I share mine in return!

Plus, this is a quicker, lazy way of food blogging and I have been dying to drop Hel’s Kitchen as a blog post title (snortle!). Win win!

I don’t know how frequent these posts will be, time will tell. But for now here are some of the highlights of what we have been stuffing our faces with in late Jan/early Feb –

  • This vegetarian chilli from Whats Gaby Cooking. Very tasty. Next time I make it I will use less stock though. I actually had some fresh limes for once (Mum sent them over) and the freshly squeezed lime juice definitely adds an extra something to the dish.
  • Another healthy oaty snack bar to satisfy my sweet tooth from Ellie Krieger. Don’t bother making these if you do not have a food processor.snack tretch
  • Another veggie chilli from Bessie’s Veggie Food. I messed mine up by adding too much chilli powder. (Whoopsie! Think runny noses and tears while eating, not a good look!) But I will make this again. Its quick, cheap and filling. And it makes a huge amount. You will be eating this for days.chili
  • This two ingredient pizza dough. I was intrigued to see how it works, and sure enough it does make a nice enough pizza dough, thats great for days when you have no time to let a dough rise etc. I made mine with Lidl’s Greek style yogurt (as its cheaper than the traditional Fage Greek yogurt) so my dough was very heavy and dense (still tasty though). Next time I will try it with the real deal strained Greek yogurt to see if it makes any difference.
  • Yet another chilli recipe! This chicken barley chilli from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. One meal eaten and two meals frozen, for when I am working lates, all from two chicken breasts. Boom!
  • And finally as a little treat, just to maintain our podgy figures in order to keep warm during Februarys big freeze, these cocoa powder brownies from Smitten Kitchen found via The Wednesday Chef. Mine were a little crunchy on the top, but still very moreish!

I promise you that we do not just eat chilli’s, pizza and brownies! These were just my favourite new recipes that I have cooked recently. Honest!

Although, to be fair, I would be quite happy existing on a diet of chilli, pizza and brownies!

Vegetable Cobbler

As promised here is a recipe. Finally!

As I have mentioned before, I love cooking and trying out new recipes. I am currently compiling a recipe folder (a never ending project that I have been working on for about six years) and I find most of my favourite recipes from magazines, blogs, the Good Food website and sometimes written in cheap non-celebrity-chef recipe books.

I have a habit of flicking through recipe books in charity shops and discount bookstores, and if anything catches my eye, I will purchase the book, copy down or scan the recipe, then donate it back to charity once I have finished with it. Although I have been known to tear a few pages out of cheap books when I am feeling lazy! Sorry to all book lovers out there!

I found this recipe for vegetable cobbler in a book that was 99p from The Works called Cookery for Beginners. The recipe caught my eye because the sauce involved yogurt, orange juice and milk.

I thought to myself – how can that work? I figured that it would either result in one of the worst things I have ever eaten, or go the completely other way and result in something really rather tasty!

cobblers

Thankfully through some kind of cookery alchemy, it turned out to be the latter – a really hearty, yummy dinner. The first time I made this I was gobsmacked as Rob asked for seconds (there were none) and then asked if he could have it for dinner again the next day!

Result! Its not often I hear this kind of praise about my cooking from him. And least of all about a meal that does not involve any meat! So me, being the perfect stepford wife, dutifully made it for him again the following week. The first time I made this I halved the original recipe. The second time I made it, I made two thirds of the stew (so we could have seconds – oink, oink!) with the cobbler mix halved and I did not have any courgettes.

Are you still with me? The point is that this recipe is very forgiving. You can adjust it to your own taste. More sauce? Thats fine. Lots of carrots and leeks but no courgette? No problem. It all goes down the same way I say. And who can be bothered with weighing vegetables? Not me thats for sure.cobblers again
Anyways here is the original recipe that serves 4 that you can adjust to your households appetite –

Ingredients

1 large onion
225g leeks
450g carrots
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
225g courgettes
25g butter
1 tbsp oil
25g plain flour
2 tsp mustard (I used around 2 tbsp of mild Dijon mustard. It was all I had in the fridge)
150ml orange juice
300ml milk
150ml natural yogurt

