Monday, 24 August 2015

Baby Bites Pitta Pizza

This is a really great finger food and one that the whole family can enjoy way beyond the weaning process – they are delicious. The pizza sauce is super easy to make and whilst it takes a little time, it makes a big batch that you can freeze into an ice tray for each time you want to make these pizzas.

Have fun with the toppings and as little one gets older you can encourage her to choose from a selection and place them on herself – I recently made these for my friend’s ten year old and he was a big fan of popping on as much sweetcorn as the pitta could carry!

This works equally well on wraps too or even naan breads.

The below makes enough for one child and one parent, for lunch, with a little side salad.

Here’s how:
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 jar passata or chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 pitta breads
  • Toppings of your choice – we used sliced mushrooms and peppers plus tinned sweetcorn
  • Few strips of mozzarella

Firstly you need to make your sauce. Add the olive oil to a non-stick pan and place onto a low heat to slowly warm through.

In the meantime, finely dice the onion and mince the garlic and add to the pan to soften.
Once soft and translucent, add the tomatoes or passata.

Peel and finely grate the carrot and add to the sauce mixture (this is a sneaky way of getting extra fibre into children’s diets too if they’re not fond of vegetables).

Add the pepper and oregano and allow to slowly cook for, about thirty minutes, then remove from the heat and portion up accordingly. If you are putting some in the fridge or freezer till a later date, then make sure you allow it to fully cool before placing into the chiller.

Now place your oven on at around 180 degrees.

Now get your pittas onto a baking tray and put a 1-2 tablespoons full of the pizza sauce onto each and spread roughly.

Add the toppings of your choice and then the mozzarella cheese.

Place into the oven where they should cook in about ten minutes – you know they are cooked enough once the cheese is oozing and melted and then remove from the oven.

Cut into fingers for your little one and allow to cool enough for them to handle. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Cheat's Mushroom Risotto with Cauliflower Rice

Trying to cut back on carbs and calories is incredibly difficult when you love food and cooking and I have found that actually, cauliflower rice has been my saviour. Alone I would imagine it to be very bland, but when pepped with plenty of flavour it can be transformed into something delicious.

I created this version of Cauliflower Rice Mushroom Risotto as I had a craving for the stodgy, creamy dish and I actually enjoyed this immensely and will 100% make it again. Alone this comes in at 175 calories and with 20g Cheddar grated on top it is still only 258 calories but tastes great.

Here's how:

  • 100g cauliflower rice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 tsp creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Firstly unless you have bought the cauliflower rice, take a quarter of a caulflower and grate to create the 'rice'.

Next drizzle the oil into a non-stick pan and place on a low heat.

Peel and crush the garlic into the pan and then finely slice the leek and celery and add to the pan. Cook gently allowing to soften.

In the meantime slice the mushrooms roughly and add these to the pan. Thyme works really well with mushrooms so scatter in 1 tsp of dried thyme at this point.

As soon as the mushrooms start to wilt a little, add the cauliflower rice and use a wooden spoon to move them around and get them coated in the oil. Now season with sea salt and black pepper/

Now add the chicken stock and white wine and up the heat a little until the liquid reduces right down. The cauliflower rice then will take on some of the stock and winey flavours and give a more risotto tasting finish. 

Finally stir through the creme fraiche and if you need the extra luxury of cheese - 20g Cheddar only brings this dish up to 258 calories. Enjoy!

Baby Bites Yoghurt and Fruit

This is a quick and simple breakfast idea for during the weaning process - it isn't a recipe, just an idea that might be popular with other little ones other than Bridget.

We use St Dalfour to make like a 'fruit corner' type yoghurt without any of the added sugars associated with those types of products. St Dalfour is simply smashed fruit spread so the only sugars are the natural ones found in the fruit. 

Finger foods of some description are a must at every meal too, so a plate of fruit appears with most breakfasts - this one I've used blueberries and strawberries.

