Sunday 30 June 2013

Whole Lemon Muffins

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Just look at what I was recently sent to try out.   Yes, that's a lovely Tassimo machine by Bosch.   My daughter Eileen, in Canada, got one of these as a wedding gift last year, and I was green with envy, so when Tassimo contacted me several months ago asking me if I would like to try one out I didn't have to think twice before I gave them a resounding yes!

Before anyone says anything, yes . . . I am a Mormon, which means I don't drink tea or coffee, but that's doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good hot chocolate once in a while!  I have had another pod hot drinks machine for several years now and I thought it made pretty good hot chocolate . . . until now.

We've been using the Tassimo machine here at Casa de Rayner for about two weeks now, and I have to say in all honesty . . .  the Tassimo makes better hot chocolate than my old machine, seriously.  Not a word of a lie.

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Why I think it's better:

1.  There are more than one variety to choose from and they are easily accessible.  (Half the time I couldn't get my hands on the hot chocolate pods for our old machine.  I have been able to find the Tassimo pods at my grocery store, as well as on line through the Tassimo shop, and Amazon.)

2.  The pods are easy to store and easy to use.   They don't drip across the floor when you're trying to move them from the machine into the bin for disposal.

3.  The offer 40 different flavoured pods from hot chocolate . . .  to green and black teas, chai tea . . . and just about every kind of coffee you can imagine.  (Espresso, Costa, Cote D'Or, Carte Noir, etc. and in Canada . . . Tim Hortons!  Decaf and regular!)

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4.  There is no guess work involved in using the pods.  Each pod contains a simple and unique bar code which the machine reads (it's genious) and then uses to create whatever it is you are having . . . perfectly and in quick time!

5.  The Tassimo machine only uses and heats up enough water for the drink you are making.   It is exact, which means you haven't wasted any energy or water.

6.  Tassimo’s fresh water flow-heater ensures that instead of heating the entire reservoir, you get the right amount of water at just the right temperature for a perfect delivery of your chosen drink!

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7.  It tastes great!  (Well the hot chocolate does anyways!  I have tried all three different kinds.  Cadbury's, Sucho and Milka.  All fabulous!)

In short I love it!

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Did you know that 100% of the coffee in Tassimo drinks now comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. On these farms, natural ecosystems are preserved by growing coffee in harmony with nature. Farmers and their communities benefit from training, education and access to healthcare to help them build a more sustainable future.   That all sounds very good to me!

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Just look at that tasty cup of hot chocolate!!

Of course it goes without saying that it's always nice to have a little bit of what you fancy when you are enjoying such a nice drink, and so I baked some of my Whole Lemon Muffins to have with our chocolates!

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These muffins are gorgeously delish.   You use a whole lemon, ground up (peel and all) to make them, which gives them a fabulous lemon flavour!

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There are also chopped walnuts in them, for an added dimension of flavour.  I do so love toasted walnuts and lemon . . . together they are just wonderful!

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Add to that a gorgeous lemon drizzle icing and you have one very spectacular muffin indeed!  The only down side being (and that all depends on how you look at it) is that the recipe makes rather a lot.

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Twelve rather large Texas Sized Muffins if you are so inclined, or twenty four regular sized ones, which is a lot of muffins!  Mind you . . . I did cut the recipe in half (it is possible) and got 9 medium large ones.  I had never cut the recipe in half before, so it was nice to know that I could do so without any problems.   Of course they do freeze well also.  Just freeze them before glazing and then glaze them when you are ready to thaw and eat them!!

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*Whole Lemon Muffins*
Makes 12 very large muffins  
These muffins are fantastic.  An entire ground lemon goes into the mix, giving these the ultimate in lemon flavour.   The addition of a healthy dose of Greek Yogurt ensures that they are moist.  These have to be my absolute favourite all time muffins.  They are meant to be baked in Texas Size muffin tins, but you can bake them in normal muffin tins, giving you roughly twice the number of muffins.  Decrease the baking time by about 5 or 6 minutes in that case.

1 medium unwaxed lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large free range eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups whole fat Greek Yoghurt
For the drizzle glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
few drops vanilla
lemon juice to give you a thick drizzle icing  

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Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 5.   Butter a 12 cup texas size muffin tin very well, or spray with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.

