Keep Calm & Eat Pesto

Keep calm and eat lettuce pesto

I have always loved pesto ever since my teens when one day my sister cooked us up a batch of pasta with lashings of pesto mixed
into it. Both store bought but the flavour and almost immediate satisfaction that filled our bellies after just 15 minutes cooking time has always left the classic pesto and pasta combination as a staple in my household. I have always enjoyed the taste of store bought pesto but nothing can beat a fresh pesto made from scratch. It’s flavour is always lighter and fresher tasting, pairing brilliantly with more then just a simple pasta dish. I often make pesto for the start of the week as a go to dressing for quick meals when I’m busy. It can be a little expensive to make your own pesto as you need quite alot of fresh herbs but there is a solution. I use lettuce to bulk the pesto out yet it doesn’t detract from the flavour as I still uses the herbs plus all the other classic ingredients. It is the perfect way to use up salad leaves which are often one of the most thrown away items in British households and you know how I hate waste!

Lettuce pesto ingredientsIngredients to make a small jar: 1 good handful of fresh herbs,2 good handfuls of salad leaves, 2 large handful of nuts or seeds, A small lump of hard cheese, 2 garlic cloves, 2tbsp of olive oil plus extra for jar. sprinkle of salt and pepper.

1. I have given these vague ingredients as you can pretty much choose whatever combination of items you want. A classic pesto is basil, pine nuts and parmesan but you can adapt it with anything. Here are some ideas

Mint/parsley, almonds, mature chedder

Coriander, cashews, manchego , abit of chilli and ginger

Dill, sunflower seeds, pecorino

Lovely ingredients for lovely lettuce pesto A spoonful of lettuce pesto helps the leftovers go down2. Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor, slowly adding the olive oil as you go, till you get a think paste that isn’t too wet.

3. Add to a jar, press down with a spoon and cover with a layer of olive oil. It should keep for 1 week, topping up with oil to cover if you use a little at a time. (My oil looks horrible in this photo, it has no colour weirdly. That’s what you get for cheap olive oil)

Lettuce Pesto Ready to Go

You can add pesto to loads of different dishes other then pasta, here is a few and please feel free to add your own uses in the comments.

Dolloped on pizza either as a replacement to a tomato sauce or as an addition blobbed on randomly

Mixed into potato salad

On top of a baked potato

A sandwich filling with some fresh salad veggies (tomato, pesto and mozzarella sounds good)

A salad dressing, mixed with some more  oilve oil and a little lemon juice or vinegar

A crust or rub for fish or meats

Basically anything

Lorna

x xxx

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Kohlrabi, celery and potato Gratin

Kohlrabi, celery and potato

This is a really quick recipe for a gratin because who doesn’t like food smothered in cream! I had a Kohlrabi in my veg box and having never cooked it looked to the internet for some inspiration. I found a several gratins with varying ingredients so I settled on a mix of Kohlrabi, celery and potato. It’s another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, kept in the fridge and whacked into the oven when you get home. Kohlrabi has a slightly sweet appley taste but has a root vegetable like texture so it lends well to savoury dishes but it would be interesting to see if you can make it work in a sweet recipe. Any ideas people?

sliced veggies for gratin

Ingredients Serves 2: 1 smalll kohlrabi, 2/3 medium potatoes, 2 celery sticks, 1 garlic clove, 150ml of  double cream, 150ml veg stock, a small handful of fresh rosemary or 1 heaped tsp  of dried rosemary

1. Peel the kohlrabi and potatoes, slice in to thin slices (having a mandolin works well here) Dice the celery into thin slices also. Slice the garlic and chop up the rosemary.

2. Heat the veg stock up gently in a pan and add the milk to mix together (DO NOT BOIL) add the garlic and rosemary and allow to infuse for 5 mins on a low heat.Tasty Ingredients for Kohlrabi Gratin

3. Layer the kohlrabi, potato and celery in a baking dish and slowly add the liquid, and continue to layer until your dish is full. You don’t want the liquid to be full right to the top, at least 1cm from the top is good. I prefer to finish with a layer of potato on top as it browns nicely.