Scone Topping
225g self raising flour
1 tsp mustard powder (I used 1 tsp of readymade Dijon again)
50g margarine
75g grated cheddar cheese
150ml milk

Directions

  1. Chop the veg. Leeks into 2cm chunks. Carrots into 5mm slices. Peppers and courgettes into 1cm chunks or there about. (Or just chop your veg that you have guesstimated the weight of into tiny bits and hope for the best like I do!)
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a pan over medium heat, add the veg and fry it for around 10mins until softened, then sprinkle over the flour and cook for 1 min stirring.
  3. Add mustard, orange juice and milk. Increase heat and stir continuously until thickened. Then reduce heat and cover for 10 mins until veg are tender.
  4. Meanwhile make the topping. Sieve flour into bowl, add mustard and margarine and rub in until resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in cheese, then add milk, stirring with a knife to form a dough.
  5. When veg in pan are tender add the yogurt and transfer to oven proof dish.
  6. Roll out topping and cut into rounds (I can never manage this, I alway make it too wet, so I just dollop mine in!) and arrange around bowl in a circle and brush with milk (again, I never manage this part!).
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 220degC/425degF/gas 7 for 25 minutes until scones are puffed up and golden.

Tatties and Apps

So while the parents are hastily harvesting their allotment goodies before anymore sticky fingered, 5-a-day munching crims can pinch them, I currently have a glut of veg in my house. Its mostly potatoes and sweetcorn, no marrows this year TFFT – Does anyone have any good recipes involving six corn on the cob for 2 people? Im scratching my head on that one!

Luckily potatoes last ages (if the dirt on them is dry/cleaned off and they are stored in a cool dark place), and Rob and I have recently developed a taste for homemade potato cakes. Fried carb cakes FTW!

Potatoes
From this  – (please excuse the dodgy picture taken with my phone!) giant heapTo this
pot cakesI saved some left over mash from our dinner the night before and used this recipe halved. If I had known how easy potato cakes were to make, I would have stopped buying the pre made supermarket versions years ago! Plus I served them with fried eggs from our next-door neighbours free range back garden hens no less.

Unfortunately the value brand baked beans from Aldi are ruining my smug foodie-type moment here. Ah well!

Apples
From thisappsTo thisapp cakeWhy yes, its more cake!

We like cake in our house. We don’t care if they are made from potatoes or apples, as long as its CAKE!!!!
Technically the apples are from one of my parents allotment pals neighbouring plot. He has a well established bramley tree with more fruit than he can cope with (there are only so many apple crumbles he can manage apparently) and he told my parent to help themselves.

THEY HELPED THEMSELVES WITH HIS PERMISSION! Sorry, I just had to shout that out.

I found the recipe in a Macmillan coffee morning booklet from 2008, and I even managed to man up and deal with my irrational hatred of rubbing fat into breadcrumbs to make this cake. It was worth it.

Two Fruity Homemade Lollies

Phew scorchio! Its that time of year again folks, when our much longed for summer gets just that little bit too hot and sticky.

I am not a huge fan of the heat (I much prefer spring and autumn) and I don’t like the humidity we are experiencing right now (who does?) But on the plus side I have been busy making some homemade frozen treats, and I want to share two on here.

These lollies are pretty much foolproof, anyone can make them. You don’t need any fancy equipment (a hand blender would be handy though), just your ingredients and a basic lolly mould. I got my lolly mould in Sainsburys for 99p! Its always worth the effort of making homemade lollies, as they are much cheaper and have far less sugar than your supermarket ones.

This post is more of an inspirational guide, rather than recipes to follow. I am no food blogger thats for sure! My talents seem to be eating far too much food, rather than photographing it and writing about it!

Here is what has been cooling me down lately –

1) Banana and honey lolliesnarna lolly

Method – Blend or mash by hand 3-4 ripe-ish small bananas with a splash of milk or natural yogurt. Basically just wing it here, it really depends on how many lollies you are making etc. I have four lolly shapes in my mould and used about half a small pot of yogurt and four small ‘nana’s. Then add some runny honey to sweeten according to taste. Pour in moulds, freeze overnight. Done.

Verdict – I loved these lollies. Simple to make (it took about 5 minutes), no added sugar, very tasty, and one of your 5 a day. I will be making these all summer!

