Monday, 29 July 2013

Pasta Please Cheeseless Wonders Roundup

This month I was hosting the Pasta Please challenge. It's organised by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes, and my chosen theme this month was 'Cheeseless Wonders' - scandalous I know, but honestly, pasta with no cheese in sight can be very tasty too!

And now it's time to prove that, with this month's roundup

Kicking us off is Erbe in Cucina who made this vibrant and delicious looking Pesto Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes - and there's a link to a whole host of pesto recipes, many without dairy, with something to suit everyone's taste and store cupboard!

I was next, with a very quick and easy recipe for a No-Cook Tomato and Almond Pasta Sauce. I couldn't believe the depth of flavour that was so easy to achieve - we ate it with some black olives scattered over the top instead of the ubiquitous grated cheese.

Mr E at Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes made... Four Ingredient Haggis Pasta - and if you're vegetarian or vegan, veggie haggis would could easily be substituted for the meaty variety for hearty supper.

Next up, Green Gourmet Giraffe rustled up some miraculous Cheeseless Cheese Sauce - perfect with any pasta - in this case some beautiful red pomodoro pappardelline (try saying that quickly!).

I love the sound of this next dish - Kelp Noodles and Kale with Avocado-Miso Sauce  by The Taste Space. Avocado adds a fantastic creaminess to dairy free pasta sauces. And since kale and avocado are both superfoods, this one hits the health and taste marks.

Next an entry from the Pasta Please organiser - Creamy Mushroom and Herb Spaghetti by Tinned Tomatoes. Not only do the giant chunks of mushroom look irresistible, it is vegan into the bargain!

Following that comes the intriguingly named Pasta for the Weak Hearted by Truth Personified, which is choc-full of tomatoes, peppers, basil and LOTS of garlic. With all of those flavours, there's no need for cheese.

And lastly - although cooked much earlier in the month, but only posted by me at the last minute - a guest post from my own Mum! She's slowly becoming a food blogger by proxy, as she gets sucked into the various challenges I'm doing - this time she made Smoked Salmon, Artichoke and Tomato Pasta which was a spicy savoury hit.

Thanks to everyone who took part - the August challenge will be hosted by Cate's Cates, so have a look at her site at the start of the month to discover the theme.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Pictorial Pasta Please Guest Post

I'm hosting the Pasta Please challenge this month. It is organised by Tinned Tomatoes, and each month a different blogger chooses a theme and curates the roundup. This month, I chose 'Cheeseless Wonders' as the theme.

And despite not having a blog (it'll happen eventually...!) my Mum was keen to join in.

Her recipe arrived mainly in picture form, with a fairly scant description, so I've elaborated a little, and hope I've got it approximately right.

Smoked Salmon, Artichoke and Tomato Pasta

Ingredients: Artichoke hearts in oil, smoked salmon, an onion, pasta, a tin of cherry tomatoes, pepper
I've got this instruction sorted: chop the onion! 
Sautee the onion and the artichoke (also chopped) in the oil from the artichokes, and boil the pasta in salted water until the onion is soft and the pasta is al-dente
Meanwhile, drain the juice from the tin of tomatoes and keep it for something else
Add the salmon and tomatoes to the skillet with the softened onions and artichokes
Tip in the pasta 
Stir through and serve - quick and delicious
Apparently the artichoke marinade used to fry the onions gave it a lovely spicy flavour, and my Dad enjoyed it so much he prompted my Mum to write down the ingredients so they could make it again (she is another proponent of the haphazard school of cookery...).

I'll be posting the round-up very soon!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

French Macaroons - my nemesis no more!

It's that time again - Daring Bakers' posting time.

This month, in a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!

Once the challenge was announced, I did contemplate browsing the archives to find one that really appealed, however on the other hand, I've now participated in 31 Daring Bakers' challenges (this is number 32) and only one of those has been a complete disaster. Now don't get me wrong, others have had some unexpected results and massive deviations of the original recipe to make them dairy free, but they've generally been successful in their own way. Only one has been a complete fail entirely through my own actions, since it was a dairy free recipe to begin with, so I knew that was the challenge I had to re-visit to attempt to conquer it again: French Macaroons from October 2009. In fact, it was also my first ever Daring Bakers challenge - I'm glad I didn't get too disheartened and kept going!

This time I used a different recipe - by Ed Kimber from the BBC Good Food website. AND THEY WORKED BEAUTIFULLY! I was so nervous putting them in the oven, and so happy when they behaved like expected, and rose up with shiny tops and a little frilly foot around the bottom. My baking nemesis is no more :-)

So here are my re-visited success variety.

