I love it when Valentines Day falls on a weekend, as it means I can indulge in a little baking, mind you that happens most weekends. Valentines day baking allows me to indulge my more creative side. The bakes don’t have to be clever or expensive, simply something to share with the ones you love, and hopefully fun to make too.
These are all recipes I’ve made in the past. This year I have an idea and I’ll be trying that out later. If you’d like to make your own versions, the links are below.
Happy baking, Happy Valentines day too.
Trying to eat healthily is sometimes tricky. The most trying times are when the weather is bad, life is exhausting and it’s the middle of the week. Sometimes only a big plate of comfort food will do. The problem with comfort food is the comfort usually comes with a hefty side order of calories. Sainsburys have asked me to see if I could take a favorite comfort food of mine and change it to make it #comfit.They have recipes on their website too, but I thought I’d like to try to rework an old favourite of my own.
So, what do I love most? Shepherds pie? Apple crumble and custard? A full English breakfast? All good candidates, but no. My favourite comfort food is toad in the hole. How was I to go about that?
Toad in the hole is essentially sausages and batter, oven fried in oil. If I lightened the sausages and added in some vegetables would this still be comfort food?
Ingredients Feeds 3
6 Sainsburys be good to yourself Cumberland sausages
3 egg whites
125g plain flour
1/2 pint semi skimmed milk
1 red onion cut into wedges
1 string of cherry tomatoes
1/4 green pepper cut into strips
8 chestnut button mushrooms
salt and pepper
I also had a few strips of butternut squash too so I added those. Basically, what ever you have to use up, then feel free to use.
How to …..
- Preheat the oven to 200c.
- Twist the sausages and onion wedges into half and place into a deep oven proof dish.
- Bake the oven for 15 minutes.
- Whilst the sausages and onions bake mix together the flour and milk in a bowl.
- In a second bowl whisk the egg whites until they reach the stiff peaks stage.
- Fold the egg whites into the milk and flour mixture with a pinch of salt.
- When the onions and sausages have cooked for 15 minutes, remove fom the oven and remove from the oven proof dish and onto a plate.
- Turn up the oven to 225c. Add a splash of oil to the dish and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Place back into the oven until the oil is smoking hot.
- Working quickly, pour the batter into the hot dish and place the sausages and vegetables on top.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Slice and serve with gravy and more green vegetables.
Sainsburys sent me a voucher to cover the cost of the ingredients used in this dish.
You may probably have realised by now that I loathe waste, but as I’m on a fat to fitter regime I’m having to find even more create ways to use them up that don’t jeopardise my healthy eating kick!
Also, I’m incredibly greedy, so I’m always willing to eat and always looking for the next tasty tidbit to try.
I had a clear of the fridge, those jars that have been opened so need to be used up soon. I came across two quarter full jars of pesto, one of which was with sun dried tomatoes and a tablespoon of tikka paste in a jar. Both were fine,but in need of using up.
During my “big” shop I had bought some lighter ready rolled puff pastry as I like to make a dessert on a Sunday to go with a roast. I knew I couldn’t use it all in a few apple turnovers so decided to use a third of it to make some savouries. Ideal with a glass or wine in an evening or as a tasty addition to a packed lunch.
Ready rolled puff pastry (leftovers are ideal)
The odd teaspoon of pesto, sundried tomato pesto or curry paste (mine was tikka).
A couple of olives if you have them.
- Preheat the oven to 200c.
- Roll out the pastry a little more. If making the curls leave the sheet whole. If making pinwheels cut the sheet into 5cm squares.
- Cover each piece of pastry in your chosen spread.
- For the curls, roll up the pastry and cut into 1cm lengths.
- Place cut side down onto a lined baking sheet.
- For the pinwheels, smear the squares with pesto, make 3cm cuts in the corner of the squares, fold each corner to the middle and press down with a slice of olive.
- Again, place on a lined baking sheet.
- Brush the finished pastries with either beaten egg or egg white.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden and crisp.
Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
These could work well with many, many last teaspoons of jollop from a jar. Marmite and a rasp or two of parmesan. Apple sauce? Tapenade? A couple of anchovies finely chopped?
I’m trying my hardest to move from fat to fitter. One of my biggest downfalls are sweeties. I have made abig effort to step away from the chocolate but there are still times when I need a sweet treat. Lots of the bars and snacks available commercially are always quite big and often eye-wateringly expensive.
