Food Challenge Recipe 31: Watermelon Sorbet

It’s still hot. Well, it is at time of writing this…. who knows what the great British summer will be offering as you read this.

Either way, this week’s recipe is something hydrating, cooling, and ended up being pretty delicious!

I love melon of all kinds, but I really love the freshness of watermelon. What’s great is that you can buy packs of freshly prepared melon, which makes making things like sorbet super duper easy!

This sorbet recipe uses an ice cream maker, so the first thing you need to do is put the inner bowl in the freezer if your machine requires this.

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I took 625g of prepared watermelon and popped this into a blender, along with 100g of caster sugar and 2 tbsp of lime juice.

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This was all blitzed together until smooth, but still a little pulpy.

And that’s it! You tip it into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions for how long to churn it for.

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It was in our machine for about 25 minutes.

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At this stage it’s soft-serve, so it needs to go into the freezer for about an hour before eating.

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What came out was a lovely light, fluffy and gorgeously soft sorbet. It wasn’t too sweet, the lime juice cut through any sweetness but worked well with the fresh watermelon flavour.

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Obviously, this was a super easy recipe, if you have a blender and ice cream maker. My only complaint is, and this was the case with the other sorbet we made, that after a few hours you are left with a solid block of watermelon ice. In order to eat it, you kind of have to take it out a while before you want to eat it, or soften it in the fridge. But that’s not a problem and the flavour isn’t lost.

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The verdict: I really liked this recipe. For ease and flavour, I couldn’t have asked for much more. My only issue is how hard it goes a few hours after it’s made, but this could be something to do with the churning time. I’ll have to practice!

I give this recipe 8/10

What is Mindful Eating?

I only heard the term ‘Mindful Eating’ last week, and I was interested in seeing what that actually meant. I’ve been practicing the Buddhist idea of Mindfulness in one way or another for around 10 years, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it all boils down to being present, getting rid of all the peripheral thought that makes our minds fuzzy, and really listening to yourself.

My relationship with food is fairly good. As a child we didn’t buy junk food, home cooked meals were most nights, and on the odd occasion we had frozen pizza or ready meals (it was the 80s!) as we’d just got a microwave. I was allergic to artificial food colouring, and most sweets had those in, so I didn’t eat them and I’ve never liked fizzy drinks. We also believed I was allergic to chocolate, though it’s very possible that this was just early lactose intolerance symptoms. We didn’t have chocolate bars, and I remember eating a Club biscuit, finding it had no biscuit in it, and feeling really naughty that I was eating what was essentially a chocolate bar….. I didn’t tell my Mum (hehe)

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Over the years my habits have been on the healthy and then on the not so healthy side. Portion sizes grew and then diminished. Once I’d started running, my relationship with food changed. I wanted to eat food that was good fuel for the type of exercise I was doing, portion sizes were relative to the amount of energy I needed, and I was drinking a heck load of water to hydrate. I felt my body benefitting from these changes and learned what it needed and responded to.

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So, when I began looking up what Mindful Eating was, I realised that’s what I’d been doing without even knowing it.

According to Mindful.org, Mindful Eating is:

Mindful Eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes, or neutral) without judgment.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Someone Who Eats Mindfully:

  • Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
  • Accepts that their eating experiences are unique.
  • Is an individual who by choice, directs their attention to eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
  • Gains awareness of how they can make choices that support health and well-being.
  • Becomes aware of the interconnection of earth, living beings, and cultural practices, and the impact of their food choices on those systems.

This made a lot of sense, and worked alongside what I have been doing for a while. But it was great to see it written down in this way. It’s not about stopping yourself from eating what you consider to be ‘bad foods’. It’s not about feeling guilty if you have one donut in a month. It’s about listening to your body, understanding what makes your body feel good, and making choices that are right for you.

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I’m glad to see this is something people are following and learning from. I feel like Mindful Eating is just good sense, but so often I see people not listening to their bodies, feeding themselves junk food every day that their bodies simply can’t use for nourishment, or eating far too much food in one day based on the amount of exercise they’re doing.

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I’m not judging those people – everyone’s individual relationship with food is so so personal. It can be a source of comfort, anxiety and some people don’t get any joy from food at all. But I think Mindful Eating is an accessible and simple place to start. There’s no fad dieting, no restrictions and no health dangers. To me, it’s just good sense.

