Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cashew Cookie Baked Apples - and your chance to get a free Nakd bar

If you keep and eye on my blog from time to time, you might have seen that in the past I've posted a few different recipes incorporating Nakd bars - and it's time for another one - plus a chance to get yourself a free one to brighten up your snack time.

The lovely people at Nakd (as opposed to the lovely Nakd people, because that might just be something entirely different) sent me a variety of different bars to try. They are gluten, wheat and dairy free, so were a staple in our house anyway - great for lunchboxes and hungry toddler snacks.

So let's focus on the important bit... how to get a free one. It's simple. Just fill in this form, and you'll be emailed a voucher which you can then print and exchange for a free bar - yum! The giveaway is open until Sunday, or whenever the supplies run out - and I kid you not when I say that they are literally giving away thousands.

Now back to the recipe. As well as being super snack material, I think that Nakd bars are a fantastic baking ingredient - they bring lovely flavours and a great fudgy texture to a whole range of bakes and cakes.

Or indeed apples.

Like an warm autumn hug wrapped up in foil
Tonight I made some very low-fuss but nonetheless rather tasty baked apples for pudding - great for a miserable, misty, grey autumn day - comfort pudding but without the guilt.

Cashew Cookie Baked Apples (Serves 2)
2 eating apples
2 squares of tinfoil
1 Nakd Cashew Cookie Bar
A drizzle of cream of your choice - ours was soya

Preheat the oven to 180C (Fan 160C).
Corer - check; Nakd bar - check
Core the apples.
These apples are apparently not speaking to each other...
Chop the bar into small pieces.
Set an apple on each piece of foil and fill the hole of each with half of the chopped Nakd bar pieces.
Stuffed and ready for wrapping and baking
Loosely warp the apples in the foil and put them into a small casserole dish.
Bake for around 30 mins until the apple is soft.
Post-bake, sticky cashew cookie loveliness
Drizzle with cream (or yoghurt of any variety, or custard, or ice-cream - whatever takes your fancy!)

Mini-M loved this, and in typical contrary toddler style, asked for a spoon since I had forgotten, then when I brought one, ate it with her fingers anyway.

I love the fact that it feels like a proper hot pudding, but has no added refined sugar at all - one little bit less parenting guilt for the day.

And on the themes of a) toddler puddings, b) apples and c) Nakd bars, Mini-M was also a big fan of Apple Pie Nakd Oat Bar bar chopped up and sprinkled on top of soya yoghurt.

Fastest pudding every - prep time 1 min
Getting stuck in
Obligatory hand smushing
Making sure every last drop is licked off the spoon
Gone in record time!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Chard & Pecan Pesto - Pasta Please!

We were the lucky recipients of a big bunch of chard and another of kale when my folks visited a couple of weekends ago.

Since we've not had our veg box, we've eaten a lot less kale! And whilst trying to think of something new and interesting do with each week's kale ration was always a bit of a challenge, I have to confess that it suddenly seemed much more exciting after a notable absence.

I used the kale to make quick kale kimchi which may well make an appearance here in the not too distant future, however this post is all about the chard.

It made a fantastic dairy free pesto - using pecan nuts added extra creaminess - and weirdly, Mr E and I both agreed that it did actually taste like it had cheese in it.

Chard, Pecan & Lime Pesto (Serves 4)

  • A big bunch of chard - washed, caterpillars removed and stalks trimmed off
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 60g pecans
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 a lime

Heat a splash of the oil in a large frying pan, and finely chop the garlic, and roughly chop the chard.
Sautee the garlic and chard for about 5 mins until the chard has softened.
Chuck everything into a food processor and blend until fairly smooth.

We had this mixed through dried pasta that was infused with red chili, with some baked cherry tomatoes on the side. It was really, really tasty. Mini-M remains unconvinced - however I'm planning on making it again to try to convince her - I can't let a possible vessel to convey all the goodness of greens, via a convenient pasta sauce pass us by without another shot.

So I'm submitting this to the Pasta Please challenge, masterminded by Tinned Tomatoes, and hosted this month by Green Groumet Giraffe who has chosen Long Pasta as the theme.

