Looking After Myself #2 – An Adventure With A Courgette

That sounds so much ruder than it ought to! That’s at least 3 spoons right there….

A friend of mine was mercilessly mocked at the weekend for being a vegetarian who doesn’t eat a great deal of recognisable vegetables  (as in, eats pasta & cheese – sounds familiar 😉 ). That got me thinking that I ought to try out the spiralizer that I bought to make some veggie noodles.

So here is our first attempt at pad Thai!

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The noodles are remarkably easy as is a bit like a pencil sharpener for a courgette (That’s zucchini for my over the pond people) and because they’re softish, it’s 5 minutes to make a big bowl.

Basically, the appeal of this is making something quick that has veg in it and is vaguely healthy without me needing to stand for too long. And tastes good.

Essentially I bastardised this recipe from Inspiralized and had a take out menu on standby. I’m not usually one for weird fads, but the veggie noodles promised me more veg, fewer calories & the satisfaction of getting Mr Geek to eat courgettes.

Cooking took a full 3 minutes (prep about 5). I approve of this.

I prodded my food.

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It smells like Pad Thai. It even looks like Pad Thai…. and fuck me, it actually tastes like it too! The only hint that these noodles were importers were that they were slightly more fibrous and I couldn’t do my usual cut between top teeth & bottom lip. (Stupid jaw – I have a massive, but hidden over bite with my bottom teeth a full cm further back than my top teeth and a narrower jaw.)

So I now have another veg packed go to meal for feeling like crap days and it’s yum!

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This will of course be fully remedied by eating a vat of chocolate this evening whilst we continue to binge watch Community. But this isn’t a diet. It was dinner.

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How The Internet Made Me Crunchy

Ok, I had to look this one up on google after I kept reading it in comments and blogs. What is crunchy? Am I crunchy? Do I want to be crunchy?

1. Crunchy means to have altered your lifestyle in order to be more environmentally conscious. It comes from the mocking term used for people who made their own granola. Those hippies who were a bit ‘crunchy’.

2. I think I am a little bit crunchy, yes. I think I’m best described in my hippiness as ‘could do better’.

3. Yes, then. I think I do want to be crunchy.

Actually, it’s the Internet, and specifically other people’s blogs that have let me be a bit crunchier this year. Take this week for instance – I’m working my way through the stuff we bought at the PYO farm. Today’s mission, cook some kohlrabi that was grown less than a few miles from our house..

Before this week, I didn’t have a clue what kohlrabi was, let alone how to cook it and frankly, my mum’s 1970s good housekeeping books were less than helpful. But the lovely Reluctant Hippy posted a link to her blog and low and behold, it sounded delicious.

So we chopped it up into cubes…

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And I got TinyPants in on the action with her making sure all the oil and garlic was well and truly coating the stuff.

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We used cheddar instead of parmesan as we’d run out, and served it with pork loins baked with coriander, roasted cubed potatoes and peas the whole family was bowled over by how good this tasted! Clean plates all round 🙂

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I’m not likely to move into a yurt and milk goats any time soon (although that would be a great way to spend a summer), but I am looking closely at what we eat, and what we wear and am getting a little more vocal about my objections to fracking, but that’s a whole other post.

Some Days Blueberry Muffins Are An Acceptable Breakfast Food

Some idiot in sheer desperation to make my children sleep last night, promised them blueberry muffins for breakfast. We don’t have any blueberry muffins. And as LSH is working in Oxford all week, neither do we have a spare parent to run out at short notice to the shops.

What we did have was frozen blueberries (meant for LSH’s quick breakfast protein shakes to make them taste less like arse), flour, sugar and other baking stuff.

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I’m not really one for weighing stuff out because I’m a lazy baker and learnt from an ‘about that much’ approach of my elderly relatives (and having seen how some of my mum’s carefully weighed recipes have turned out, I know that careful weighing a good cake does not make). I’ll give you some close approximations:

Makes about 18ish.

4 oz self raising flour
4 oz granulated sugar
2 oz butter (yes butter, not that nasty plastic margarine stuff)
2 eggs.
A bit of vanilla essence
Enough milk to make the batter pliable but still stiffish (think melted chocolate texture)
The blueberries you have left in the freezer (I guess about 300g?)

Melt the butter a bit in the microwave (for about 30 seconds) and stick this in a big bowl with the sugar, vanilla and eggs. Bash it with a wooden spoon until it’s ‘creamed’ which looks like a paste. Then slowly add in the flour and milk until you have a batter which forms soft peaks (I don’t know what that means either, but it does sound cheffy! Basically, when you take the spoon out, the shapes you leave should soften, but you can still see them).

