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!

Two Healthy Snack Bars

Rob and I have major sweet tooths. I don’t know what it is, but after eating something savoury, we immediately start craving something sweet. Even if we are full.

We both grew up being told that once we have eaten all our dinner, we can have our pudding. (So basically, even if we are stuffed, we will still force a pudding down!) Sugary sweet things will always be a treat to me. And a necessary. Blame it on the parents, eh!

Over the last few years, my baking habits have changed. I no longer bake sugar laden cakes every week. Back in the heady days when I first discovered my love of baking, I was eating a slice of homemade cake nearly everyday. No wonder I went up a dress size!

I had to admit that all the sugar, butter and buttercream (which is again is just sugar and butter) in and on the cakes was not doing me any favours. And my lack of exercise, but thats another story.

Slowly, but surely, I cut down on making cakes. It breaks my heart that I don’t get to practice my main hobby and use my Kitchenmaid mixer as much as I would like too. But Spinderella will last me a lifetime, and I would like a long lifetime in which to use her.

I still really want sugar though! I want something sweet ALL THE TIME!!!! I am addicted!

At first, instead of cakes, I baked flapjacks and snack bars. I absolutely adore flapjacks and they are one of my favourite foods. But they still contain lots of sugar and butter. So the hunt for healthier alternatives was on.

Recently I have been pinning away recipes like a mad thing, check out my board full of healthy snack bars! Thank you internet for providing me with plenty of recipes based around oats, using natural sweetners like maple syrup, honey, dates or bananas instead of sugar, and coconut oil or peanut butter as a fat!

Here are two of my recent favourites that I want to share. For both of these recipes you need a food processor. Sure, it would be nice to have a Magimix or a Kitchenmaid model, but there is no way on earth I would pay £200+ for something that does the same job as my little old £30 job from Phillips. It might not win any awards for design, nor can it manage to grind oats into a fine flour as required in some of the recipes that I have tried (dammit!). But it can cobble together some houmous, veggie burgers and manage to smoosch up a few dates and thats all I use it for! If you don’t have a food processor you might be able to manage making these with a steady hand and a hand blender. Let me know if you can, as I am always looking for ways to reduce my washing up!

The first is this recipe from The Minimalist Baker. Its so moreish and easy to make. Its a bit of a bugger to spread out in the tin to set, but it works well with both Medjool dates and the cheaper Deglet Nour ones. I know as I have tried out both. Its a perfect treat for the 3pm afternoon energy slump and will keep you going until dinner time thanks to its slow burning carbs and all that other good stuff. Try them, you won’t regret it!peanut butter bar
The next recipe is more of a formula than a recipe. I found it here on The Kitchn. I used 1 cup of Medjool dates, 1 cup 50/50 of raisins and cranberries and 1 cup 75/25 of almonds and sunflower seeds. Plus about a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder. Because we all know that added chocolate makes things better.fruit n nut

I mixed my fruits, nuts and seeds purely to keep costs down. Dried fruit and nuts are not cheap, but I am a savvy shopper and I usually get mine from Lidl, Aldi and Grape Tree rather than your traditional health shops. Plus I am sad because I always request my giant tubs of Manuka honey, coconut oil and natural peanut butter for birthday and Xmas presents. Edible bulk buy presents FTW!

Now on to the dates. I was never a fan of dried dates before. They always made an appearance at Xmas time when I was a kid, in those funny oblong containers with their strange plastic stick things to eat them with, and were hard and horrible. But once I tried Medjool dates I was a fan! How can something that is grown on a tree taste so rich, sweet, indulgent and vanilla-ery? I can see why they were called the fruit of the Kings!

Yes, Medjool dates are more expensive, but they are worth it. I have shopped around and the cheapest that I have found is in Sainsburys at £2.15 for 200g. They are in the fridge next to the fruit BTW, in case you head over to the dried fruit baking section like I did. Buy the organic dates and feel smug while you eat your homemade chocolaty energy bars that taste just like expensive Nakd and Trex bars etc!