4. Pop in the oven for 40 mins at Gas Mark 5. A good grind of black pepper on top never goes a miss. Serve with a crisp salad to offset the gorge on creamy goodness.

Kohlrabi Gratin

There we have it! Has any one got a brilliant recipe for kohlrabi, would love to hear?

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. Sorry about the lack of finished photos, as always I ate it before I had a chance to photo it, nom nom

Simple Soup, Grains, Veg and Stock

Soup Glorious Soup!Soup is a wonderful thing. Its good for you, keeps the cold from your toes when it’s winter and it’s super thrifty. You can put just about anything into soup and it will come out tasting fantastic and for me this is the perfect meal for the end of your shopping week when your running low on fresh produce. Me & H get our veg box delivery on a Thursday so by Wednesday we normally only have a few bits and bobs left over to make dinner from. A brilliant but healthy way to bulk up this veg into a soup is using a wide selection of grains as your base. Add the produce as a lighter edition to the filling flavours of the grains. You can get a generic dried ‘soup mix’ from all food shops and supermarkets for around £1 or less which normally include pearl barley (I bloody love it), red lentils, split peas, a mix of beans and peas. They are cheap and filling but the perfect way to use up those rogue carrots or sticks of celery that may be languishing in the chiller of the fridge.

Selection of Veggies for Soup

Ingredients Serves 2

2 generous handfuls of soup mix, 500ml of veg/chicken stock,1-2 garlic cloves, A selection of veg I used 1 Carrot, 3 small sticks of celery, a bunch of radishes and a random tiny piece of fennel leftover.

1. You will need to soak the soup mix overnight or throughout the day. 8 hours should be enough time.

2. Cook the soup mix in plenty of water for 30-40 mins on a rolling boil. You will need to skim off the impurities off the top of the water and discard throughout the cooking process.

3. Meanwhile dice the vegetables and slice the garlic

4. Once the grains are cooked you can create the rest of the meal in two ways. One just on the stove or one in a slow cooker.

Lovely Grains for Lovely Soup beautiful fresh vegetables5. For on the stove: Heat a small amount of oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Once warm add the garlic and veg and slightly brown if you want. Add the grains in with any of the remaining cooking liquid plus the 500ml of stock. Gently heat to a simmer. You can then cook the veg to your liking. I like them pretty crunchy so I generally heat it through just to warm the veg and not really cook them

6. For in the slow cooker: I like using the slow cooker as I can prep the meal the day before and then I just have to turn it on when I am home. I turn the heat on for the slow cooker and add a little bit of oil into the bottom, when it is warmed I add the garlic to slightly cook through and mellow the flavour. I add the veg, the grains with cooking liquid and the stock. I can then pop the cooker on throughout the day or when I get home

warming, guilt free comfort food

This is such a simple dish but I really enjoy the flavours and that I get to use up any left overs I have. You can use whatever vegetables you have left at the end of the week and create some thing wholesome and tasty for you and your family. If you don’t cook the veg in time and that onion is getting pretty manky, fear not, here is a post on composting. Also check out this little review I did on this Soup Maker to get inspired to make more soups!

Lorna

x xxx

Vegan Lasagne

Vegan Lasagne looks so tasty up close even better in your mouth

I’m becoming more and more interested in both vegetarian and vegan food at the moment. The ethical and environmental reasons behind switching to a non meat/ animal product diet are vast and I really do support them. But on a wholly selfish note, eating more fruits, veg, nuts and grains improves your health and wellbeing considerable and even more so when you avoid processed foods that contain chemicals and toxins. A switch to a veggie/vegan or even a mostly veggie diet can be hard but as I have said in several other veggie recipes, you can use a much loved ‘meat’ recipe and turn it into a veggie delight and ‘trick’ yourself. A perfect example of this is my veggie lasagne, a simplified version of a recipe from Emily @ This Rawsome Vegan Life which uses fewer ingredients. Some of the wonderful but unusual ingredients Emily suggests may be harder to find for those those of us who may not follow a strict vegan diet .