Wash the lemon well.  Cut into quarters.  Remove any pips and discard.  Put all of the lemon into the food processor and blitz until the lemon is completely ground up.  Scrape out into a bowl.  (You can add some of the sugar to make this a bit easier if you wish.)  Scrape the lemon out into a bowl.  Tip in the toasted walnuts and blitz them until they are coarsely ground.  Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla.  Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add them a third at a time, alternating with the yoghurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Stir in the lemon and nuts.  Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, dividing it equally amongst the cups.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Whisk together the ingredients for the drizzle until thick and smooth.  Drizzle over the cooled muffins.  Allow to set before serving.  Save in an airtight container.

Many thanks to Tassimo for sending me this fabulous machine.  All opinions are my own.
Feel free to follow them on Facebook .

Saturday 29 June 2013

Swiss Diamond Giveaway winner!

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  I forgot to tell you who the winner of the Swiss Diamond pan is.  I used a random numbers generator and it picked number 10 so Jayne Townson, you are the lucky winner.  Contact me via mariealicejoan at aol dot come to give me your relevant details so that the Swiss Diamond people can send your pan out to you!
7hippopotamus said...
Wow, this pan looks fantastic. I've signed up on facebook as jayne townson. Twitter @7hippopotamus

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Many thanks to all who were such good sports and left comments and signed up to the Swiss Diamond Facebook page.  I wish I could give each of you a new pan.   I am enjoying mine tons and tons.  I use it every day almost and fall in love with it all over again each time!   Congratulations Jayne!

Candy Crush Cookies

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 One of my favourite games to play is called Candy Crush.  You have to match different coloured candies in groups of three, and there are different challenges to meet in each level.  I find it quite addictive really.

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I wanted to bake some cookies today and use up some bits and bobs which needed using.   Some chocolate covered crispie cake and cupcake decorations.   You could just use crisp rice cereal if that's all you have.  

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I also used some crushed digestive biscuits for a part of the flour.  You will want them very fine.  I used my stick blender which has a mini food processor attachment.  (I am awfully fond of that attachment.  I use it a lot!)

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Into them as well went semi sweet chocolate chips, and then I shaped them into balls and pressed them into my whoopie pie tin, which I have found to be largely not that good for use as a whoopie pie tin, but which works really well with these types of biscuits.  (cookies)  

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I partially baked them, basically just until they were set and beginning to brown.  I then removed them from the oven and threw some mini marshmallows on top, returning them to the oven for a further few minutes to melt the marshmallows and finish the cookies off.

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I pushed some cut up green and blacks dark milk chocolate into the melted marshmallow along with some fudge bits when I took them out of the oven for the final time.  The heat from the cookie melted the choclate beautifully and once they were completely cool . . . the chocolate held the fudge bits in place as well.

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All in all . . . these were quite, quite satisfying . . .  I named them Candy Crush Cookies after my favourite game, because just like the game, these are also very addictive!

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*Candy Crush Cookies*
Makes 24
Printable Recipe

A bit of this and a bit of that makes for one really tasty cookie!  Bet you can't eat just one!

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup soft brown muscovado sugar
1 large free range egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup digestive biscuit crumbs, about 12 (can use graham cracker crumbs)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 container of chocolate covered crispie cake sprinkles
(about 1/2 cup)

To finish:
mini marshmallows
one bar green and blacks chocolate, or other
good quality chocolate, coarsely chopped
mini fudge chunks

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a whoopie pie tin very well.  Set aside.  (If you don't have one of these you can just shape into balls and flatten them slightly on a buttered baking sheet, but they won't look the same.  They will spread more and be flatter.)

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.   Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Whisk together the plain flour, baking powder, salt and biscuit crumbs.  Stir into the creamed mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips and crispie sprinkles.  Shape into large balls the size of a walnut.  Place one into each recess in the whoopie pie tin.  Press down lightly.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Drop some marshmallows into the centre of each.  Place back in the oven and cook for 4 to 5 minutes longer, until the marshmallows have begun to turn golden and melted.  Remove from the oven.  Drop a few bits of chocolate on top along with some fudge chunks, Pressing them down slightly.  Allow to stand in the pan for about 10 minutes before loosening with a sharp knife and and removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Re-butter the pan and repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

Store in an airtight container.