2) Melon Lollies

helen melon

Method – This is another easy-peasy recipe. I basically used this recipe here, minus the added sugar. I just blended one very ripe, small cantelope melon with the juice of one lime. Poured it into my moulds, froze it, then hey presto all done!

Verdict – Very refreshing and thirst quenching. Easy and healthy. Another winner!

3 Simple Budget Smoothies

I love owning a semi decent blender as I love smoothies. When I left my full time job at the beginning of 2012, I excitedly announced that I would now have more time to make delicious smoothies for our lunches, and guess what? A year later I have not made that many smoothies! Oh dear, I think its because I do not want the extra washing up. But I have a dishwasher now (which I only use about once a fortnight, as I am a weirdo – damn my eco conscience/fear of a huge electricity bill!) So no more excuses – lets bust out that blender!

I see lots of inspiring recipes online for delicious sounding smoothies, but I am put off from making them as they often have obscure random ingredients in them, and things that my blender cannot handle very well like kiwi fruits and oats. I like my oats and kiwi’s, dont get me wrong. But I do not like too much texture or seedy bits in my smoothie. I like a smooth smoothie if you will!

Another reason why we do not slurp down many smoothies in our household is that fruit, in particular fresh berries, is a tad on the pricey side. So I have decided to post a few of my favourite recipes, plus a few handy tips in a post on smoothies for all my skint peeps out there. Shout out!

HELEN’S HANDY HINTS

  • Freeze your bananas that are on the turn.
  • Then use said frozen bananas in all your smoothies, they make them taste like ice cream yum!
  • I peel my bananas and either break them into small lumps or slice them up into a Tupperware box. This works the best for me, I have found that freezing bananas in their skins turns them into brown mush. And how do you peel them? I learnt this the hard way, as no one seems to tell you (or just me) this kind of practical information.
  • Sliced frozen bananas only seem to last around 3 months in the freezer before they will turn.
  • Reserve a Tupperware box for exclusively freezing bananas in. I once used my (washed up) Tupperware box to store some homemade hummus after it had been previously used for freezing our yellow friends. Lets just say that banana flavoured hummus was interesting, but not something I want to try again.
  • Frozen fruit and canned fruit are your friend. Save the fresh fruit for your fruit salad. No one can tell what you used once it has been liquidised.
  • My basic go to smoothie is any frozen berries (look out for multi buy deals or buy from Aldi or Lidl), a small carton of yogurt, fresh or frozen bananas, a splash of milk to thin it and a bit of honey to sweeten to taste.

BANANA AND PEANUT BUTTER SMOOTHIE

Gather you ingredients

  •  2 frozen bananas
  • Milk (I think I used around a pint)
  • Peanut butter (I used around 2-3 tablespoons).

and then follow my very loose instructions below.ingrediants

  • Put ingredients into blender.
  • Blend.
  • Add more milk or peanut butter to your taste if needed.
  • Blend again then serve.
  • Serves 2.

his n hers smoothiesSTRAWBERRY AND BANANA SMOOTHIE

This one is the easiest and laziest smoothie you can ever make. It tastes very similar to a product that wear knitted hats from time to time. It is just fresher and cheaper. By fresher I mean ignore the ingredient list on the can of strawberries (69p! in Morrisons!), in that it contains some red colouring ingredient that can cause hyperactivity in small children and is made in China. Yeah this a smoothie that’s not for the faint hearted. Or small children. Or anyone worried about food miles etc.*

I am sure the smoothies you buy in shops must contain preservatives – if they didn’t they would turn to brown mush, surely? Maybe I have cracked their secret recipe. Now I just need to crack the Colonels one. Oh wait Bender already did.**2 ingredientsJust two ingredients. 2 frozen bananas and a tin of strawberries in juice. Plop into your blender (thats all of the tin – fruit and juice), blend and serve. Serves 2.juiceet voila

THE TROPICAL ONE

This is the most expensive of my three recipes. It cost me 59p for my mango’s (Lidl), 68p for the pineapple and 10p approx for the banana. But it works out cheaper than buying a fresh mango £1, pineapple £1, a carton of pineapple juice £1 (my estimated prices, please shop around for better deals!) and is easier and quicker to make, with no chopping involved. take 3So there are you three ingredients pictured above. All you have to do is pour the tin of pineapple and its juice in your blender, break up your banana and add to blender. I will say that I don’t think you will miss the banana if you forget to add it. Then drain your tin of mango’s in a sieve and rinse off all that nasty syrup from them, then add to blender and blend. Simple! Serves 2-4.tropicana

 

*I do care about food miles honest. Please don’t hate me for buying a can of strawberries produced in China!
** Please see the 3rd quote down under Bender. Its the best link I could find!