Here's how:

  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp St Dalfour (I used Apricot here but you can use any variant)
  • Handful of berries

Simply dish up the yoghurt into your baby's favourite bowl and pop the St Dalfour on top - stir through to distribute the sweet and fruity flavour.

Wash the berries, and slice the strawberries to make them easier to hold. Squish the blueberries a little if you like to make them easier to hold.

Baby Bites Courgette and Corn Pancakes

These are a great breakfast idea for your weaning child and make a nice change from sweet pancakes. They can be whipped up in five minutes and are very popular in our house - I like them too.

I often have spiralised courgette at the minute which works really well in these along with sweetcorn, but if not you can grate some courgette instead.

The below makes enough for a couple of days and the batter keeps fine in the fridge.

Here's how:
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 150ml semi skimmed milk
  • 50g courgette
  • 2 tbsp sweetcorn
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp oil

Firstly drizzle in the oil into a non-stick pan and place on the lowest heat to slowly warm the pan.

Sift the flour into a jug or bowl and crack in the egg, mixing with a metal fork. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, mixing all the time, until you have a smooth batter.

Add the pepper and sweetcorn and grate in the courgette and thoroughly mix so the vegetables are evenly distributed.

Use a ladle to scoop out some batter and place into the pan. After a minute, use a spatula or egg slice to turn over, it should be starting to turn golden brown. Leave to cook on the other side and once golden on both sides remove from the heat. 

If you are keen to cut into shapes you can use cookie cutters or a knife to cut out your shapes and make a fun plate of baby food.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Pork Cheeks with Mushrooms in Rioja

Pork cheeks are an incredibly cheap cut of meat that do take a while to cook, but the results are absolutely wonderful. Slowly cooked, the meat will be tender and melt-in-the-mouth and they can be cooked in lots of different ways. 

Here I opted for Rioja and a selection of mushrooms which was really lovely. You can use any red wine but use a decent wine that you enjoy drinking and then have a glass with the meal. I served here with a jacket potato and kale.

The below is enough for two plus a little extra for the freezer or lunch.

Here's how:

  • 400g pork cheeks
  • 100g shallots
  • 150g celery sticks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 150g mushrooms (mixed varieties)
  • 2 glasses of wine
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf

Firstly pop the oven on at 180. 

Peel and halve the shallots and add to a frying pan with the olive oil. Peel and crush the garlic and add to the shallots and then finely slice the celery and again add to the pan. This will be the base for your casserole. 

Slice the mushrooms and add to the pan with the shallots, celery and garlic and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so.

In the meantime place the flour into a bowl and season generously. Then pop the pork cheeks into the flour and turn around to ensure each part is coated with the flour.

Remove the shallot and mushroom mixture into a casserole dish, and set aside. And place the pork cheeks into the pan to brown. Once browned on all side, return the mushroom and shallot mixture to the pan and pour over 1 glass of Rioja. Allow to simmer down for two minutes then return to the casserole dish. Pour over the other glass of Rioja, the chicken stock, add the bay leaf and season once more.

Pot a lid onto the casserole dish or cover with foil and place into the oven for approximately 2.5-3 hours - checking every 30 minutes and giving a good stir.

Keep checking the meat, you know it's cooked well once it falls apart easily when touched with a fork.

Serve with your choice of accompaniments - enjoy!

Lemon Curd and Blueberry Muffins

These are a lovely baked treat of twelve muffins - you can use lemon curd or blueberry jam as I have here, but they work equally well with other jams too and are utterly delicious with a cup of tea.

They are a perfect distraction for children to make during the summer holidays too and a great introduction to baking. They are also very easy to make just needing a basic muffin recipe.

Here's how:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 160ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g lemon curd
  • 75g blueberry jam
  • Handful of blueberries to decorate

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Also line a muffin tin with twelve muffin cases.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add 100g of the caster sugar.