Friday 28 June 2013

Pressed Picnic Sarnies

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I just adore Boursin cheese.  It's a soft and creamy cheese which is spreadable and comes in lots of delicious flavours.  I am partial to the Black Peppercorn one and the Herb and Garlic one.  I use it quite a lot.  It's excellent stirred into sauces, or mixed with the flesh of baked potatoes and stuffed back into the skins for fabulous double baked spuds!    It's nice on a cheese board and lovely spread onto crackers, or crisp celery sticks!    

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They now come in packs containing six individual portions and I was sent samples of both the Black Peppercorn and the Herb and Garlic to try out!  Scrummo!!  These are the perfect size to take on summertime picnics or pop into portable lunches for school or work . . . or even just to munch on when you are feeling a bit peckish.  

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We've been having such fabulous weather lately that yesterday I decided to put some of it to good use and make some tasty Pressed Picnic Sarnies to share with the Toddster . . . with the view in mind of taking ourselves off into the Welsh countryside . . .   

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These are the easiest and the tastiest of picnic sandwiches.   They are simply layers of meat and cheese and vegetables compressed between two layers of crisp chewy Italian Slipper bread, or Ciabatta as it is called.  

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You can choose your own favourite filling ingredients, but what I have shown you here is what I like to use . . . ham, turkey, salami . . . three tasty slices cheeses . . . gouda, emmenthal and edam . . . crisp and peppery rocket and sweet basil leaves . . . sweet pickled hot peppers and sweet gerkins . . . roasted red and yellow peppers, ripe tomatoes and marinated olives . . .  

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You line the bottom half of the loaf with a good layer of tangy grainy mustard mayonnaise . . . and the inside of the top of the loaf with a tasty layer of Boursin cheese.  This helps to prevent the bread from getting soggy.   You wrap all of those layers tightly in cling film and then compress them just so . . .    

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You do need to make these ahead of time so that you can give them plenty of time for the flavours to meld together and blend into the perfect mix of deliciousness.   Three hours will do it, but ideally overnight is best if you have the time. 

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When you are ready for your picnic, just slice open the covering and cut that tasty baby into five or six thick slices which are then ready to wrap and pack for your portable meal!   Unless of course it is raining . . . which it is today.  We picnicked in the confines of our lounge as we watched it pelt against the windows.  Sure . . . it would have been nicer to be gazing out upon a field of lovely sheep . . . but that's England for you  . . . when life hands you lemons and all that . . . you know how it goes.   

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*Pressed Picnic Sarnies*
Makes 5 to 6 servings
Layers of color and beautiful flavors.  Perfect summer picnic fare!

1 Ciabatta loaf, cut in half length wise
(If you can get them the sun dried tomato or olive Ciabatta makes for a really fun sandwich)
3 tablespoons grainy mustard mayonnaise
Garlic and Herb Boursin cheese
1/4 pound thin sliced roast turkey
1/4 pound thin sliced ham
1/4 pound thin sliced German Salami
4 slices gouda cheese
4 slices of edam cheese
4 slices emmental cheese
Roasted bell peppers
sliced sweet gerkins
sweet pickled jalapeno peppers (or any other hot pickled pepper you like)
chopped marinated olives
thinly sliced red onions
thinly sliced ripe tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh rocket leaves  

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Spread the mustard mayonnaise on the bottom of the ciabatta. Pull out some of the inner bread on the top half and discard.  (You can blitz it into bread crumbs and freeze it for another time.)  Spread the insides of the top half of the ciabatta with the Boursin cheese. Sprinkle the chopped olives over top and layer on the slices tomatoes, and some more  rocket leaves.  On the bottom crust of the ciabatta, layer rocket leaves and some basil leaves.  Add the sliced red onions. Layer on the meats.  Top with the cheeses.  Add a layer of roasted peppers, gerkins, and jalapenos.  Cover with top layer of ciabatta.  Press down lightly.  Wrap the  entire ciabatta tightly with several layers of plastic cling film, making sure it is well covered.  Place the wrapped ciabatta onto a chair and sit on it.  (I know this sounds silly, but it's the secret to a nicely pressed sandwich!)   Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.  Remove from the refrigerator.  Cut way the plastic wrap and cut into individual sandwiches.  You should get 5 or six sandwiches depending on the size of your Ciabatta!  These are delicious!