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Food Challenge Recipe 30: Baked Breadcrumb & Herb Chicken Fillets

I’m going to start this recipe with a preface of the fact that I HATED this recipe. So if you’re looking for a tasty chicken goujon recipe, this isn’t it. If you just want to read about how much I hated eating this (or the little of it I actually ate) then please read on…

Gary and I eat chicken goujons a lot. They go with so many meals, and you can put so many sauces on them. And if you know us, you know we basically live for sauce, and finding food to go with it is secondary to the actual condiment.

I found this recipe on a website for a company who do meat subscription boxes. But it’s not a great recipe, and I hadn’t realised that part of the method was missing from it until after I had started.

Anyway, I put the oven to 160c and prepared a tray for the chicken to go on.

In a bowl I mixed 1 tsp paprika, 200g panko breadcrumbs (I actually used a little less than this because I had the end of an open packet – but this was way more than I needed), 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dried oregano, salt and pepper.

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Then I mixed 1 beaten egg, 20ml of soy milk and 1 tbsp of olive oil. This was the part of the method that was missing. I wasn’t sure where the oil came into the recipe, so I just added it into the egg mixture and hoped for the best….

The chicken was dredged in the wet bowl, and then covered entirely in dry mix before being popped onto the tray.

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I used some skin-off chicken breast fillets (enough for two people).

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These went into the oven for 30 minutes.

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And this was the finished article.

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As you can see, the whole thing looks pretty dry. The breadcrumbs hadn’t absorbed any of the chicken juices and it was all just meh.

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It wasn’t all the recipe’s fault. The quality of the chicken I picked up from Tesco was also pretty nasty. We both ate a little and then decided we didn’t want to eat any more, so just ate the veg I’d served it with.

There was little to no flavour from the seasoning in the breadcrumbs, and there were way too many breadcrumbs to be practical. The overriding flavour was the oregano, which isn’t where I thought the flavour would lie.

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Overall, I give this recipe 1/10.

Food Challenge Recipe 29: Baked Tomato Sauce

This week’s recipe was adapted from one I saw from Smitten Kitchen, after seeing her post about it on instagram. I have one of her books, but this recipe wasn’t in there, so I got it off the website.

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When I saw the ingredients and method, it looked so simple, but I was afraid that the mild watery cherry tomatoes available to me would affect the flavour of the finished sauce. Thankfully, this recipe, and the accompanying ingredients, worked together wonderfully to create a fantastically fresh and beautifully tomatoey sauce, in all the ways you’d want it to be tomatoey!

Here’s what I did for sauce enough for 2 people:

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I took a small punnet of cherry tomatoes (about 250g) and sliced each one across its equator. Then I lay each one out, cut side up, in a baking dish, which had had 1 tbsp of olive oil coated over the bottom. You need to create a single layer of tomatoes.

Next I combined 1/6 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1/8 cup of vegan parmesan, 1 tbsp of lacto-free mature cheddar cheese that had been grated and 1 crushed garlic clove. I mixed them with a fork to combine.

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Then the whole lot was spread over top of the tomatoes.

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You’ve got to make sure each tomato has a good amount of coating. Then I added a little salt and pepper, and drizzled with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.

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This was then popped into the oven at 180c (fan) for 20 minutes, until the crumbs are starting to brown and the cheese is all melted.

At this time I put some pasta on to cook, so that it was ready at the same time as the tomatoes.

At the end of their cooking time, I took the baked tomatoes out of the oven and added 1/8 cup fresh chopped basil and lightly mashed the tomatoes with a fork.

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This created the sauce! The recipe then asked for another tbsp of oil to be added, but I didn’t want to add any more oil for dietary reasons. I don’t feel like it needed it.

I then mixed in the pasta, and Bob’s your uncle!

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The finished sauce was fresh, tasty and well seasoned. The tomato flavour wasn’t lost. The breadcrumbs had mushed up, so weren’t crunchy at all, however they had mixed with the cheese to create a savoury, thick, seasoning. The basil was a fantastic addition. It added a fragrant green freshness.

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We chose this pasta shape because I know it holds onto sauce very well. If you make this, I’d recommend that you use a small pasta shape that will hold onto the sauce, too.

I can see me making this pasta sauce regularly. It was simply, quick and so tasty!

I give this recipe 10/10

 

Food Challenge Recipe 28: Sweet & Spicy Baked Cauliflower

I’m trying to get better at tolerating spicy foods. It’s not that I don’t like it, or I’m not willing to try it, it’s just that too much spice in food results in me being unable to taste ANYTHING any more. That’s not the point of food!