It also made a fantastic sandwich filling. I had mine combined with some chicken pieces, and Mr E had his with cheese.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Stale Bread (and mushroom) Soup

Stale Bread Soup. Doesn't sound very appealing, but tastes lovely when you add mushrooms, sweetcorn and onion into the mix.

It tastes like a Pot Noodle - but in a good way - the momentary niceness of a pot noodle before all the weird stuff makes your mouth/insides go funny. I think it's probably the creamy mushroom and sweetcorn combo doing its delicious thing.

Tasty - but not so pretty
And it's also creamy - but still dairy free - magic! The magic of oat milk.

As an aside, Mini-M is into magic at the moment - she thinks she is a bit of a magician - her latest superpower is being able to use the electric windows in the car - she's not yet realised that actually Mr E has control over them... She's also a fan of magically making things disappear by either a) dropping them on the flood behind her back, or b) flinging them very very unsubtly off to stage left. And there's a magic word to pass her at the top of the stairs on the way to bedtime. We have to guess. The other night it was apparently 'Towel Carpet Budgie' - it can be a lengthy process sometimes!

Back to the soup...
I'm submitting this for the September No Croutons Required challenge hosted by Tinned Tomatoes, which is to create a veggie soup or salad using Mushrooms. Job done.

Creamy Mushroom Soup (Serves 4 as a main meal or 6 as a starter)

  • 4 slices of stale wholemeal bread (I used Polish wheat & rye sourdough)
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 350g mushrooms
  • 1 corn cob
  • 500ml oat milk
  • 500ml water
  • 1 veggie stock cube
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
Chop the onion and sautee for a few minutes.
Meanwhile cut the mushrooms into chunks, strip the kernels off the corn cob with a sharp knife, and tear the bread into pieces.
Add the mushrooms to the onions and cook for a few minutes more, then add the oat milk, bread, water and stock.
Simmer for about 15 mins, then take off the heat and blend until smooth.
Return to the pan, add the corn kernels and simmer for another 5 mins.
Season to taste and serve

Soup to match the current weather - a bit murky!
This is definitely the most convincingly creamy non-dairy creamy soup I've tried. It doesn't have that weird soya milk taste, and also doesn't taste like porridge (just in case you were wondering!).

And it's ready in half and hour, and uses up stale bread (sorry ducks...) - a winning combo.

As such, I'm also going to submit it to the No Waste Food Challenge, masterminded by Turquoise Lemons and hosted this month by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. And let's face it - soup that delivers a little bit of the moral high ground, as well as being hearty and warming is even tastier.

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Daring Cooks' September 2013 Challenge: Potato Gnocchi

Daring Cooks posting time again - this month's challenge was thankfully one that was fairly achievable, with no dairy-free difficulties.

Blog checking lines: "Todd, who is The Daring Kitchen's AWESOME webmaster and an amazing cook, is our September Daring Cooks' host! Todd challenged us to make light and fluffy potato Gnocchi and encouraged us to flavour the lil pillows of goodness and go wild with a sauce to top them with!"

Handy hint - to any readers in the UK, try reading that last sentence with an American accent - it will sound less weird!

I followed the challenge recipe but halved it, since we only wanted gnocchi for two.

Gnocchi - just about holding together!
How did it turn out... well, they didn't disintegrate in the water, and were lighter and tasted better than shop bought gnocchi by a long way. However I think I possibly took the instruction not to over mash the potatoes a little too literally, and instead we ended up with chunks of unmashed potato in the finished gnocchi.

I did mash them a little bit more than this... but not enough!
They were certainly easier than I thought - so there's potential that I'll give them another go at some point in the future and perfect the mash!

Innocent little gnocchi ready to take the plunge (and dissolve ever so slightly)
In terms of flavour, I added a little hot Piri Piri sauce to the dough to give it a little extra flavour, and served it with a sauce made from fresh pepper, cherry tomatoes, onion, balsamic vinegar and sausage.