Many thanks to the people at Boursin Cheese for sending me these tasty samples!

Thursday 27 June 2013

Baked Stuffed Rigatoni

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Are you like me?  Do you like to browse Pinterest looking for tasty things to cook and to eat?   Do you pin them and make note of them?   How many of them do you actually go back and cook?   Or do you just use your pins to inspire you?  I do a bit of both.  

I peruse and pin . . . then I get inspired and then I cook.  Sometimes exactly from the pin . . . and sometimes I use the pin as a starting base and then run with the ball! 

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A few weeks back I was greatly intrigued by a recipe I saw on Pinterest for a Skillet Baked Stuffed Rigatoni by Heather Christo, which you can see here.   It was a bit fiddly, but it looked fabulously delicious, and not all that difficult to do!

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The really fiddly part was stuffing the rigatoni.  They aren't huge actually, so you will want to make sure you don't cook the pasta until it is flimsy as you are going to have to poke a piping bag into those.  Things I learned from this process . . . room temperature cheese is easier to pipe, and do not overcook the pasta or it will split.

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mmmm . . . little pasta tubes stuffed with cheese . . . layered with fresh basil and slathered with marinara sauce . . . dusted with more cheese and then baked . . . what's not to like????  Of course, there can never be enough cheese and so I added some Dolcelatte to the filling, because . . .  I had it, it needed using and I love it!

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I also added a nice layer of mozzarella to the top.   Heather didn't do this, but once again, I had it to use and I used it!

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Scrummo!   I enjoyed this the other day whilst the Toddster was enjoying the rare treat of a Steak and Kidney (ugh!!) pie. 

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Coz . . . I have taste, and he doesn't.   (I jest people, I jest!)  Seriously though this was really tasty . . . however fiddly.  Think cheese lasagne . . . except stuffed into eensie peensie  tubes.

Would I go to all that fuss again?  Probably not, but at least I gave it a go!   Much easier to just layer the stuff in a dish and bake it.   The end result would probably taste the same!  But if you aren't afraid of a bit of fiddle, by all means go for it! 

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*Baked Stuffed Rigatoni*
Serves 4
I am not usually one for fiddly recipes, but this looked so good I couldn't resist.   I was right.  It was delicious!

1/2 pound of rigatoni pasta
8 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature
4 ounces soft goats cheese, room temperature
2 ounces dolcelatte cheese, room temperature
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large jar of good quality marinara sauce (about 3 cups)
a large handful of fresh basil leaves
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
a handful of grated mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a round baking dish.   Set aside.

Cook your rigatoni until almost al dente, according to package directions.  You don't want it quite al dente.  While the pasta is cooking beat the soft cheeses together in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Place into a disposable plastic pastry bag, snip the end and push down all the way, ready for piping.  Drain the rigatoni well and rinse in cold water.  Drain again.  

Place half of your marinara sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with the basil leaves, reserving a few for the top.  Fill your rigatoni noodles with the cheese mixture.  (It works best if your noodles are not quite cooked and the cheese is at room temperature.  Then you don't have blow outs and the cheese goes in quite easily.)  Lay the filled tubes in the dish in a circular pattern, one layer at a time.   Once you have filled them all and they are in the dish.   Pour the remaining sauce over top, spreading  it out to cover.   Scatter on a few torn basil leaves and the grated Parmesan cheese.  Scatter the Mozarella over top of all.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden and the dish is bubbling.   Serve hot!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Basel Tart

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I was asked earlier this month if I would like to participate in the Titan Supper Club and bake a tasty recipe which hails from Basel, Switzerland, called a Basel Tart.

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The Toddster has actually been to Basel, although I have not and apparently it is a beautiful place to visit.  Nestled on the banks of the Rhine River, it actually borders on three countries, Switzerland, Germany and France and it's not difficult to see where there are influences of all three cultures in this lovely tart.  

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It has a crisp shortcrust pastry base, which a delicious filling which is made from slowly caramelized onions, milk, eggs, Gruyere Cheese (a deliciously nutty and sweet Swiss cheese) and smoky bacon.  