I decided to make my own. Having read the backs of many of these bars they seem to consist mostly of dates, nuts and other dried fruits. Sometimes spices are added , cocoa nibs make their way in and coconut often features too. This first experiment has just three ingredients, ones I happened to have in the cupboard. I will, however, be making these again with a different combination of fruits, nuts and flavours as they were a real success. It also means I need a new blender as I used a stick blender and it broke, thats why the nuts are still a little chunky!
Ingredients. (make about 10 walnut sized balls)
100g dates (pitted)
100g raw cashew nuts
100g dried cranberries
How to …
Place all the ingredients into a blender or processor and blitz until the dates are sticky and the mixture combines together.
Roll into balls.
Place into an airtight tub.
Eat within 3 days.
You could roll these in sesame seeds, cocoa powder or nibs or even more crushed nuts. The cranberries add a sour note, perhaps dried bluberries or sour cherries would do the same. A square or two of very dark chocolate blended in the mix would be a real treat too. Use as a snack with a cup of espresso or to refuel after exercise.
I had planned to make a lemon self saucing pudding for dessert last Sunday. Popping into my local Waitrose for the potatoes to roast around the pork I was cooking too, I happened upon a large punnet of raspberries. Reduced. So somehow they landed in my basket and came home with us. I did think that instead of a baked pudding we might have soem raspberries and a splash of cream or yogurt instead.
No such luck. Bottom lips were stuck out and the lemon pudding was demanded. But I had these raspberries that were ripening by the second. Then I had a revelation. What if I added the raspberries to the pudding? Would that work?
Well it worked. Brilliantly.
If you’d like to try, you need 250g of fresh raspberries and then I use this Lemon self saucing pudding recipe from Olive magazine. I fold in the raspberries, just before pouring the batter into the buttered dish. A drizzle of ice cold pouring cream and this is heaven.
Did you treat yourself to a NordicWare citrus loaf tinin the recent Lakeland sale? Me too. I do love a decorative cake tin and a novelty cookie cutter. I was first introduced to bundt cakes on a trip to Virginia, when I popped in to Williams Sonoma for a cookie cutter treat and saw these amazingly shaped bundt tins. Sadly my luggage allowance wasn’t going to run to several cast aluminium bundt pans so I had to leave them in the store, but I had been bitten by the bug.
Back in the UK I treated myself to a Jubilee bundt tin, a yule log tin and most recently the citrus loaf tin. The citrus loaf tin is smaller than a conventional bundt tin but still needs a bundt type, slightly denser cake. One that will do the tin justice and hold then image clearly on the top of the loaf when baked. Also as the tin is topped with citrus slices, there had to be an element of citrus in the loaf. I used lemon and clementines to make a St Clements cake, but a straight lemon drizzle would do, or try lemon and lime. I, for one, will also be making a blood orange version when the season rolls round.
St Clements drizzle loaf cake.
3 large free range eggs,
200g softened butter
200g golden caster sugar
200g self raising flour
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 clementine
1 tbsp milk
How to ……
- Preheat the oven to 190 c
- Either spray the inside of the loaf pan with cake release or butter and flour the pan, making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, add a spoonfull of flour with each egg to prevent curdling.
- Zest the lemon and clementine over the bowl to catch the essential oils into the batter too.
- Squeeze in the juices.
- Fold in the juices and then fold in the flour.
- The batter needs to be a slow dropping consistency so if you need to, add a little milk to slacken the mix.
- Spoon into the loaf tin and tap down gently to getthe mix into every crevice in the tin.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, check with a skewer at 40 minutes just in case. When it comes out clean the cake is done.
- Cool in the tin for a good 15 minutes before you turn out.
- Leave to cool completely. I iced mine with a thin water icing made with lemon juice. Equally a mix of caster sugar and lemon juice would give a crunchy glaze.
Many of you will know that I’ve been trying to lighten my diet without compromising on taste and texture. I learned the hard way that skipping meals is a recipe for snacking and illness, so eating a good breakfast is important. During the week breakfasts are usually porridge, sourdough toast or yogurt and fresh fruit. At the weekends with a little more time on my hands it can be poached eggs, a mini fry up or, a particular favourite, waffles.
For the most part, the problem with waffles isn’t the waffles themselves, but what you put on them. I tend to stick to berries, yogurt and the odd banana. That’s not to say you can’t top yours with maple syrup, ice cream, chocolate sauce or even fried chicken. As soon as I’ve lightened those recipes I’ll be doing just that I assure you! By swapping the egg yolks for egg whites and by removing the sugar, these waffles are lighter and crispier but still just as tasty. I also make a smaller quantity asI don’t need two sets of waffles for breakfast anymore, just one set and much more fruit.