Floating on the top - that means they're done
Mr E and I really enjoyed it. Mini-M not so much, but she did like the sauce. That said, she doesn't like shop bought gnocchi either, so that's probably not a big surprise.

Mini-M's serving suggestion... put gnocchi carefully on the table. Leave. Eat the sauce.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

5 Seed Slice

I'm getting back up to speed with blogging after a crazy little while with too many other things going on to leave any spare time, and it's good to be able to join back in with some blog challenges.

This time, it's Tea Time Treats, which was dreamt up and is alternately hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage. This month Lavender and Lovage is hosting and the theme is Flapjacks, Oats and Traybakes, which is a fantastically versatile theme.

I decided that I wanted to make a healthy(ish) traybake that I was happy to give Mini-M as a snack, and based it on a recipe I have previously blogged for Seedy Slice.

This time I managed to pack in 5 different seeds - and some oats into the bargain.

Seedy Slice (cuts into 12-16 pieces)
  • 2.5 tbsp ground flax seeds and 3 tbsp almond milk
  • 35g pumpkin seeds
  • 35g sunflower seeds
  • 10g chia seeds
  • 25g oats
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 200g jam or fruit spread
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
Turn the oven on to 180C (160C fan) to preheat.
Grease a swiss roll / brownie tin.
Put the ground flax seeds and 3 tbsp almond milk in a mixing bowl, mix and leave for 10 mins to thicken.
Meanwhile blitz up the sunflower and pumpkin seeds with a hand blender (cover the bowl / jug with a towel to stop bits of seed pinging everywhere).
Add the sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the flax seed along with the chia seeds.
Add the margarine and beat until combined.
Add the maple syrup, oats, flour, almond milk and zest and beat until well combined.
Dollop the mixture into the prepared tin and push out to the corners.
Spread the jam over the top, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
Bake for around 30 mins until the base looks browned around the edges, and the jam is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin before cutting.

If you wanted to make this even healthier, you could use a jar of pure fruit spread, with no added sugar and only natural fruit sugars - but I just used some regular plum jam and it was jammily delicious!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Random Recipes #32 - Puddings, cakes and bakes

This month's Random Recipes challenge, which is hosted as every by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, is to cook up a sweet, pudding, cake or bake.

Now I've got a LOT of cake cook books - but was one of them my random selection... no!

I used a random number generator and got book number 21, which when I counted along from the end turned out to be 'The Australian Woman's Weekly Picnics'. There were then 15 sweet recipes, and my random number generator gave me 3, which corresponds to recipe 46 in the book: "Grandma's Date Slice".

I halved the recipe and as ever changed bits and bobs here and there to keep it dairy free. Since I was using almond milk, I chucked some flaked almonds on the top too.

Since it was a gift for a friend, I baked it in a mini disposable traybake tray, and found a suitable scrap of saved ribbon to wrap around. I was quite pleased with my handiwork - until Mr E said it looked like I'd bought it in a shop - which wasn't really the objective!

Whether or not this tasted nice, I have no idea, since it made exactly the right amount to fill the tray, and it's generally frowned upon to give a gift with a slice obviously missing! But it smelled lovely whilst it was cooking - so I hope it did.

Here's my version:

Dairy Free Date Slice (Makes 2 small tray)
  • 150g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 60g dairy free sunflower margarine
  • 80g chopped stoned dates
  • 1 medium egg
  • 60ml almond milk
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
Lightly grease your tray and preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Put the flour, sugar and margarine in the food processor and blitz until sandy.
Take half of the mixture and press it into the base of your tray.
Add the dates, egg and milk to the rest of the crumb mixture and blitz again until combined.
Pour it into the tray on top of the base.
Sprinkle the almonds over the top.
Bake for around 30 mins until risen and golden on top.
(Optional - find a bit of ribbon to wrap around and make it look like you bought it in a shop!)

I'm looking forwards to seeing what delicious sweet treats everyone else has cooked up at the end of the month - it will no doubt result in a whole lot more bookmarked recipes as usual!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Mr E's Birthday cake

Within a month, we have all three of our family birthdays, so from mid-July to mid-August I'm generally slightly preoccupied with birthday cakes!