But I don’t avoid heat, and at times will deliberately try foods slightly outside my comfort zone in a hope that it’ll ease my tolerance up. I’d wanted to try a baked cauliflower recipe for a while, and so when I saw this one, I thought “why not??”!

You start with 4 cups of cauliflower florets. For me this was a whole small cauliflower head.

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For the next part I grabbed a quart sized Ziplock bag to put the liquid for the marinade into, which made for a quick mix and simple cleanup.

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I added 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Sriracha (the recipe asked for 2 but I was too scared to add that much hot sauce!), 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

To this I added all the cauliflower, sealed the bag and smooshed and shook the whole lot until it was covered as evenly as I could get it!

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I’d already lined a baking sheet, and had the oven on at 180c (fan). This might have been a little hot, so next time I’ll bake this at 170c.

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I was able to simply pour the whole lot onto the sheet, spread it out evenly so that everything had the chance to bake and crisp up (if the tray is too crowded the veg will steam instead of crisping) and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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I took my baking sheet out a couple of minutes early, when I noticed some of the edges were starting to char. I also think that my tray might have been slightly over crowded in areas as the florets were a little too moist in parts. I gave one of the florets a try whilst it was still warm.

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I was glad I hadn’t added too much Sriracha as the bit I tried was really rather spicy! But my intention for this recipe was to allow the cauliflower to cool, and then top a salad with it. So that’s what I did!

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Once it was cool, I found the spiciness had reduced a LOT. In fact, if I make this again, I might add more hot sauce if I intend on eating this cold again. The flavour was really lovely. Spicy but also sweet (like the title suggested!) and the cauliflower flavour still came through nicely.

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I really enjoyed eating this. We had quite a bit left over, and I must admit it did leave the fridge smelling rather pungently of cauliflower, but the flavours were really good even days afterwards.

I give this recipe 7/10

Food Challenge Recipe 27: Home-Made Frappe!

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been rather hot of late. I’m not complaining – I bloody love the heat and can’t get enough of it. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin ALL THE TIME. But sometimes it’s nice to have something icy and cold to eat or drink.

This week I decided I wanted to have a crack at making a blended coffee (or frappe) at home because I blooming love them, and figured it would be something nice to start my day off. On the day I made this, by the time I’d gotten up it was already 24c outside, so it seemed only appropriate!

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If you want to give this a go yourself, you’re going to have to work out the measurements for yourself based on how much coffee and sweetness you want, and also how big your cup is. I was making one blended coffee, I didn’t need it very sweet and I didn’t want a huge amount of caffeine. I was making mine for an average sized cold drink reusable travel cup, with straw.

I made my blended coffee in a BlendActive machine and it was more than capable of blending the ice. I filled the blending bottle 3/4 full with ice cubes.

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I then used light soy milk to fill the cup to almost the height of the ice.

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Next I made some hot coffee with 1.5 tsp of freeze-dried instant coffee, in an espresso cup.

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I added 2 tsp of Monin caramel coffee syrup to this hot coffee and mixed it in. This probably wasn’t enough syrup so add more if you like it sweet.

I tipped the hot coffee and syrup mixture into the blending bottle, on top of the ice and milk. Then I blended it!

It took less than 20 seconds to be blended and ready!

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And here’s the finished article! The ice was slightly more chunky than those you’d get if you bought it in a coffee shop, but crushed enough to go through the straw with no issues.

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This was a very refreshing alternative to my usual hot morning coffee, tasted great and stayed icy for a really long time in this cup, so I was able to take it out and about in the hot morning sun as I ran my errands.

Next time I think I’ll add a little more syrup, but for this occasion it was perfect!

I give this recipe 9/10!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

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Another catch-up post? I know – this is a good thing. It means things have slowed down to the point, where I have some time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, rather than just go with it!

I have been LOVING this warmer weather. I really do feel like we’ve gone straight from Winter to Summer, leaving Spring behind. I also love thunder storms, and we’ve had a few corkers! I’m enjoying seeing all the plants coming up in my garden – so many different colours and shapes popping up out of nowhere – I have no idea what any of it is!

I’ve been busy planning things for my upcoming holiday to Florida, in September. We’ve booked in some really fun things, lots of places to eat, and my shopping list is well under way. We’re there for two weeks this year, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already filled each day!