Vegan lasagne 'pasta' 'mince' 'bechamel'

Ingredients, Serves 2

For the ‘Pasta’

1 Medium Courgette

For the ‘Mince’

1/2 a head of broccoli, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp dried basil, sprinkle of pepper

For the ‘Béchamel sauce’

1 Cup of sunflower seeds (or any other nuts or seeds), 2 tbsp Tahini, 2 Garlic cloves, 1 tbsp lemon juice, water to loosen

Vegan Lasagne for one

1. Blend all the ‘béchamel’ ingredients together, in the vegan community they call this nut cheese. Blend to a rough paste adding a little water to loosen, you don’t want it too sloppy more like a rough pate.

2. Chop the broccoli into tiny pieces so the little buds are basically little green grains, this will be your ‘mince’ In a bowl mix the broccoli with the chopped tomatoes, basil and pepper

3. Slice the courgette length ways, using a mandolin is best, cut off the ends if you want them to sit flush against your baking dish.

4. Layer! Courgette, ‘Mince’, Courgette, nut cheese, repeat till your baking dish is full

5. Bake for 30 mins on gas mark 5 or enjoy raw!

Vegan Lasgne with courgette pasta, broccoli mince and nut cheese crunchy topping

Pretty simple recipe really for a quick and delicious dish. It definitely matches a ‘regular’ lasagne on flavour and I was so pleased by the textures as well as taste. The top with nut cheese came out really golden and crunchy making it even more appetising. I used the left overs to make myself a single serving for my lunch, the photos are of this meal and I made it a circular little stack by cutting slices rather then lengths of courgette. This is a great recipe to experiment with too, you could swap the sunflower seeds for any other seeds or nuts and the broccoli with maybe cauliflower or minced carrot and onion. The choice is yours, just make it a healthy one ;)

Do you have any favourite meaty meals you’d like me to turn veggie? just ask

Lorna

x xxx

3 Fruity Toppings for Toast

fruit on toastI would definitely say that British breakfasts are boring for the most part. On weekends we indulge and do a proper meal, a full English is a staple of the Saturday after the Friday night before and a continental mish-mash of a brunch is satisfying to graze on during a lazy Sunday morn. The rest of the week appears to be a combination of the same sad cereal, bread and butter or for the lucky but unhealthy a bacon or sausage sarnie from the cafe next to the bus stop. One of Britain’s favourites is toast for a quick warm meal but it normally doesn’t really have that many calories or nutrients to really set you up for the day unless it’s got a tasty topping! Here are three easy ones to start with.

chocolate banana on toast

1. Chocolatey Bananas

Serves 1 Ingredients: 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 banana, 1 tsp coco powder,1 cup of soya milk, a handful of flaked almonds, some toast

Melt the coconut oil in a pan with the coco powder and when warm add in the banana cut into slices. The pieces will start to sizzle, mix gently to get the banana coated in the oil. When fully combined add enough of the soya milk to make a chocolatey sauce. Heat till warm. At the same time toast the almond flakes in a pan till golden. Make your toast, top with the chocolate banana mixture then sprinkle over the almonds. Delicious!

Amaretto Apples on Toast

2. Amaretto Apple Sauce

Serves 1 Ingredients: 2 medium eating apples, 1tbsp butter, 1/2 tbsp demerara sugar, 2tbsp Amaretto liqueur, some toast

Melt the butter in a pan and add the apples chopped in to bite size pieces (you can peel or leave the skin). Stir the the apples till they start to colour. Add the sugar, mix until melted. Add the amaretto and warm through. Though only optional I think it adds a luxurious treat to breakfast and works really well with the apples. Pile on to toast and enjoy.

tomatoes on toast

3. Tomatoes on Toast

Serves 1 Ingredients: A good handful of cherry or plum tomatoes, 1 tbsp olive oil, a small handful of parsley, salt and pepper, 1 garlic clove, some toast.

Tomatoes are fruit you know! Simple chop the tomatoes into quarters or smaller for larger ones, add to the oil once heated in a pan. Allow them to reduce down, season and then add finely chopped up parsley at the last minute. (Optional for Garlic lovers) Slice a length off the garlic clove, and while holding the uncut edge, rub the cut edge all over one side of your toast and add a splash more olive oil if you wish. Add the tomatoes and you’ve got one more tasty breakfast to start your day.

