Thursday 31 May 2012

Stuffed Baby Sweet Bell Peppers


I found the cutest little baby bell peppers in the store today and I just couldn't resist picking them up! I am such a sucker for baby anything . . . kittens, puppies, duckings . . . baby vegetables!!


Add to the fact that I had also recently seen a recipe somewhere for some stuffed baby bell peppers that looked delicious and well . . . I just HAD to have them!!


When I got home though . . . I looked high and low, through every single cookbook I had been devouring over the past few days and do you think I could find that darn recipe????  NO WAY!!!  I could not find it at all . . . MOST annoying!


Talk about disappointed . . . but never mind.  I think I managed to come up with something that was pretty delicious irregardless of it not being the one I had originally in mind.


I combined traditional Mediterranean flavours . . .   using couscous and chopped marinated Kalamata olives . . . some toasted pine nuts, along with some chopped parsley and mint.


Then I added a bit of a middle Eastern twist and added some dried fruit . . . in the form of chopped raisins.  A bit of salt and pepper and olive oil and voila!!  I had something that tasted quite scrummy.


Stuffed into baby bell peppers and roasted, this lovely dish came out of the oven looking just beautiful . . . and then I added a few handfuls of mozzarella cheese to the top and allowed it to melt all over it . . . just for some additional protein.


These make a fabulous Vegetarian light supper when combined with some salad on the side.  I think they would also make an excellent light starter or even a wonderful addition to a finger food buffet.  (Although if I was expecting people to pick them up, I wouldn't quite bake them for as long as I did.  You would want the peppers to be a bit firmer for handling.)


All in all, I would give this 5 stars and two thumbs up!!  Seriously.   They were just wonderful served at room temperature.

 *Stuffed Baby Sweet Bell Peppers*
makes 24 stuffed baby bell pepper halves
Printable Recipe

Easy and delicious.  These make a great  starter and mezzo dish, as well as a delicious main course when served with a salad!!

75g of couscous (1/2 cup)
125ml of boiling water (1/2 cup)
55g of raisins, chopped (1/3 cup)
75g of pine nuts, toasted (1/2 cup)
2 heaped dessertspoons of capers, rinsed of any salt or brine
45g of marinated pitted kalamata olives, drained and chopped (1/4 cup, chopped)
4 TBS coarsely chopped mint and flat leaf parsley, combined
4 TBS olive oil, plus more to drizzle
salt and black pepper to taste
12 baby sweet bell peppers, halved and deseeded (or 6 large ones)
a handful of grated mozzarella cheese
Balsamic vinegar to drizzle (use a good quality)

Place the couscous in a bowl.  Pour the boiling water over top and cover.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Uncover and stir in the chopped raisins, pine nuts, rinsed capers, chopped olives, mint and parsley and half of the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Taste and adjust as needed.

Preheat your oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Have ready a large baking dish.  Place the pepper halves into the dish.  Stuff each with a portion of the stuffing.  Drizzle with some more olive oil. Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes in the heated oven.  Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top of each.  Return to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted. 

Remove from the oven and place onto a nice platter.  Drizzle with some Balsamic vinegar and serve.  May be served hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Easy Stovetop Granola


I just love eating oats for breakfast. In the winter this often means oatmeal, and it's the perfect wintertime breakfast as it is warm and filling . . . a real stick to the ribs breakfast when it is cold and you need all that extra energy and warmth!


But come the warmer weather I am so loathe to give up my oats!  Oats are not only good for your heart but they are a slow release energy carb . . . and so they help you to feel satisfied and full longer!  Much better for a greedy gus like me!


I love granola as well . . . and I love homemade granola much, much more than storebought mixtures.  At least when I make it myself I can control what exactly goes into it.  I like that idea.


Here's a delicious granola recipe that you can make in the summer months without heating up your oven and kitchen!  You make it completely on top of the stove.  Truth be told I love my normal granola recipe . . . but I love this one even more!

You make a tasty butter/sugar/honey mixture and flavour it with vanilla and almond . . . and then you stir in oats, coconut and a variety of nuts.  Then you just stand there stirring it for a time, until it gets all toasted and golden brown.


You pour it out onto a baking sheet spread it out to let it cool and then you stir in whatever combination of dried fruit you like.  Today I did dried cranberries, dried blueberries and raisins.  But I sometimes add dried mango, pineapple and guava chunks.  

It smells gorgeous while you are making it . . . I like to have it for breakfast in a bowl along with some thick greek yogurt.  It's just like eating dessert.


 I like the idea of eating dessert for breakfast, don't you???


*Easy Stovetop Granola*
Makes a large 2 litre container
Printable Recipe

So easy to make and perfect for the summer when you don't want to heat up your kitchen.  Delicious too!