I’ve also got my Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party costume sorted, for this year. Even though this isn’t a Disney World holiday (same as last year) we’re still going into the Magic Kingdom park for one evening, for the Halloween party.

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Can you guess who I’m going as? Hmm….

Aside from this, I’m still really enjoying my calligraphy course, and have started doing a few mini projects. I’m not pressurising myself to get them done in a certain time frame or in a certain way. I’m letting them happen organically, which works well for me.

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They mainly happen to be Disney themed, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone really….

I’ve also been adding art to my office walls. Again, I want this to happen organically, and we visited Homesense recently, and their selection of framed art was really great. We ended up getting three pictures for my office, and two for around the house. I happen to have chosen all illustrated pieces for my office, and these two look great on my wall.

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Lastly, I’ll just mention that the jewellery making masterclass I attended with the MK Bloggers group earlier in the year, was featured in the events supplement of Blogosphere Magazine this quarter. It was fun to see my face in print!

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So that’s it for now. I have a week off coming up, and some fun things planned for that, and stay tuned for more recipes too. Are you enjoying seeing my 2018 food challenge recipes each week? Let me know what your favourite recipes have been so far – I’d love to know!

Until next time….

Food Challenge Recipe 22: Soft Baked Pretzels

I hadn’t deliberately set out to make theme park food so much, during this challenge, but when you’ve got 52 recipes to make and you love eating park food, then why not?!

Gary and I decided we wanted to make pretzels a while back, and found a recipe (they’re all about the same anyway) but we saw it takes a long time to make them so decided to wait until we had a whole day free. Which was a good thing. Pretzels are HARD.

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You start with the dry ingredients

  • 600g of strong white flour (sifted)
  • 1 level tsp of fast acting yeast
  • 2 tbsp of soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

You mix this together. Then create a well and slowly add liquid (375ml warm water, with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil mixed into it)

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Mix this together to create a dough that’s not too dry and not too sticky. I had to add more flour as mine was way too sticky.

You knead this for 10 minutes by stretching it out and folding it back on itself.

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After the 10 minutes your dough should spring back when you push a finger into it.

The dough goes into an oil lined bowl and has to prove in a warm, dry place for 1-3 hours, or until it’s doubled in size.

We left ours near the airing cupboard, with clingfilm over top and a towel loosely wrapped around the bowl. After 2 hours it was almost spilling out of the bowl!

I lined two baking trays and set the oven to fan 210c.

Next the dough has to be split and shaped. I removed it onto a lightly floured surface and punched it down, and then knead lightly. I then divided it into 10 pieces which I covered whilst I shaped each piece. I think I should have cut it into 14 bits though, to make the pretzels a little thinner.

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To shape, you roll the piece into a long snake, no thicker than a pencil (I found this really hard because the dough kept springing back…)

Then you twist it around and stick the ends to the shape using a little water.

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Not the easiest task. Once they were all shaped, I had to leave them for 10-20 minutes (I think I went for 15!) sat on their tray and covered.

Next is a step I’m assured you must not miss out, because this is what gives the pretzels their shiny brown crust.

You bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a large pan, add 75g of bicarb and dissolve it. Then on barely a simmer, you carefully place up to 3 pretzels into the water for 30 seconds on each side, before removing to their tray.

This was really hard. The shapes fell apart on moving them, and then flipping them in the water. They looked like poops when they came out of the solution….

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Two trays of wet pretzel-ish shaped lumps later…. I sprinkled salt on top of one tray and left the other plain for sugar and cinnamon afterwards.

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The recipe said to bake for 8-10 minutes. My oven runs hot, so I always go for the shortest time and then test. The recipe also said to turn half way through, but this was impossible…..

After 8 minutes I could see the pretzels were mostly cooked, but still had a little raw dough in the very middles, so I carefully flipped them over as much as I could and left them back in the oven for about 2-4 minutes. I kept testing them until I got bored and decided they were cooked enough.

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As much as they had lost their shape somewhat in the dipping stage, they actually looked okay when they came out of the oven. Nice and brown, with a lovely crust.

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Somewhat thicker than we’d hoped though. We sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on top of the second batch and moved the whole lot to the cooling tray.

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We left them to mostly cool, and then both decided to try a sweet pretzel.

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The inside was soft and light, and it tasted like a pretzel! I was kind of impressed!

We left them to cool before putting them in tins, but here was where we discovered that these have absolutely NO shelf life. Even before we got them in the tins, the tops of them looked like they were wrinkling, almost curdling. It was so strange.