This year, Mr E turned 30 and we had a party for family and friends halfway up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, complete with kilts, party frocks, bubbles, chilli and nachos, umbrellas, rain, wellies - and of course cake.
Smal people eagerly awaiting candle blowing out / cake eating!
I wanted to make something that would be easy to prepare in advance. Mini-M wanted to decorate the cake. I wanted it not to look too much like a crazy toddler special, since it was going to be dessert for everyone. My original plan was to let her decorate the cake with a variety of sweets, and went on an inspiration / ingredient gathering mission to ASDA to see what dairy-free decorative delights I could come up with. They had After Eights on special offer - and the rest, as they say, is history!

(I should point out now that After Eights aren't actually dairy free - they do have butterfat in them, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for me - but obviously might be for some people. Butterfat contains minimal amounts of milk proteins - but there are still likely to be traces).

Whilst pondering the box of After Eights (mainly along the lines of 'maybe I could just eat one...') I realised that 30 would fit on the top of the cake tin I was planning to use, so I decided to ice them as little cartoon faces, using writing icing. The ultimate prepare-ahead cake decorating solution.

For the cake itself, since I was making enough for 30, I made a 9-egg sponge, using dairy free sunflower spread instead of butter. I weighed the eggs, then used equal quantities of sugar, SR flour and margarine. I spooned half of the mixture into the cake tin in dollops, then added 1oz of cocoa powder, 1 tsp peppermint extract and a couple of tablespoons of milk into the remaining batter, mixed well, and dolloped that into the tin too, giving it a quick swirl around before baking (in a rectangular roasting tin) for around 40 mins at 180C (160C fan). It turned out a lovely moist chocolate mint marble cake.

I made 'butter' icing using dairy free sunflower margarine again - if you beat in enough icing sugar, it doesn't taste too margarine-y - still sweet and lovely - especially when you're about to cover it with mints :-)

I think this next one is probably my favourite of the cake photos - I didn't realise until after I'd taken it that the face on the right has a shocked expression - maybe that's at the sight of Mr E represented in rectangular chocolate for on the left...

I thought that my After Eight iced Mr E was fairly lifelike - but Mini-M didn't agree, and failed to recognise him out of the other 29, despite being the only on with a) glasses or b) hair!

I'm submitting this to the September We Should Cocoa blog challenge - the theme is Showstopper Chocolate Cakes, and since this one is at least 50% chocolate cake, with chocolate on the top, I'm figuring it counts!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Geek Stats Cooking: Albania

I'm slowly (OK ridiculously slowly) working my way around the parts of the world I've not had any blog visitors form, according to Google Analytics stats, and cooking something from each of those countries.

Why? No real reason or big purpose - it just seemed a good way to try out a lot of weird and wonderful recipes!

So this time it's Albania.

I resisted the urge to cook half a sheep (I'm saving that one for Mongolia...) and instead went for Sup Turil which is a pepper and tomato soup.

It's easy, tasty and warming - all you could really want in a soup

Not so photogenic - hearty, warming and delicious though!
I discovered the recipe after a bit of search engine trawling, trying to find something easy, and not ridiculously meaty, and all mentions of the recipe I could find said to use fresh tomatoes - but it was the back end of the spring and the tomatoes in the supermarket were all a bit hard and watery rather than properly red and tomatoey so I made the executive decision to use tinned.

The soup is served with egg and yoghurt noodles in it, traditionally, and instead of using yoghurt, I used Oatly oat cream, which thankfully seemed to work, but also made the whole thing double inauthentic!

Here's my version...

Almost Albanian Sup Turil

  • 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 peppers (red, yellow or orange - green are rather bitter for this)
  • 1 onion
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 50g white rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tbsp plain flour
  • 100ml Oatly cream

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the 1 tbsp plain flour and fry for 3 or 4 minutes until just starting to brown.
Chop the onion, add to the frying flour and continue to cook for another minute or two.
Chop the peppers and add to the pan with the stock and tomatoes.
Simmer for 15 mins, then add the rice and cook for another 15 until the rice is tender.
Beat the egg in a small bowl, and add the Oatly cream (or use natural yoghurt) and 1 tbsp plain flour and beat well. Try dripping some of the mixture into the simmering soup - if it dissolves rather than cooking into a noodle, add a little more flour, otherwise drizzle in the rest of the noodle mixture and cook for another 3-4mins, then serve.