Going back to all the recipes that I have pinned on Pinterest. To be honest, I don’t think I am going to bother making any of the other date based energy bars, as they are more or less the same recipe again and again, and this recipe/formula is pretty much perfect for me. The fruits, seeds and nuts I have used are all my favourites and they blend together perfectly for just the right level of virtuous sweetness, with a subtle hint of chocolate. Yum.

Slow Cooking Sunday – Squash, Sweet Potato and Harissa Soup

Before I start this post, I would like to say that I am available to hire for food styling and food photography. Look at my mad skillz below! So much effort with the sprig of parsley, eh!

Wow, its been a while since I last posted a slow cooker recipe. I still use my slow cooker regularly, I just don’t bother to photograph and blog the meals. Plus most meals are unphotogenic slop.

I bought this book for cheaps recently, and it has some great soup recipes in it. Here is my recipe for a tasty soup which I have slightly adapted from a recipe published in it.soupySquash, Sweet Potato and Harissa Soup

Ingredients
1 chopped onion
1 chopped stick of celery
2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-2 teaspoons of harissa paste (depending on how spicy you like things!)
Around half a large squash
2-3 sweet potatoes
1 chopped carrot
700ml-1 litre vegetable stock (I used boullion powder)

Method
Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
Once cooked blend with a hand blender until smooth and serve.
Serves 4-6
soupy soupy

Slow Cooking Sunday – Falafel

Wow its been a while since I published a Slow Cooking Sunday post on here!

My reason is – I just kind of got bored of slow cooker meals, because they all kind of taste the same and are all kind of on the runny side.

While we are on the subject of samey meals, check out my pinterest account if you please (I deleted my old account, then recently decided to rejoin it). I basically pinned a board of the same recipe over and over again, containing chicken thighs, soy sauce and sugar. Which is also not very healthy. You can follow me if you fancy it!

Last Thursday I was in the mood for falafel, and I had been wanting to try out this recipe I saw on the Crockpot lady’s blog for a long time. I just wanted to see for myself if it would work. Its one of those things you don’t really believe can happen until you see it with your own eyes. Can the appliance famous for making watery, sloppy stews really produce crunchy falafel balls?

The answer is yes it can. I don’t know how, as it was really steamy in there. But it did. I cant explain the science behind it, but my guess is that I turned my slow cooker into one of those healthy fryer gadget things………that took four hours to cook falafel……….hmm, maybe not!

Well anyway, they were delicious. I used this recipe from here, but using chickpea flour and some frozen coriander (all I had to hand, my local Morrisons let me down it had no fresh parsley!) and garlic powder instead of a clove of the fresh stuff.

I forgot to take a picture of my ingredients, and I am afraid you will have to take my word for it that these were yummy. You know how with some food blogs the photo’s have you salivating? It’s called food porn. My photo’s below are the opposite. More food mourn if you will!

The balls pre cooking.ballsThe balls after cooking. I left them for four hours on high, they were slightly dry, I recommend doing them for less time and don’t do what I did (that’s go out), keep an eye on them.nibbled ballsIts weird. My slow cooker seems to have a cooking blind spot as one of the falafel balls was not done on the bottom. Strange.
odd ballFalafel pitta. Yummy! They would have been amazing with some cucumber yogurt dressing. I just could not be bothered to make any.

pitta

Vegetarian Bean Chili

Let me start this blog post by going slightly off topic and talk about myself (again!). I am not a huge meat eater and could easily turn vegetarian, which I was between the ages of six to ten until the fated day I accidentally ate a Peperami. Seriously – I completely forgot it was made from meat!

Unfortunately this will never happen as I now live with a committed carnivore who likes his steak blue and dreams of having the presenters job in Man v’s Food. I try not to cook too much meat at home, for cost and health reasons and due to the ethics involved in meat production.