In a separate bowl mix together the vanilla, olive oil, milk and egg and once combined slowly mix into the dry ingredients.

Once completely combined half fill each muffin case with some mixture. Now put a teaspoon of lemon curd into half of the muffin cases and a teaspoon of blueberry jam into the other six. Now finally top each muffin with more muffin mixture to cover the jam and lemon curd.

Place into the oven to cook for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and nicely risen.

Remove from the oven and set aside.

With the remaining lemon curd, place into a ramekin or small bowl and place into the microwave for ten seconds or so to completely melt. Then using a pastry brush, brush the six lemon curd-filled muffins with the melted curd. Now scatter half of the remaining caster sugar.

Now repeat the process with the blueberry jam - melt in the microwave and brush over the remaining muffins and then scatter with sugar. Then use the blueberries to decorate. 

These will keep in a cake bow for two days but are best served warm with a cup of tea.

Garlic and Bay Ribeye Steak with Vegetable Fried Cauliflower Rice

I have been on a fat-fighting mission of late, still holding onto a good few extra pounds of baby weight and recently underwent a 30 day challenge of healthy eating Monday-Friday with treats (including alcohol) at the weekend only. This was a success and I shed 12lbs during this time - I still have a little way to go and with some of the meals I developed during this time, I need to keep up the healthy eating for at least Monday-Fridays for a few more months now to get down to my goal weight - some, such as this steak and 'rice' meal are so good that I would eat them whether dieting or not. 

This recipe is for 1 person - but obviously increase accordingly if cooking for more people. 

The fad for cauliflower rice was one that I admittedly scoffed at initially, but actually have found that by giving plenty of plenty to the cauliflower it is more than edible and in fact can be delicious in a variety of ways. Served here with a deliciously marinated and quick-fried ribeye steak, it feels like a luxury meal compared to usual diet fodder of soup or a salad. 'Fake' carbs such as cauliflower rice and courgette pasta have been my saviour during this diet. 

The below comes in at around 506 calories (via MyFitnessPal) and takes only 15 minutes to prepare and cook.

Here's how: 

  • 200g ribeye steak
  • 100g caulfower rice (can prepare this by grating the white part of a cauliflower with coarsely - or can buy ready made from the likes of Tesco)
  • 1 spring onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 red chilli
  • 50g mushrooms
  • Half a green pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • 50g cherry tomatoes 
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil

Firstly you need to marinate the steak. Into a bowl pour 1 tbsp of the olive oil, using the bare minimum, as here, will keep the calorie count down, but ensure the flavour is good. Add the bay leaves to the oil and add two of the garlic cloves - roughly chopped (no need to peel). Set aside in the kitchen - don't put back into the fridge.

If you need to prepare your 'rice' then use a box grater on the largest side to coarsely grate and set aside.Pour the remaining oil into a non-stick pan and place on a low heat.

At this point also place on a medium heat the griddle or pan for which you will cook the steak. Pop the cherry tomatoes in to griddle.

Finely chop the spring onion, garlic and chilli and add to the pan to flavour the oil. 

In the meantime finely chop the peppers and mushrooms too. Add the peppers to the pan and stir through. Once the peppers start to soften, this is time to pop the rice in to cook - and at the same time the steak will need to be popped into the other pan to cook also - before doing so I sprinkle on some salt and pepper onto each side of the steak for final seasoning.

I like my steak rare so I use a timer and cook a 200g steak like this for 1.5 minutes on a high but obviously cook to your own preference. While it's cooking, I add some further flavour to the cauliflower rice - a pinch each of salt and pepper and a good sprinkling of smoky paprika.

Once the steak is cooked to your liking, set aside to rest for three minutes off of the heat. 

Give the cauliflower rice a final stirring ensuring each piece is 'coated' in the flavoured oil and vegetable mixture and then dish up. Pop your steak on top and add the cherry tomatoes to the plate. Enjoy!