320g of rolled oats, not quick cooking (4 cups)
115g of butter (1/2 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 TBS runny honey
100g of soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup packed)
85g of flaked almonds (1/2 cup)
60g of chopped pecans (1/2 cup)
55g of whole cashews (1/2 cup)
75g of shredded coconut (1 cup)
150g of dried fruit (about 1 cup, whichever mix you want)

Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the butter, brown sugar, honey, vanilla and almond extract.  Cook and stir to melt.  Add the oats, nuts and coconut to the skillet.  Stir to coat well with the butter/sugar mixture.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the granola is a dark golden brown.  This will take 10 to 20 minutes and do keep an eye on it so that it doesn't catch and burn.  Remove from the heat and pour out onto a baking sheet to cool  completely.  Add the dried fruit and mix in.  Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Warm Potato Salad with a Caper, Spring Onion and Mint Vinaigrette

 Warm Potato Salad

At the risk of repeating myself, I once again say . . . What gorgeous weather we have been having!! 

IT's been so sunny and warm . . . it's Summertime!  Yayy!

 Warm Potato Salad

I love England in the summer time.  I really do.  

We have so much rain in this country, which is part of the reason it's such a fabulously green and beautiful country.

 Warm Potato Salad

One thing that the sun does is it brings everyone out and about!  

The streets are filled with people enjoying the warmth and sunshine . . . they sit in the garden . . . they go on picnics . . . they have barbeques!

 Warm Potato Salad

I love eating al fresco in the warm weather . . . 

there is nothing better than putting up the garden umbrella over our patio table and setting it up for a delicious outdoors picnic just for two.

 Warm Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of my favourite Al Fresco dishes.  It goes with just about anything.  

I usually have all the ingredients in my larder to put one together . . . and they are usually simple and tasty.

 Warm Potato Salad

I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise based potato salads, well . . . my mother's is a winner in my books, but she doesn't overdo the mayo.  

I much prefer a mild flavoured vinaigrette . . . one which lets the flavour of the potato shine through.

Warm Potato Salad

Oh my . . . it is soooo good . . . a slight tang of dressing, made more so with the edition of beautiful pickled capers . . . sliced spring onions, french mustard, lemon juice, sliced mint . . . 

and earthy baby new potatoes, steamed until tender and then folded while still warm in this lovely vinaigrette.  This is beautiful.

 Warm Potato Salad

But . . . don't take my word for it.  Make it for yourself.  Easy peasy, lemon squeasy . . .


 Warm Potato Salad

*Warm Potato Salad with a Caper, Spring Onion and Mint Vinaigrette*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A simple salad with simple ingredients.  Simple, yes but not boring in the least.  This has the wow factor!!

1 pound of small new waxy salad type of potatoes, washed and unpeeled
2 fluid ounces of extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup)
2 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TBS good quality Dijon Mustard
6 small spring onions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced (the white parts only)
1 heaped dessert spoon of capers
fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a small handful of fresh mint leaves, cut into a chiffonade (about 1/4 cup)

Place the potatoes into the rack of a steamer over simmering water.  Cover and steam for 20 to 25 minutes, until fork tender.  While the potatoes are steaming, make the dressing.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.  Stir in the capers and spring onions.  Season to taste with some salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Remove the cooked potatoes from the steamer.  Carefully cut into thick slices crosswise and gently toss in the dressing while they are still warm, so that they can absorb the dressing.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

To cut the  mint into a chiffonade, roll the leaves tightly into a roll and slice across the roll into thin slices, flutter apart with your finger tips and scatter over the salad.  Gently toss together again.  Serve immediately.

Monday 28 May 2012

A very tasty Chicken Salad Sandwich . . .


I have to admitit,  and come clean with you all. . . when I was a growing up, I would never have touched a sandwich like this with a ten foot pole!  Yes, I will come clean. I was very picky and a bit stroppy when it came to food or trying out anything different.  I know!!   Very hard to believe!


But there you have it.  There would have been far toooooooooo much stuff mixed together in this for my childhood tastes.  Too many questionables.  Too much texture and colour.  Sliced chicken on buttered white  bread with some salt and pepper, and possibly a teensie dab of mayonnaise??  But of course . . .  never anything extra!!  Oh no!!  No cranberry sauce, or stuffing or anything else.  (I quite like chicken, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches now!)


I'm happy to say that is definitely not the case anymore.  I have an extremely worldly palate now, which whilst that means I still wouldn't eat a snail or squid . . . I will eat food with different ingredients and textures and I would choose a whole grain bread over a white bread most days of the week!


This is a fabulous chicken salad.  It's nutty and fruity and not overly filled with mayonnaise (as some tend to be)  You don't need a lot of mayo as there are so many other flavours and textures in this.