Egg white waffles
2 egg whites (I use the Two chicks liquid egg whites you can buy in a carton)
125g plain flour,
1/2 tsp baking powder,
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp oil
- Turn on your waffle maker.
- Weigh out the dry ingredients into a bowl.
- In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Stir the milk into the egg whites and then mix this into the dry ingredients.
- Lightly oil (very lightly, a spray is best) the waffle plates.
- Fill and cook according to your waffle makers instructions.
- Top with fruit, yogurt, a few seeds and enjoy.
Since I’ve been trying to improve my eating I have found my baking mojo has vanished. Partly this is because my favourite home baked goods tend to come covered in chocolate, drenched in syrup or laminated with butter and these are precisely the foods I’ve cut out of my diet. However I bought myself a new and very shiny mixing bowl today and my baking mojo came back.
I’ve thought long and hard about how to lighten my bakes. Today I came across a new ingredient to me, demerara sugar with Stevia. I was shopping in Waitrose today, if you’d like to get some. I don’t know if the other major supermarkets stock it,but I imagine they do. Add to that agave syrup and not only do you have a list of trendy ingredients in this recipe but also the makings of some healthier flapjacks. The other lightbulb moment was to make a smaller quantity of each bake, make less, eat less! These flapjacks are endlessly customisable (if that is even a word). I had about a quarter of a bag of fruit and nut sprinkles and a couple of pieces of dried apple in a bag so I added them into the mix.
Healthy low sugar flapjacks
200g porridge oats,
100g butter or low fat spread
60g demarara sugar with Stevia or 100g regular demerara
3 tbsp agave syrup (you could use golden syrup if you prefer)
How to ……
- Preheat the oven to 180c
- Line a 6″ by 6″ baking tin with parchment paper.
- Melt together the butter and the agave syrup.
- Stir in the sugar, oats and any extras.
- Press into the tin and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cut into 12 small bars.
- Cool in the tin.
- Eat, and feel virtuous.
Meals during Twixtmas (that time between Xmas and New Year) need to be tasty, fairly simple and able to be stretched to accommodate unexpected guests. The meals could do with avoiding poultry as an ingredient too as there are probably rounds of turkey sandwiches still left to eat.
It’s a good idea to make the meals more free form. You and any guests can take as much or as little as they want. The burritos can be customised to make them as spicy or as cooling as the person wants. By varying the size of the wraps the burritos can be served as a snack, as a light lunch or as a seriously substantial meal.
In addition to the wraps and the bbq beef I also added a bowl of rice, some grated cheese and a trio of salsas. Guacamole and soured cream filled the table too. The trio of salsas included a fresh pico de gallo, a ready made tomato salsa and a tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos are available in cans in some supermarkets. Blitzed with a squeeze of lime and a green chilli it is seriously wonderful.
Pulled BBQ brisket.
1 brisket joint (size to suit your family and guests)
750 ml stock (chicken, beef, beer or simply water)
1 red onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 pack fajita seasoning
1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Heat the oven to 150c
- In an oven proof casserole heat the oil and gently fry the onions and garlic until softened and slightly coloured at the edges.
- Add the brisket, if it has a fat cap, render the fat a little and then add in the stock.
- Stir in the fajita seasoning.
- Place a lid on the casserole and bake for 3 to 4 hours.
- Once the beef begins to fall apart, using two forks pull the beef into shreds. The stock containing the seasoning will have thickened so you can stir the pulled beef into the juices.
- Set out wraps, rice, salsas etc and allow your guests to build their own burritos.
After eating a Christmas dinner with the full works of trimmings my family look forward to the turkey dinner sandwiches they will have on Boxing day. I’m happy to eat leftovers sandwiches but I could live without them. Me? I look forward to stripping the turkey carcass and making a vat of stock. I love to use the stock in the time between Christmas and New Year to make soup, in an effort to try and undo some of the Holiday excesses. To make your stock I have a recipe on Mintcustard. It uses a chicken carcass but the principle is the same.
Today the soupe du jour was leek and potato.
Leek and potato soup
700 ml home made stock (bouillon is fine if you don’t have stock)
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 shallot or half a small onion finely chopped
1 large floury potato, diced finely
1 knob of butter
salt and pepper to season
- Chop the leeks and onion finely and saute in the butter over a medium heat until softened.
- Add in the stock and bring to a simmer.
- Tip in the potatoes and cook until soft.
- Taste and season.
- Blitz with a stick blender if you prefer a smooth soup.
- If you are not trying to lighten your cooking a dash of cream just before serving and gently warmed through is a treat but not a necessity.