Simple recipes that only take 5-10 mins to make but will give you something just a little bit more inspiring and more nutritious to get your ready for the rest of the day. Why not try one tomorrow morning.

Lorna

x xxx

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Slow cooker Risotto

Slow cooker to the rescueMany a food purist might say you can’t do a risotto in a slow cooker but they would be wrong. If your strapped for time, have a bundle of things to do and still have to make dinner; the slow cooker can be a life saver. Most recipes I do require little more then putting everything in and letting it go. This risotto recipe does require a little more prep but a lot less then if you did risotto the traditional way. The prep took me just 10 minutes and though the cooking time is longer (1 hour and a half) it is a better option when your busy especially if you did the prep earlier on in the day. This recipe is for a mushroom risotto but all flavours are possible.  Ingredients serves 2: 1 cup of risotto rice, a medium onion diced, 1 or 2 garlic cloves diced, 6 medium mushrooms sliced , 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 500ml veg or chicken stock, olive oil

1. I used one frying pan to do the prep (cuts down on washing up) Sauté the onion and garlic till translucent. Meanwhile coat the inside of the slow cooker with olive oil and set on a high heat

2. Once the onions and garlic are done add to the slow cooker, turn the heat up on the pan and add the rice so it takes on the flavours of the pan, just like a regular risotto, add the vinegar and let it bubble till all is absorbed. Add the rice to the slow cooker

3. Add the stock to the slow cooker and add any dried herbs you might want. Stir once to make sure no rice has stuck to the bottom and then leave for between 1 and 2 hours till most of the liquid has been soaked up

Slow cooker risotto4. When there is still a little liquid left to be absorbed turn the slow cooker off as the rice will continue to cook and doesn’t need any more heat (or electricity wasted on it) Sauté the mushrooms in butter and olive oil till soft then mix through the risotto

5. Serve in bowls with fresh herbs and a light side salad, this is comfort food at its best

The risotto definitely doesn’t have the same bite as when done from scratch in a pan and has a softer sticker texture but it tastes just as good and really warms you up on those cold nights. I also wanted to highlight that I love using the slow cooker because it hardly uses any electricity so its good for the environment and your pocket :D I have a electricity monitor from British Gas and it uses only 2p an hour which is way better then using the oven for meals(a whopping 30p) but unfortunately can’t compare it to the stove top as we have a gas one. I still imagine the slow cooker is cheaper then using gas.

Please share your own slow cooker recipes that you love for winter

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. sorry there is no final picture of the end result, this happens a lot with food posts I plan to do, I end up forgetting to take the last picture because I wanna get the food in my belly asap and only remember after I’ve finished, DOH!

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Veggie Burgers

One of the main ways me and H save on our food shop is that we hardly buy any meat. Its expensive and not essential to healthy living so we don’t buy it unless its on offer or a special occasion. I know some people find it hard to give up meat especially if it is what you are use to cooking and eating so a great way  to make the switch is to recreate meaty meals with a veggie alternative and make meat free Mondays a possibility for more people. One of my fav alternatives is super tasty veggie burgers.  The recipe below I’ve used carrots but you can use any root vegetable to make veggie burgers. My other favourite is beetroot burgers which have an earthier flavour and I want to try celeriac as well.

veggie burger mix

Ingredients to make 4 burgers: 3 large carrots, 1 small onion, 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp of flour, 1 medium egg, herbs and spices of your choice.  Grate the carrot and onion into a bowl, adding thinly diced garlic and your choice of herbs and spices. Mix the ingredients so they are well distributed. Add the egg to the mix and combined well. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. It’s important to let it rest or the mixture will not stick together later. Sprinkle the flour in and mix again. Form the mixture into patties by rolling equal sized balls and then flattening them with the palm of your hand about 2 cm is a good depth. Sprinkle a touch of flour on each side. Add oil to a frying pan over a medium heat, once hot fry the patties on each side for 3-5 minutes until golden.

carrot burgers

I like to serve mine in burger baps with salad and homemade chips, just like a classic burger meal. A pint of beer never goes a miss or if your being good a tall glass of lemonade with fresh lemons and mints. My creation this time came with roast potatoes, sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes plus some herby dressing on the side. Apologies for the naff photos, Its still dark at 4pm so terrible kitchen lighting overhead never makes for pleasant photography.