Of course you don't have to have it in a sandwich.  It's equally as delicious scooped onto a lettuce leaf!  But just look at that bread.  It's Swiss Muesli Bread . . . my new favourite . . . all stogged full of grains and seeds and raisins.  (Don't judge me.  It's delicious with chicken salad.  Trust me on this.  It also goes great with Ham and mustard.)


We had these for lunch today after church and they went down a real treat.  Seriously.

*Tasty Chicken Salad Sandwich*
Makes 4
Printable Recipe

Don't knock it until you try it!  These are fabulous!!

2 cups of chopped cooked chicken breast meat, no skin or bone (about half a pound or so, 2 single breasts)
75g of dried cranberries, chopped coarsely (about 1/2 cup, loosely packed)
60g of chopped toasted walnuts (1/2 cup)
1 stalk of celery, trimmed, washed and chopped
1 spring onion, trimmed and chopped
75ml of buttermilk (1/4 cup)
1 large dollop of low fat mayonnaise (about 1/4 cup)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
softened butter for spreading
8 slices of a sturdy bread (I used Swiss Meusli Bread)

Stir the mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, seasonings, herbs and seasonings together in a bowl.  Fold in the chicken, cranberries, walnuts and celery.  Mix all together well. 
Spread your slices of bread with a small amount of softened butter.  Pile on the chicken salad, dividing it equally amongst four slices, butter sides up.  Top with the remaining four slices of bread, butter side down.  Press gently together.  Cut in half diagonally, and serve immediately.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Breakfast Batter Puddings

I was really craving something different this morning for breakfast. I wanted something like pancakes, but not like pancakes, if you know what I mean.  I decided to make these little Breakfast Batter Puddings.  (I cut the recipe in half, which was plenty for Todd and myself.)


These things are amazing!  I think they are known by all sorts of other names, such as Dutch Babies, German Pancakes, etc. . . . but they're batter puddings to me.


They always puff up so huge!!  You will think that they are going to almost explode they puff up so much!  But don't worry they won't.  They always deflate when you take them out of the oven after a few minutes too, but that's ok, because when they deflate . . . it leaves a nice little dip in the centre for some fruit filling.


Today I just used some pie filling that I needed to use up before it's sell by date.  (I don't know why I buy the stuff!  I never use it!)  But you can use jam if you want, (Blueberry is a favourite of mine.) or even lemon curd.


Lemon curd is really nice with fresh berries sprinkled on top.  Strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.  They all work well.


You can dump them out of the ramekins if you like . . . but I like to keep them in.  It makes for a nicer presentation I think.  Just pop them onto a plate and dust them with a bit of icing sugar, and then . . . pass the fruit, or jam or whatever!


Your family will want to kiss your ring.  Seriously.  You'll be like royalty to them, all day long.

 *Breakfast Batter Puddings*
Serves 6-8
Printable Recipe

Puffy little batter puddings, filled with your favourite fruit filling! (I like cherry!)

250ml of milk (1 cup)
6 large free range eggs
100g of plain flour (1 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 ounces of butter, melted (1/4 cup)

To serve:
Icing sugar
your favourite fruit filling

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.    Butter 6 to 8 glass ramekins very well and place them on a baking tray.

Put the milk, eggs, flour, salt, vanilla, lemon and melted butter into a tall container (or your blender container) and blitz until smooth.  (I use my stick blender.  It's quick and it's easy and I can pour the batter right into the prepared pans from the blender container.)  Divide the batter equally amongst the prepared ramekins.  They should be at least three quarters full.

Bake for 15 minutes, until puffy and golden brown on top.

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and your favourite fruit filling.

Saturday 26 May 2012

A Spring Salad of Mixed Greens & Goat's Cheese Bakewell Truffles

I was recently contacted by Ethel the Goat from Capricorn Somerset Goats Cheese and asked if I would like to participate in a brilliant cookery challenge!  They wanted to send me a hamper filled with Ethel's favourite ingredients, the challenge being to come up with a lip smacking recipe using the ingredients sent!


As you know, I am always up for a challenge and so I jumped at the chance to participate.  When the hamper arrived it was fabulous. I was most impressed with all it included.  It would be impossible to use all of the ingredients in one recipe, so I hope that I am allowed to make more than one recipe . . . how could you not with so many fabulous "goodies" to play with!  I went to bed last night with all sorts of taste tempting ideas swimming around in my head!

Anyways, this here today is the first recipe I  came up with.  We've been enjoying some lovely warm weather these past few days!  Finally!  It's salad weather!  Yayy!!  I love salads!  I especially love Goats cheese with salads!!!  It has such a wonderful creamy texture and flavour, which is the perfect addition to a delicious salad of mixed sweet and bitter greens.  I had never tried the Capricorn Somerset Goat's Cheese before, but upon a tiny sampling of it's flavour, I decided that it would be perfect for what I had in mind.