I followed the recipe to the letter, wanting to eliminate as many sources of errror as possible - I'm well aware that my fails are usually because I never seem to follow a recipe as it it written. I added a little vanilla and strawberry flavour to the mix, then filled them with a dark chocolate ganache made with dark chocolate drops and soya cream.

And for comparison, my first-time around fails can be found here.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Daring Cooks' July 2013 Challenge - Overdue Yoghurt!

Inexcusably late again but life is busy and my wrists are slightly wrecked at the moment from some really long hours at work, so I was trying to have a bit less evening laptop time. That, combined with my enthusiasm in making this challenge at the start of the month, resulted in me forgetting to post it on the 14th. So I shall drag out the old 'better late than never' adage yet again and hope it's still valid!

So on to the challenge...

The lovely Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler was our July Daring Cooks' hostess and she asked us to create homemade yoghurt in our own kitchens! No incubators needed, no expensive equipment or ingredients, just a few items and we had delicious yoghurt for a fraction of the cost and a whole lot healthier than what you buy in the stores!

There was a very good reason that I was so excited about this post. I've not had proper yoghurt in over two and a half years, since it's pretty much 100% unadulterated dairy. Actually that's not true - loads of yoghurts in the shops are seriously messed about with, with a whole bunch of thickeners and sweeteners and junk added to make them low fat thus and "healthier" but I shall not get onto that soapbox right now!

The reason I was so enthused by this challenge is that it was a change to have some proper yoghurt again. I cut dairy out of my diet over 2.5 yrs ago to help deal with Mini-M's intolerance when she was tiny. I've spent the past 1.5 yrs periodically trying to re-introduce it to my diet with fairly limited (aka no) success - until recently that is. I had seen an advert for A2 milk in a magazine and scorned it as another silly celebrity endorsed fad for folk that wanted to pretend to have a food intolerance. It is a milk that doesn't have one of the milk proteins that some people can't tolerate. But I'm also happy to clutch at whatever straws maybe graspable, so when I saw it in the supermarket a few months ago, I bought a carton. Said carton sat in the fridge, I was too scared to try it in case it made me ill, and eventually Mr E used it up. So I gave myself a talking to, bought another carton and gave it a shot - just a tsp at a time first of all, after I had boiled it, but fairly son I realised I could have a big swig, unboiled, with no ill effects.

Hence my excitement over the yoghurt challenge - I could make 'proper' tangy yoghurt with A2 milk - and it worked :-) !

I used a 1/4 cup plain active soya yoghurt as my starter culture which worked perfectly, and lo and behold...

Will it have worked, won't it have worked, Schrodinger's yoghurt pot...
It worked!!!!! Woop - and it tasted lovely.
I followed the instructions in the challenge recipe, and wrapped the jars in tea towels and put them in the oven that was cooling down after cooking dinner, and left them overnight, then stuck them in the fridge in the morning before I went to work. I added a tbsp of honey to sweeten.

As well as just eating it plain, or with some blueberry jam mixed in with a piece of toast to dunk, I used some to make yoghurt scones - which also turned out beautifully.

Glazed with yoghurt
Risen and golden

Monday, 15 July 2013

Nutty Savoury Oat Slice

I'm feeling pretty virtuous about this post - it was our dinner tonight and it was really good. Admittedly it was possibly slightly crunchier than intended, but I'm including some suggestions to remedy this and make it perfect.

Prettier than I expected from an oat groat pie!
It is, in fact, also my Random Recipe submission this month. As ever, it is hosted by Belleau Kitchen, and the theme is the Big 3-0 - since it's the 30th random recipes challenge - and I thought it was only good and proper that I posted it quick, before I sailed past the big 3-0 and into the murky waters of 31 myself very soon!

We were tasked with counting along our cook book shelf and stopping at number 30, then cooking the recipe on page 30. My 30th book was 'Great Little Cookbooks Wholefood Cooking'. It's one of those cookbooks that has no author, and I probably felt sorry for it when I saw it in a bargain book shop and decided to take it home, figuring no-one else was likely to be interested in bargain basement wholefoods!
Fresh from the oven - immediate picture taking just in case it didn't turn out of the tin, but it did beautifully
Each recipe has not only a difficulty rating, but many have a one word comment to sum up it's quality. This one is rated as 'Exquisite' and 'Easy'. It never fails to amuse me - particularly as some have no quality rating - does that mean they're pretty mediocre and didn't warrant any superlatives? Maybe I should try one to see. Mr E, who ended up making most of this, (time ran away with me and after toasting and soaking the oats, I was off out for the evening) would definitely dispute the 'Easy' rating.
Hello hazelnuts! Time for your close-up...
Enough of my rambling though, and on to the recipe. It is actually billed in the book as 'Oat Slices with a Cheese and Nut Crust' but since there was no cheese involved to make it dairy-free, I'm re-branding it. And possibly downgrading its quality from 'Exquisite' to 'Heartily delicious'. Exquisite seems a bit too fancy for such a robust dish.

