Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lentil soup - with pancetta, spinach and tomatoes.

Last weekend I made a huge pot of chicken curry, and I ate that with kale nearly every night when I got home from work with no time to cook. Today I decided that lentil soup was the main dish on my menu for the week ahead, and as I was shopping I came up with some ideas of what to put it in. I have never made lentil soup before, but the lentils had a plain lentil soup recipe on the back which always helps. Not that I followed it, but it is there if you were needing help or wanted to do a simple soup without all this other stuff in it. My ingredients were as follows (and they are approximate in true 'me' fashion):

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cps loosely packed with cubed pancetta
Half a large onion cut fairly finely
5 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
2 cups of red lentils
1 can of tomatoes with Italian seasoning (any tomatoes would do, I liked the herbs being in them already)
1 cup chicken stock
1 chicken stock cube
3 cups water (collected in the tomato can to wash out the last bits)
2 cups chopped spinach firmly packed
2 tsps curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Chilli/tobasco sauce to taste

I bought my pancetta already cubed, if you don't have it cubed then cut it up. I fried it in the olive oil in a large pot, then added the onion and garlic and let it cook up a bit. After about 10minutes I added the lentils and let them fry a little. The stock followed. It was all I had left, hence the addition of a stock cube and water as well. Then the tomatoes and curry powder. The spinach was a frozen block of chopped spinach which I just put in the pot and let fall apart. Once the hot sauce and salt and pepper were in, I gave it a stir and let it simmer away for about 30minutes or more. Keep adding water if your lentils aren't soft and give it an occasional stir. Adjust the amount of water according to how thick you like your soup. It would also be just as tasty in a vegetarian form for the record.

I could not believe how easy this was and how lucky I was that it came out so well the first time I tried making it. I am very happy to have this at home waiting for me after a long day at work!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Banana and blueberry brown rice muffins!

Sometimes I find myself bored with breakfast options...and so I decided to make some muffins today, so that I can look forward to breakfast tomorrow! The recipe is as follows:

2 over ripe bananas that have then been in the freezer and are now thawed (they are a black mess to be honest but nothing else makes them quite this good!)
1 cup of blueberries (again from in the freezer)
1 egg
1tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup oats
3tbsp almond flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
3tbsp crushed walnuts or pecan.

In a large bowl I melted the butter, squeezed the 2 bananas out of their skins, dropped in an egg along with the sugar and mixed it all together. Then I added the dry ingredients and mixed it roughly. Finally I added the blueberries and walnuts and gave it another little stir. They went into the oven at 375 for 20minutes and then cooled on a cooling rack. And smelt divine! And tasted divine! And I can't wait to wake up and have breakfast tomorrow! I bought some strawberries and raspberries to go with them too, along with my yoghurt and cup of coffee. Now thats not such a terrible way to start another week is it?!!?

P.S. This recipe was adapted from a regular (regular flour) recipe and tweaked so that I could use something other than wheat (brown rice flour jumped out at me at the store) and some oats to make them breakfasty! I wanted it full of fruit and nuts so that it was an all rounded start to the day! For a first try at changing a lot of things about a recipe I am very impressed with the results and will be making these again for sure!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fruity goats cheese in action.

For the record this recipe is really easy; my husband made it under instruction and it worked out wonderfully (and he does not consider himself a cook at all!).

I was gifted some goats cheese at Christmas and was immediately thinking of how I would use it. One had cranberry and cinnamon in it and the other blueberry and cinnamon. In it, well, around it. The cheese was in a log and covered in the fruity 'goo'. Anyway, the method I decided on was to use it to stuff something, and chicken was available. I explained the idea to my husband and when I got home from work it was almost ready to eat, we just had to throw together some greenery to accompany it and we were set. 

You will need chicken breasts, skin on, ours were on the bone.1 each. 1 Spaghetti squash. We shared only half and there was left over from that. 1 bunch asparagus. 1 bag/bunch spinach. Fruit covered logs of goats cheese.  Olive oil, butter, salt and pepper.

This is the idea explained:

Slice a pocket into the thickest part of the chicken breast. Place your hand flat against the top of the breast to hold it in place as you cut. Once the knife is in, sort of sweep it along in an arc, carving out a small pouch for the cheese. Don't cut the whole side open, try to leave it intact at either end. He found using the boning knife the best.

Into the pocket, squish a ball of goats cheese (half the blueberry one half cranberry in this instance). A golf ball size is probably more than enough, too much and it will leak back out when it cooks. If you were using plain goats cheese you could put some herbs and lemon zest in too, but with the fruit and cinnamon already in the cheese it is fine as it is. Rub some olive oil, salt and pepper over the chicken and place them in a dish and into a preheated oven (400) for about 30minutes. Then let them rest. Check on their done-ness with a thermometer if you aren't sure. 

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop the seeds out. Place it cut side down in a pot with a couple of inches of water and cover. Bring it to the boil and let it steam for about 10minutes. You will know it is done when the colour is consistent throughout the cross section (a rich yellow) and when you can stick a fork right through the flesh to the skin. You will start this half way through the chicken cooking so that it is all ready together. 

You can throw the pre-snapped asparagus into the water after the squash is done and been removed. It will be ready in a minute or 2. Toss it lightly to ensure even cooking. Lastly, pour boiling water over spinach in a colander (in the sink) and toss it around so that it starts to wilt. Keep pouring it on until you are happy with how much it has wilted. 

To serve: 

Flake the squash in its skin with a fork, it falls apart and looks like spaghetti surprise surprise! Add a spot of butter. Place a portion on a plate next to a perfectly cooked chicken breast and add some greenery. The chicken had a subtle flavour of berries and cinnamon right throughout it, and the goat cheese cut right through it perfectly and was so good with the squash. For someone who thinks that they cannot cook, trust me, this is a recipe that you can certainly make and impress anyone with. I was impressed!