To cut a long story short the lack of beef causes a beef in our household. Rob thinks a meal is only complete with some form of meat in it and will moan if his dinner contains none. So I am always on the hunt for good vegetarian recipes, ones that are so flavourful and tasty that he forgets there is no meat in the dish! Mwahaha!

We both love chili con carne but cooking this is an issue in our house as I hate beef (I only eat white meat and fish) and Rob hates Quorn mince. Neither of us will budge on this, so I have made chili’s with Turkey mince which are OK, and do sometimes make them with pork mince (which I have started eating in the last 2 years – yes I am a reformed fussy eater). I love my beans and have been trying to find a decent all veggie chili recipe that does not turn out like a soup.

On Friday I made this recipe which was really good. It has a tin of refried beans in it, which thickens things up beautifully. So thick that you can stand a spoon in it, just the way a good chili should be!

Please note this photo was taken of the leftovers on Saturday, before I made enchilladas with it!

I cannot remember how I found this recipe, it was on a link in a blog post I read ages ago, and I saved the recipe as it was intriguing to me. Seriously – a tin of refried beans in a chili is genius! Why had’nt I thought of that before! I am going to add a tin in every chili I make in the future to thicken it up – yum!

Here is my slightly adapted recipe using what I had to hand.

INGREDIENTS
Olive oil
1 large onion
2 peppers
1 Tbls Easy chili
1 Tbls Easy garlic (please note I never buy these ‘easy’ items, my Mum bought them for me!)
250ml veg stock (sadly I had no beer to hand, as it always gets drunk in our house!)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tin of adzuki beans
1 Tbls cumin powder
2 Tbls chili powder
1 tin of spicy refried beans
DIRECTIONS
Over moderate heat, add oil to a deep pot and combine onion, peppers, chili and garlic. Saute for 10 minutes to soften vegetables. Deglaze pan with stock, add tomatoes, beans, and stir to combine.

Season chili with cumin, chili powder. Thicken chili by stirring in refried beans. Simmer over low heat about 15 minutes longer, then serve. Yes I copied and pasted this part but I slightly changed it.

It tastes better than it looks – honest! The spoon is still standing up on its own, although it does not really look like it in this pic!

A Vegan Science Lesson and a Vegan Dinner

I love me some Etsy as you might have already guessed from this blog. I heart Etsy so much in fact that I willingly signed up to most of their mailing lists. This product was on the Etsy “dudes” email I received a few days ago.

Poor Kermit

This is why I love Etsy, for all its extreme crafting. It is not just about the nice knits like granny squares and wrist worms. Now the squeamish cannot get out of their biology lessons anymore!

Also here is a vegan recipe for when you are free-styling cooking with no kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 6 carrots
  • 1 quarter of a squash you got to use up
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Half an onion leftover from cheese and onion crumpets the other day when you had a cooker *sigh*
  • water
  • curry powder

Directions

Spend 10 minutes looking for your slow cooker, find said slow cooker in mess piled on dining room table under dust sheet. Clean dust off slow cooker. Go to top of stairs landing space and plug in slow cooker, fill kettle from bathroom sink and boil it on top of washing machine plugged into an extension cord in the dining room. Drop stock cube straight in slow cooker. Pour in boiled water after carefully carrying kettle upstairs. Gather remaining vegetables from fridge in the lounge and locate knife and chopping board from spare bedroom. Chop veg, plonk in slow cooker. Switch on slow cooker and leave soup cooking for 5odd hours. After cooking time find your hand blender then bung it in the slow cooker bowl then try to blend soup without it splattering everywhere and fail. Try to blend every last lump of chopped veg and fail. Realise that you forgot to add the spices earlier. Add a little bit too much curry powder by tipping it straight in the soup instead of using a measuring spoon. Serve and enjoy. Voila!

soup landing ahoy!

BTW I am not vegan but for what ever reason I really enjoy reading vegan food blogs. I almost feel as if I am absorbing some of their healthy, nutritious vibes through my computer screen, because if I served Rob lentils for dinner he would leave me!