Nutty Savoury Oat Slice (serves 4 as a main meal, or 8 as a side)
  • 150g oat groats (basically oats that haven't been rolled, cut or otherwise messed about with)
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder - I used Marigold vegan
  • 25g spring onions
  • 75g carrots
  • 50g celery
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 4 tbsp Oatly oat cream (another non-dairy cream would work too)
  • 1 tbsp non-dairy margarine (I used Pure sunflower)
  • 50g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Firstly, dry fry to oat groats over a low heat for about 20 mins, stirring frequently to stop them burning. They will begin to smell toasted.
Add the boiling water and stock powder, then simmer for 10 mins, adding a splash more water if needed to stop them simmering dry.
Take off the heat and allow to cool for around an hour. (Alternatively, instead of simmering them for 10 mins, you could leave them to steep overnight).
Next finely chop the carrots, celery, spring onions and parsley. You can do this by hand if you like, but it is quick and easy to pulse them all up in a food processor.
Tip the finely chopped veggies into the oats, add the egg yolks, Oatly cream, margarine, 3/4 of the nuts, dried herbs and spices and mix well.
Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and grease the sides and base of a 9" cake tin.
With an electric whisk, beat the egg whites until stuff, then gently fold them into the oat and vegetable mixture, trying hard not to lose too much volume.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the remaining hazelnuts.
Bake for 30 mins until golden brown on top and springy to the touch.
Allow to cook in the tin a little before serving to help it firm up - we had it cold and it was delicious, but I can imagine that hot would be very tasty too.

This is hearty and filling, and the egg and nuts pack in some protein, so it doesn't really need much to go with it at all. The recipe suggests grilled mushrooms, but we had tomatoes and some lettuce from our balcony pot - Mini-M was chief balcony lettuce harvester with her little scissors.

Job done!
And so to finish the post, I have to return to the original book recipe, that is clearly aimed a some sort of superhuman giants with enormous appetites, since it claims the recipe serves 2(!). Indeed, not only that but it suggests it is cooked in a 10inch diameter tin. I defy anyone to eat half of a 10inch diameter tin of oat pie! As a main, it will serve 4 adequately. As a side, I'd say 6-8. As a result, the book quotes a whopping 790kcal and 52g of fat per serving (since as well as the nuts it was topped with a generous amount of cheese).

I was intrigued as to how my version fared, and a little confused by the book, so did something I do fairly rarely - stuck all the ingredients into an online calorie and nutrition calculator, and I'm pleased to report, my version clocks in at much more moderate 305kcal per serving, is high in Vitamin A, iron, selenium and manganese, and even has a reasonable amount of calcium and Vitamin C too - not to mention plenty of fibre from all of those oats!

Now I just need to find something else to do with the rest of the bag of oat groats...

When it's hot and you've a friend with a prolific mint plant...

... make this delicious mint and elderflower non-alcoholic mojito!

It's refreshing, zingy and cooling - pretty much everything you need from a summer drink. And easy - which is even better.

Of course if it's gin o'clock, and you want to pep it up a bit, then a measure of white rum or gin would taste pretty good I'm sure...

Mint & Elderflower Non-Alcoholic Mojito (Makes 4 glasses)
20g fresh mint leaves, washed
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
4 tbsp elderflower cordial
1-2 tsp caster sugar (depending on the sourness of your lemon, and the sweetness of your cordial - and taste!)
500ml ice
500ml water

Put all the ingredients in a blender or liquidizer and blitz until the ice is broken up - then enjoy before the ice melts!

Mini-M was also a fan - although as you can see, she was perhaps a little bit gung-ho with the ice crunching! 

Thank you to our generous mint donors - may your plant continue to prosper!!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Clothing and Curtains

I'm feeling a little Maria Von Trapp as I write this - I'm fairly sure she used the dining room curtains to rustle up some rather natty outfits for the Von Trapp children. I didn't use the actual curtains, but I did use the excess from the material we bought to be a curtain in Mini-M's bedroom to create a fun summery top for her. Yep, my kid matches her bedroom curtains - it could add a new camouflage element to hide a and seek!