Now stir in the blueberries so you get a purple swirly effect (this works the same for other berries like the raspberry ones I made this week).

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Put some cake cases into a muffin tray (or two as this makes around 18), and spoon in the mixture until it reaches the top of the case. Stop eating the mixture. Seriously, you’ll not have enough to make a muffin at this rate. This bit is important if you want that muffin top look. The big domey effect is just the cake rising over the edge if the case, so make sure your cases have enough mixture.

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Bake these in an oven set to 180C for about 25ish minutes, or until they are nicely browned and when you stick a wooden skewer in it comes out clean. Raw cakes are nasty.
It’s useful to pre-heat the oven so the cakes go into an nice hot oven. One day, I shall win the lottery and have an Aga to cook these in. Until then, I have an ancient fan oven that makes weird noises.

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These require no frosting. Please don’t frost these. Ew ew ew!

Leave them as long as possible to cool and then stuff your face 🙂

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Chicken ring! (We liked it, so we made a ring out of it)

Ok, this is an adapted recipe, but it’s quite a novel way of getting veg in the kids… And the saving grace behind its weirdness is the ability to extend two chicken breasts to feed a family of 4 or 5. It is a case of less meat, more veg and some weird extras, but I’ll cost it out for you:

2 chicken breasts (about £4) – thigh fillets are cheaper
Half a head of broccoli (about 40p)
2 red peppers or 1 large one (about 80p)
A roll of puff pastry (about £1.50)
2 tablespoons of mayo (about 15p if you’re using helmanns)
A chunk of cheese (about 25p)

Total – £7.10

Factor in potatoes and the rest of the broccoli as veg and that’s £2 per head for a family of 4.

You’ll need to precook 2 chicken breasts for this and then stick them in the blender to chop them into breadcrumbs once they’re cold.

Next take a roll of puff pastry and cut it into triangles:

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Now make them into a star shape on a flat baking tray:

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After this, use the blender again to chop half a head of broccoli into bizarre green breadcrumbs. Put these into a bowl which is big enough to mix in with the chicken breadcrumbs. Trust me that this will taste good rather than like how it currently looks. Frankly, it gets worse before it gets better.

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Then cut up the red pepper and stick this into the blender. This won’t make breadcrumbs but a frothy red mush. This is good (keep repeating this in your head) as it gives it moisture.

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Mix those three together in the bowl to make a nasty looking mush. I can only apologise at this point.

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Then add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise and add a handful of grated cheese for flavour. Mix this in with the disgusting looking mush (continue to trust me).

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Next, use the spoon to mould it onto the pastry into a sort of ring type shape. You could make it look nice with an ice cream scoop, but seriously who has time for that? Just make sure that it’s sort of even.

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Once you have built a ring of mush, fold over the triangles into the middle of the ring one at a time and cut off ends as you go so you end up with gaps and some left over pastry.

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Fill in the gaps with the offcuts then glaze with an egg (or not). The only reason to glaze here is for looks. Great for dinner parties, totally insignificant for feeding kids who couldn’t care less if the pastry has an egg glaze.

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After 25-30 minutes in the oven at about 180 C, you’re good to go with a veg filled chicken ring.

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By the way, if anyone can think of a name for this that doesn’t make LSH giggle I’d be grateful!

English Friday Food = Battered

No, not beaten to within an inch of it’s life, and not always fish and chips, but some of my favorite comfort food has always had a generous helping of crispy coating, or for today’s toad in the hole, a cakey, crispy battery bed.

We’re not allowed to call it toad in the hole here, beanpole and tiny pants object to eating toads (fair play), so it has been christened ‘sausage cake’ and must be served with cauliflower cheese and green vegetables. They’ve been known to eat servings of this that adults would struggle with.

It’s just started snowing here and we all need warming up, so to hell with the calories, we’re having sausage cake for tea!

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With the batter made, the oven goes on at top everything on degrees and I am going traditional on this one and putting great hulks of beef dripping into a baking tin. Whilst the oven heats up, I put a whole cauliflower into water to boil (this way it doesn’t go watery). This was a trick that my mum taught me. You then put it in the bowl and use a fork to break it up – no more messing about fishing bits out of the saucepan.

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On the advice of generations before me, the most important thing about decent crispy batter is to get the tin and the oil (or fat) really flipping hot before you put in the sausages or mixture. So in the tin goes while the oven finishes heating to solar temperatures (about 230 C). Once it’s hot hot hot, take the tin out and pour in the batter (it should sizzle) then quickly stick the sausages on top and stick the whole lot back into the mega hit oven.

And about 30 minutes later, it’s ready to come out. I would have taken a photo of the finished thing, but they ate it before I got a chance!