Mini-M Makes: Chicken pops

I'm trying to catch up on some back-blogging and these photos were next on my hit list: Mini-M making some chicken bites on sticks (aka chicken pops). I seem to remember that we made them back in June, as soon as we got back from our holiday.

It was definitely her first time making anything with raw meat, and anything that she really couldn't stick her fingers in her mouth halfway through in the small kid way, and she seemed to understand and did very well.

As for the exact recipe - I'm not entirely sure - we started with one from a kids cook book and made a significant amount of modifications, whose nature I can't quite remember, but I think the general gist was as follows:

  • Take 1 raw skinless chicken breast fillet and 1 small onion. Chop into chunks and blitz in a food processor.
  • Add 1 tbsp dry breadcrumbs, some sauce (I think we used HP), some honey, some salt, some pepper, some paprika and some mixed herbs, and stir well to combine.
  • Roll into walnut sized balls.
  • Crush a packet of plain crisps and roll the balls in the crisps.
  • Put on a greased baking sheet and stick in paper lollipop sticks.
  • Bake for about 25 mins at around 180C

They tasted great and Mini-M was very proud of her efforts - and rightly so I think - some real cooking!

This recipe is open to infinite variations: different sauces, herbs, coatings, or even meats - I think it would probably be successful with sausage meat, salmon or minced turkey, pork or even beef.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Oops - no yeast!

It's the official end of the Edinburgh Festival today - and that's including the arty posh bit, and not just the crazy Fringe.

To say August has been a busy month would be a fairly massive understatement - but since today is September, it's a new month, and I'm taking advantage of a momentary pause in the craziness this evening to write a blog post (or maybe even two, if I'm still awake later on!).

Back at the start of the Festival, Mr E and I went to see James Morton (of Great British Bake Off fame) at the Assembly Rooms do a show about bread, and indeed bake bread during it. It was a slightly random format, but a fun way to spend a lunchtime nonetheless and very interesting (although I'm still no further on as to why so many bread-machine recipes need milk powder in them, and I'm not sure I managed to convince the slightly shocked bread purists all round that I don't actually own one of said bread machines! Just that I know several people who do, and I can't eat dairy, hence I can never eat the bread they bake - hence the question - but it shall remain a mystery for another day).

Naan - not exactly!
A couple of nights later, Mr E and I decided it was time to give some bread making ago, however we were so engrossed in discussing which of the recommended kneading techniques were least likely to wake our 3yr old daughter sleeping in the room directly above the kitchen (I kid you not, we lead a rock and roll lifestyle!) that neither of us were paying very close attention to the ingredients and forgot to put in the yeast. Which is a) a rather fundamental problem when making bread, and b) fairly shameful, since there were actually only 3 other ingredients, so it's not like we had a lot to remember.

There really are no words...
We did momentarily debate whether or not you could retrospectively knead the yeast in and quickly concluded that was a monumentally stupid idea (almost as stupid as missing it out in the first place) but decided that rather than chucking it straight in the bin, in the spirit of waste-not-want-not we'd see if we could dry fry them to make some flatbreads.

It worked surprisingly well - they were dry fried for a couple of minutes on a high heat on each side, then chucked straight in the toaster which made them puff up more than just using the pan on its own.

Mini-M perfecting the dough dropping splat
We didn't use all the dough, wrapped some in clingfilm and stuck it in the fridge, cue much fun for Mini-M the next day, squdging, stretching and playing with the dough, and choosing the next one to go into the pan each time, to go with soup for dinner.

Another one about to be splatted from on high
Disaster averted - however next time I'll not be forgetting the yeast - and I can see just how foolproof James' bread recipe, since clearly my fool quotient is fairly high!

Yep - still very flat!


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