I took one to work the next day to eat as a snack, and it was definitely not the same as it had been the day before.

My verdict is, if you want a pretzel, pay the money for a pretzel. These are time-consuming and difficult and need a very specific level of skill to make them correctly. I don’t think we’ll be making them again, but I’m glad we tried even though they went weirdly bad very fast.

I give this recipe 6/10

Food Challenge Recipe 21: Easy, Tasty, Stove-Top BBQ Chicken

G-Man and I love BBQ chicken but we’ve never made a BBQ sauce from scratch before, and when I saw this recipe and saw it was so simple, I knew I wanted to try it.

There are quite a few ingredients in this recipe, but they are all items you’d probably have or don’t mind stocking up to have in your store cupboard.

I made some potato wedges to go with this chicken. The recipe for the wedges was from the same place and told me to soak the chopped wedges in water for an hour before cooking. This step was totally unnecessary in my opinion.

I coated the wedges in spray oil, 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning. I cooked these at 200c (fan) for 40 minutes, turning half way.

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For the chicken, it couldn’t be easier. All the ingredients for the sauce go straight into a large deep frying pan, all together. Here’s what I added:

  • 3/4 cup of passata
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2.5 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch mustard powder

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Then I added 400g diced chicken breast, which was enough for two people, and one small diced red onion.

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I brought this to the boil and let it bubble on high for 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way.

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The sauce will reduce down towards the end, so keep an eye on it, and if you need to add more water until the chicken is cooked, then do, but I didn’t need to.

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And that was it – so seriously easy!

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Not the most photogenic of dishes, but what it lacked in pretty, it gave in flavour!

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The wedges were tasty but I think they were a flavour too many with the chicken, so next time I’ll cook them with just salt and pepper on them to go with this.

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The chicken, however, was delicious. The sauce was exactly what I like from a BBQ sauce. Sweet, tangy, smokey but not too much of any of those. The tomato flavour wasn’t over powering, and it was seasoned perfectly! I was very impressed that something so simple was so full of flavour.

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I will definitely be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 20: One Pot Vegetarian Chilli Mac

This week’s recipe is another Mexican inspired one. I think this warmer weather has me thinking of hotter climates all over the world and all I want is spice and punchy flavour!

I found this recipe on Pinterest and I’ve tweaked it somewhat so that it tastes the way I like it. This recipe serves 3 people and is fairly filling. It required using some frozen chopped veg which I’d never used before, and tomato soup instead of passata to add depth.

I found a tomato and herb soup which didn’t have any dairy in, so I used this. It was 100ml less liquid than the recipe required so I made up the rest by adding to the required water volume.

Here’s what I did!

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I took 70g of frozen diced onion, 125g of sliced frozen mixed peppers and 4 medium mushrooms which had been diced, and soften them in a pan in some already warm olive oil. The recipe also called for 1/2 a mild chilli, diced. I can’t handle too much heat so I left this out.

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Once softened I added 120g of canned (rinsed) kidney beans, 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder and 1/4 tsp of ground cumin. I also added salt and pepper (but not too much because this could be tweaked later on) I stirred this around and then added 400ml of tomato soup and 250ml of water.

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I mixed this up and then added 180g of dry macaroni. You can use whichever pasta you’d like, but I just so happened to have some macaroni in my cupboard. I brought this to a simmer and let it cook for 15 mins, stirring regularly.

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At about 5 minutes before the end of cooking, I tasted the liquid and decided it needed more salt and 1 tsp of sugar to break the acidity. I also decided it needed a bit more depth and asked Gary to choose a BBQ sauce from his vast collection. I needed one which wasn’t too sweet, was a little vinegary and with a bit of smoke. I added 1.5 tbsp (approx) of this, gave it a stir and the flavour was just right.

At 15 minutes, the macaroni wasn’t cooked yet so I gave it some more time, testing it in 5 minutes increments and adding a little boiling water if I felt it was getting to dry. This macaroni seems to always need 10 minutes more cooking time when cooking it within a one pot dish, so I was prepared for this, but your pasta might cook faster.

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When I was happy with the ‘bite’ of the pasta, it was time to serve!

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I served mine with some grated lactose-free mature cheddar, but it would be equally nice with snipped spring onions or herbs on top.

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This was a super quick and really easy, hearty meal to cook. It even tasted great when I had the leftovers for lunch during the week.

I think I’ll be making this again!

I give this recipe 8.5/10