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It is delicately flavored with rosemary and coriander leaf (cilantro).  I was a bit worried that because they are both very strong flavored herbs they might overpower the flavors of this tart, but they worked perfectly . . . which means there is only a hint of them, allowing the smokiness from the bacon and the sweetness of the cheese and onions to shine through.  

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This tart was sooooo good, the Toddster had two servings.  And he is not one to overindulge himself in anything!  

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I loved it too.   I would make it again and now I am intrigued so much that I have put Basel on my bucket list.   Anyplace that can produce something as tasty as this is a place I deffo want to visit one day!

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*Basel Tart*
Makes one 10 inch tart
A delicious tart filled with golden onions and gruyere cheese.  Perfect picnic food.

470g plain flour (a generous 3 1/4 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
120g butter (8 1/2 TBS)
100ml of cold water (about 1/3 cup)
For the filling:
60g butter (4 TBS)
6 large onions, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
80g bacon, chopped (1/4 cup)
470ml milk (generous 2 cups)
75g plain flour (1/2 cup)
2 large free range eggs
450g grated Gruyere Cheese (about 4 cups)
2 sprigs rosemary
2 TBS chopped coriander (cilantro)    

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Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Drip in the butter and rub it in until you have crumbs about the size of peas.  Pour in half of the water and stir with a fork until you have a dough that holds together.  If the dough still does not hold together add the remaining water a spoonful at a time until it does.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple minutes until it becomes smooth.   Roll out to fit into a 10 inch tart tin.  Prick the base with a fork and trim the edges.

Melt the butter in  a large saute pan.  Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften.   Add the bacon and salt.  Cook until golden brown.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  

Preheat the oven to 170*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Whisk together the flour and milk until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, herbs and cheese.  Pour over the sauteed onions and mix together gently.   Pour this filling into the prepared pastry.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Increase the oven temperature to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Cut into wedges to serve. 

Many thanks to Titan Travel for asking me to participate in June's Supper Club.   I've gotten to try something new and learn about a new place that I now want to visit!

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Pizza Potato Skins

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I hesitate actually to call this a recipe . . . it's more of a something I just did . . . and it happened to turn out beautifully.

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I hate waste.  I love potatoes.   I especially love baked potatoes.   I was making a baked potato salad.   You only need the flesh of the baked potatoes for that recipe . . . what to do with the skins???  The skins are my favourite part.  It seemed a shame to waste them and so . . .

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I cut them in half lengthwise and sprinkled them with some spices and spritzed them with some low fat cooking spray . . . and then I baked them until they were scrummy crisp and brown on the edges and then . . .  

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I liberally sprinkled them with my favorite pizza toppings and cheese . . . lovely strong cheddar cheese . . . I love the stuff.  After that,  I banged them back into the oven to melt the cheese and heat the toppings and then . . .  

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Why, I served them with some sour cream for dipping of course!!  We loved them.  They were magnifique! 

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*Pizza Potato Skins*
Makes 16 pieces
I was making a twice baked potato salad the other day and it seemed a shame to throw away the skins after I had scooped them out.  The skins are always my favourite part! 

the skins of 4 baked potatoes
(cut in half, scoop out the flesh, reserving for another use)
cooking spray oil
fine sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
smoked paprika to taste
dried mixed herbs to taste
a handful each of grated strong cheddar cheese, chopped green and black olives, chopped spring onions
and a few chopped sun dried tomatoes
Sour cream to serve and a few extra chopped spring onions if desired 

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Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Take a pair of kitchen scissors and cut each potato skin half, in half yet again, cutting them lengthwise.  Place them spread out onto the baking sheet.  Spritz them well with the cooking spray.   Mix together the salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and mixed herbs.  Scatter this over the potato skins.  Pop them into the oven and bake for about 15  minutes until they begin to turn golden brown and crisp on the edges. 

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 Remove from the oven and scatter the cheese over top.  Top the cheese with the chopped olives, onions and sun dried tomatoes, trying to scatter them evenly over all.   Bang back into the oven until the cheese melts and bubbles.  Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes. Place onto a serving platter and serve along with a bowl of sour cream for dolloping and some more spring onions for scattering.  (If desired.)   Delicious!