Lorna

x xxx

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Part 5 What and How to Cook

Mayo, Vinegar and Hendersons mmmm As with last week I am not actually going to tell you what to eat as that is completely up to you but I am going to show you the methods I use to create a cost effective menu each week and stick within my budget. The kitchen for me is a great place to be, I love cooking and enjoy the whole process of making a delicious meal. It is definitely relaxing for impatient me as it is something productive with a instant tasty end result. Cooking and eating on a budget is definitely easier when you love it.

  • Double Ingredients or even triple- If you know you can get a large bag of carrots for only 79p (aldi) plan several meals that include carrots as a main ingredient. I would think to do a carrot and lentil soup, carrot burgers and the rest in a roast veg medley (I love that word) Bulk buy deals are often wasteful as you don’t use it in time but if you plan your meals around that one bulk item it can really save you money
  • Make too much- Seems contradictory right? not if you use that extra food in your lunch the next day rather then chuck it in the bin. Last night I made roast veg medley :D, bulgur wheat and veggie gravy, I made extra bulgur wheat and mixed it with leftover fish, some cannellini beans and salad veg with a quick dressing tossed over it for H’s lunch the next day. Simple
  • Recipes- You don’t have to own a huge collection of cook books to find recipes, if you have one good cook book that’s a start, but the internet, magazines and family and friend’s recipes can all be used to inspire you. If you look at more ways to cook and different dishes you will be able to create more varied and interesting meals.Rainbow Trout
  • Invent and Swap- Sticking to some recipes is essential especially baking ones but most savoury meals can be changed no end of times to create new and exciting flavours. If a recipes calls for fresh parsley but you’ve only got dried mint, use that in place of it. If it says cauliflower and stilton, try cheddar and cabbage instead. Get the picture. Experiment with what you’ve got because it will create something tasty and you won’t be a slave to recipes or what isn’t in your fridge.
  • Go Veggie- As I said in part 1, the main reason I believe my food bill is lower then most is that we eat a mainly vegetarian diet. I do love meat and fish but it find it too expensive especially organic and free range that I would rather buy so I stick to veg instead and don’t miss meat just because I don’t have it everyday. Saying that if you still want to include meat in some of your meals go for big flavour meats that only need a little adding to a dish like Chorizo and smoked bacon, or only buy your meat and fish that is on offer that week. Meat free is the way to go but I know it’s not for everyone.

I hope these tips have helped you think about your food shopping in a different way and hopefully you’ll be able to start saving money on your shop. This is the end of my Thrifty and Nifty Series but next week there will be one more as a bonus! I also wanted to point out that I myself have several cookbooks but I return to the same two or three again and again. Once you find a author/chef you love and one that suggest inventive cooking then you’ll only need that one for inspiration.

Lorna

x xxx

A Little Bit of Green

a little bit of ivy greenMy favourite thing i have been doing for my home has been bringing in more plants. A little bit of green in our lives soaks up nasty chemicals from  cookers, fridges and general air pollution anbd the chuck out lots of lovely oxygen in return. They also make me happy just looking at them. It’s a sense of wholesomeness and a healthy home.leafy greens

There are also the benefits of having edible plants in the kitchen for fresh flavour hits. When i got to aldi (our fav supermarket) i buy a herb pot everytime we shop there. If i buy one every couple of weeks its a little price rather then buying lots of plants in one go which can end up pricey. So far we have a basil and mint, soon to be added, chives, parsley and coriander which will fill my window sill up nicely and i’ll have lots of tasty herbs to add to our meals. I have also started growing little bits of veg from kitchen scraps, the stumps/roots of spring onions and lettuce hearts have been working great and now i have no need to keep buying then, just pick off what i need.brightens up my daybeautiful blooms

I also like having freshly cut flowers to brighten up corners and add colour throughout the house. It is luxury which i can’t always afford but they are worth it when ou do buy them. Failing buying a big bouquet i will cut a few flowers and greenery from the garden to make little arrangements for around the home. A little bit of green goes a long way.

bouquet

Lorna

X xxx