View from behind
I'm feeling pretty proud of my creation - it's only the 3rd thing I've sewn from a pattern, and it even involved tracing my own one, which in turn was a little bit of a fiasco of sticking together A4 sheets of paper since I didn't have any actual pattern paper, or tracing paper, or big bits of paper to hand.

Putting woodchips in her sandals
Admittedly Mini-M wasn't really keen on cooperating with the posing - her model behaviour is very much on her terms - so I've not managed to get any staged pictures displaying it in all its loveliness, rather a selection of snaps taking in the park, as she played.

Looking a little bit moody - practising for the teenage years
I used the Lovebird Tunic tutorial from Craftiness is Not Optional, but didn't add the sleeves. The body length was also shorter, as limited by the size of my bit of material. I used pink grosgrain ribbon instead of bias binding to trim the arm holes, and turquoise velvet ribbon to trim round the neckline and hem.

Making a break for it
I'm not a fast sewer - I tend to keep my machine on tortoise speed, and spend a long time thinking about what I'm about to do next with a certain sense of fear before I press the foot pedal - but it still only took a couple of hours one afternoon, and a couple on evening to rustle up, meaning a competent seamstress could easily knock it out in an afternoon.

A contemplative moment
It's a great pattern for toddlers - the pleat in the front means there is plenty of material for easy and comfy movement. Mini-M was in love with it at first, but slightly confused - she somehow was convinced it was a swishy dress for dancing, so when she tried it on and it didn't swish, she was rather upset! However with a little encouragement she put it on for a friends birthday party in the park, and within minutes her reservations thankfully seemed to disappear.

Several folk commented that it looked like a colouring book - and I'm not telling Mini-M just yet, but there's enough material still left to make a cushion for her bedroom, and let her loose with fabric pens doing just that.
Curtains - no dress shapes missing...
Sunshine and short - in Scotland nonentheless!

No-Cook Tomato & Almond Pasta Sauce

* Update - in the time that it took me to write this post which admittedly is 24hrs, someone else has posted first, so any residual feelings of hosting / first posting guilt can be forgotten ;-)

If you pop by my blog from time to time you might have seen that I'm hosting this month's Pasta Please challenge, and my chosen theme is Cheeseless Wonders. It's a monthly pasta themed blog challenge organised by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes.

I have to confess I'm feeling slightly guilty about being both the host, and the first person to post to join in via the Linky, but we're a week into the challenge now, so I don't think I'm abusing my powers too much ;-)

I'm also very much hoping that come the end of the month, I won't end up being the only person to have participated!

So my cheese-free entry is for No-Cook Tomato and Almond Pasta Sauce which was inspired by the Internet in general, then I went freestyle, and even left the laptop in the kitchen whilst I made it - no recipe other than the back of an envelope where I jotted down the things I was adding as I went along.

No-Cook Tomato and Almond Pasta Sauce (makes enough sauce for 2-3 servings)

  • 4 halves of sundried tomato (the dry sort, not in oil)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 12 almonds (skin on)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the sundried tomatoes and put into a jug that you can fit a magic wand (or immersion blender) in. Add the boiling water and leave for 5 mins.
Add the almonds, give a mix, and leave for another 5 mins.
Put all of the other ingredients into the jug, then carefully blend - go gently at first, otherwise you risk almonds flying out across your kitchen, or tomato explosions!
Keep blitzing until smooth and silky - you might need to add a little more water to loosen it up if it starting to get too thick - I added another 2 tbps - this will depend on the size and juiciness of your tomatoes.

Stir through hot cooked and drained pasta and you're ready to go. Mr E and I ate ours with a sprinkling of chopped black olive which went really well. Mini-M had hers just with pasta and sauce. There was a moment when we thought she was going to be unusually adventurous and try an olive, but retrospectively, I think she was probably just concerned she might be missing out on raisins, and once she had satisfied herself that wasn't the case, all curiosity disappeared.

Mini-M was keen that I took a photo of hers too...
This is a really lovely pasta sauce - the sundried tomatoes give it a good depth of flavour, and the almonds work really well with the smoked paprika. It's also seriously low effort, which is always a winner chez Makey-Cakey! It would make a great dip for tortilla crisps or the like, if you left it a little thicker too.

See - cheese-free isn't so bad!?!? Come on people - get your pasta on and join in!


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