Now, I have eaten many a chocolate truffle in my lifetime (and my hips show it unfortunately), and they are delicous.  I wanted to create a goats cheese truffle . . . that I planned on serving on top of a bed of baby salad greens.

I mixed the goats cheese with some cream cheese and chilled it until it got fairly stiff.  This cheese is so creamy, it never quite sets up completely, but if you use it chilled it's very workable . . . and if you've made truffles with chocolate, you know they are completely the same way!  It's a bit of a fiddle, but well worth the extra effort entailed!


And so it is with these delicious Goats Cheese Bakewell Truffles!  Well worth the effort that is!  Just picture a delicious mixture of goats cheese and cream cheeses wrapped around raspberry liqueur infused dried sour cherries, then rolled in chopped toasted almonds . . . traditional bakewell flavours!


Now chill them and then serve them atop a bed of beautiful baby spring salad greens . . . and drizzle the whole lot with a tangy Cherry Balsamic and Herb Vinaigrette!


This is what you end up with . . . A Spring Salad of Mixed Greens & Goats Cheese Bakewell "Truffles", with a Cherry and Herb Balsamic Vinaigrette . . .


Now, I know that may seem like a mouthful . . . but what a tasty mouthful indeed!

A Spring Salad of Mixed Greens & Goats Cheese  Bakewell "Truffles"
with a Cherry & Herb Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A deliciously different salad, composed of beautifully flavoured Goat's Cheese "Truffles", flavoured with raspberry liqueur infused sour cherries, rolled in chopped toasted almonds, set on a bed of baby greens and dressed with a tangy Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Do plan ahead as the truffles need time to set up and chill prior to serving.

For the Cherries:
1 (75g) packet of dried sour cherries (about 1/2 cup) (to be divided)
2 TBS Chambord Raspberry Liqueur

For the Dressing:
1/2 cup good quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
the leaves from several springs of fresh thyme
pinch of garlic powder
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup of extra virgin Olive oil
(You will also be using some of the Raspberry liqueur infused cherries and their juices)

For the Truffles:
100g of Goat's Cheese, softened (I used one pack of Sommerset Capricorn Goat's Cheese) (about 3.5 ounces)
70g of cream cheese, softened (2.5 ounces)
freshly ground black pepper
(You will also be using about 20 of the infused cherries, the rest will be used in the dressing)
85g of chopped toasted almonds

You will also need 480g of mixed baby salad leaves (about 5 cups)

You will want first to infuse the dried cherries with the raspberry liqueur.  Place the cherries in a small microwavable glass bowl.  Pour the raspberry liqueur over top and pop into the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Let stand for 15 minutes to infuse.

Mash together the goats's cheese and cream cheese in another bowl.  Don't worry if it is a bit lumpy.  This doesn't really matter that much.  Just get it as fine as you can without making it soupy.  Cover and place into the freezer for about fifteen minutes to  half an hour to set up.

Place the toasted almonds in a shallow bowl.  Drain the cherries, reserving any liqueur which may still be in the bowl.  Once the cheese mixture is set up, remove it from the freezer.  Measure out about 1 TBS of the mixture and drop it into the toasted almonds.  Press a drained cherry into the centre.  Carefully mold the cheese around it and roll the "Truffle" in the chopped almonds.  (It may seem a bit fiddly and you may not get totally round truffles, but that's truffles!  Odd shaped ones only add to the interest!)  Place onto a cling film lined plate.  You will get about 20 of these.  Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill  until needed.

To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, thyme. garlic powder and  any leftover liqueur.  Drizzle the olive oil in a bit at a time as you continue to whisk.  Chop the leftover cherries and whisk in.  Season to taste with some fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, divide the salad greens amongst 4 chilled salad plates.  Top each serving with 3 or 4 Goat's cheese truffles and drizzle with a bit of the balsamic dressing.  Serve immediately.


Note:  If making the truffles seems too fiddly for you or you are in a hurry and don't want to wait for them to set up,(I can appreciate that not everyone has the patience with such things as I have), simply slice the goats cheese into 4 rounds and place one of top of each plate of greens.  Scatter with some chopped toasted almonds and a few infused cherries.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.  I do hope you will try making the truffles though as they are gorgeous!

I hope Ethel likes it!  She'll be picking one finalist each month from all the recipes submitted, and then in October, Ethel will pick one out of all six as an overall favourite.  The winner will receive a year's supply of Capricorn Somerset Goats Cheese and a trip to Babington House in Somerset!   (Do check out the site.  It's one of the cutest sites I've ever seen on the internet!)

You can follow Ethel on Twitter I can promise you it's a real "tweet!" (Sorry I couldn't resist!)