A Retro Pudding

So I did it. I made a vintage recipe, and very tasty it was too!

I kind of wimped out of making anything too unappetising (as we do try not to waste food around here! Plus terrapins are a tad on the pricey side!) So, after browsing through my favorite vintage recipe book, ‘The Mixer Cookbook’ from Family Circle magazine published in 1966. I settled on the Orange Delights recipe.

I love the names of some of the recipes BTW – Spiced Pear Topsy Turvy, Apricot and Apple Whirligig and Spanish Angel Pie all sound delightful! In this book, many of the puddings involve raw egg whipped up into various concoctions. To be fair, It was published before the big salmonella scare! Although Rob and I are not in any vulnerable groups, (i.e preggers, old or young) I just did’nt fancy eating any of them. Saying that, this recipe below, sounds like its got to be good. After all, it is basically just booze!

ZABAGLIONE
For each portion
1 egg yolk
1 rounded teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon sherry
Directions

  1. Place a deep bowl over a saucepan of hot, but not boiling water.
  2. Add the egg yolk, sugar and sherry and whisk until mixture has trebled in bulk. Pour into a small glass and serve immediately with crisp, sweet biscuits.

I below is the recipe I used. I selected this recipe as it involves jelly and tinned fruit, two very vintage ingredients! Plus on my newly discovered vintage foodie blogs, the most random recipes seemed to involve jelly/Jello!
Please allow me go slightly of topic for a moment here, and mention how much I love mid-century Americana stuff (but weirdly, I have never watched Mad Men!) I would love to own a period ranch home. Here is a link to my dream kitchen – complete with a baking area! How lust worthy is that! Shame, I cant buy one of those in Maidstone on our budget!

ORANGE DELIGHTS
For four portions
1 (11oz) can mandarin oranges
1 packet orange flavour jelly
1/4 pint boiling water
1 small can evaporated milk
Directions

  1. Drain mandarin oranges; make up syrup to 1/4 pint with cold water. (I used mandarin segments in juice to try to be healthier!)
  2. Cut jelly into cubes and place in liquidiser goblet with the boiling water; run machine until dissolved. Add mandarin syrup and run machine for a few seconds. Leave in liquidiser goblet, in a cold place, to partially set.
  3. When on the point of setting, switch on liquidiser, remove small cap in lid and pour in evaporated milk. Run liquidiser until frothy. Save 12 mandarin orange segments for decorations (I did not, as you can clearly see in my pictures. I think my tin only had around 12 segments in total! But this recipe is very forgiving with quantities) Add remainder to liquidiser and stir with a spoon. Pour into individual glasses and leave to set. Decorate each dish with 3 mandarin segments.

The Verdict? This recipe took me right back to my childhood! It was so yummy! It reminded me of a pudding my Grandad used to make, every time we went to visit him up in Liverpool, his lime mousse. Oh my, I used to dream of that pudding! I know he used lime jelly to make it, but the recipe escape me (and my Mum too, as she never made it for me as a kid, hrrrump!) A quick google search led me to these recipes. I am going to have to make this asap, this time I will use my Kitchenaid mixer to whip up the mix, as using a blender only made a bubbly mousse on the top half of the pudding.

I also learnt something really useful to help me take pictures of food for my blog. Make up another portion to keep for the next day, to photograph in daylight! I know, it is obvious! It has only taken me 10 odd months to realize this little trick! Doh, what a donut!

I normally snap pictures of meals right before I am about to eat them, with steam coming off them and huge shadows over them, caused by the overhead lighting. This time I savvily plated up two puddings in our usual plain white and chipped Ikea pudding bowls, then the other two puddings in cute vintage teacups (i.e photogenic, blog worthy food props) Ah ha – snaps for me!

Yes, I am a slow learner!