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!

Food Challenge Recipe 26: Easy Baked Churros

And just like that, we’re over half way through the challenge! I must say, so far, I’ve not had a huge amount of trouble finding a new recipe each week. I think because foods are seasonal (obviously) and I’m picking things that I know I’d love to eat, it’s made this an enjoyable challenge!

This week we picked another theme park food. It will probably be our last since I can’t think of any more that we love and we haven’t tried yet! We decided to make Churros – but bake them in the oven!

I’m not a fan of fried foods and the idea of deep-frying anything at home gives me hot sweats, so I found a decent looking recipe on Pinterest and away we went.

You start off with a preheated oven 160c (fan) and a couple of lined baking sheets.

Then you add 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (I used Vitalite), 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 cup of water to a medium saucepan.

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You pop this on the hob on a medium heat until the butter has melted and the water has started to boil.

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Then you add 1 cup of white flour all in one go, still on the heat, and beat it fast to make a dough. Once the dough has formed you keep beating for another 30 seconds, so the flour all cooks out.

You then remove this from the heat and add 3 large eggs, one at a time. You have to work fast mixing each egg into the dough, to ensure the eggs don’t scramble!

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It was at this stage I realised I was making choux pastry. Yes, I know I’m slow on the uptake, but I didn’t realise that was what churros were made of!

I then added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and mixed this through, then added the mixture to a piping bag with the largest star tip I owned. Which wasn’t big enough so I had to pipe two strips on top of each other for each churro but it worked!

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I began piping and left 1 inch between each churro. Then I piped on top again with what was left. I had way too much mixture for two trays but I made it work!

These then went into the oven for 22 minutes.

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You know they’re done when they’re golden and crispy. I left these on the cooling rack to completely cool.

Then I melted 1 tbsp of Vitalite in a pan. I added 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon to a ziplock and shook the mixture together. Then, in batches of two, I brushed the churros with the melted butter and popped them into the bag, shook them around and made sure they were all coated with sugar.

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The result was this lovely looking pile of goodies!

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The verdict:

The churros were baked so were a lot lighter than the fried equivalent I’m used to. They were light and airy in the middle, and I kept thinking they needed something inside them like cream or chocolate.

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They were very Eclair like, which makes sense since it’s the same pastry, however they had a very eggy flavour to them which I didn’t expect.

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On trying them straight away they were lovely. I packed some in a tin to take to a friend’s house and they were eaten again about 2 hours later. By this point they’d lost their crispness and were starting to go a little soggy, which was a shame. They were still all eaten though!

I think these were a nice little treat. They take a little effort, and would need to be eaten right away. They would be lovely dipped in caramel or chocolate sauce, and were a nice light equivalent to the fried version.

I give this recipe 7.5/10

 

Food Challenge Recipe 24: Succotash

This week’s recipe is Succotash, which I’ve only ever know as a Sylvester phrase ‘Sufferin’ Succotash’ or a lyric from Groove Is In the Heart by Deee-Lite. I never really knew what it was until I stumbled across the recipe in my trusty America: The Cookbook.

As huge fans of sweetcorn, I was Deee-Lited (geddit) to find out that succotash is a skillet corn side dish, and interested to learn that the word succotash actually comes from the Native American word for boiled corn. This is a West Virginian recipe, and is so simple to make. We made enough for 3-4 people as a side.

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You start off with 1 1/2 cups of fresh sweet corn kernels. I used this natty little corn stripping device I picked up off Amazon for G-Man’s birthday. It’s fairly effective, but feel free to use a sharp knife to trim your corn cobs. I used two, which gave us a little more than we needed but we used it all anyhow.

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I like to buy our corn cobs from Costco because you get these lovely colour variations in the kernels, and therefore variations of flavour. I can’t buy anything like this locally, and I wish I could because I know there are so many different types and colours of corn, I’d love to try.

Anyway, I digress. I chopped a small shallot and added this to a large frying pan (the recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet but I don’t have one of those) which already had warm olive oil in it.

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These were fried over a medium heat until translucent, for about five minutes. Then I added the corn, and cooked for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Next I added 3/4 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, a small can of drained butter beans (1 cup) – on this note I’ll mention this should be lima beans but I can’t find those anyway, and I’m assured that butter beans are the equivalent and though they don’t have the same green colour, should work as an alternative – and 90ml of hot chicken stock (use vegetable if you want to keep this vegetarian).

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All stirred up, I left this to simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point the tomatoes should be starting to break down.

I then removed the pan from the heat, and this is where the magic happened.

I stirred in 1.5 tbsp of butter (I used dairy-free Vitalite), 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper (the recipe calls for a heaped tbsp of fresh chopped parsley, but I detest the stuff so left this out). I added the butter and lemon and tasted so I could compare flavour for the seasoning. The dish tasted nice, but didn’t wow me. But as soon as I’d added the seasoning and tasted again – pow! What an amazing flavour! It once again points out the importance of correctly seasoning your food!

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Despite it looking very ‘yellow’ toned, and this being due to the lack of real lima beans and parsley, to add some green colour, the flavour of this dish was incredible.

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It’s a bit like stew, but without the sloppiness but also had a grilled or charredness to it. The flavours all marry wonderfully and the tomatoes added some needed freshness. Everyone knows butter and corn goes wonderfully, but the shallots added some savoury notes which just worked so well.

I didn’t know what to serve this with. Ideally it would have been nice with a roasted chicken, I think, but I served it with breaded chicken steaks and roasted potatoes. This was mainly because I had been craving roasties and I’m pretty sure I would have had them with whatever I was cooking on this day…… Not the greatest combo. The succotash was definitely the star of the show.

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I’m certain this would have been the perfect accompaniment to a BBQ, so if you’re invited to one and need to take a dish, maybe consider this?

What’s perfect about this was that it was crazy easy to make, used some great ingredients, and packed an amazing flavour punch. I’ll definitely be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10

Food Challenge Recipe 23: Barbecue Spaghetti

Today’s recipe is called Barbecue Spaghetti, though I have decided to rename it Buddy the Elf’s Spaghetti. If you can’t guess why, you’ll see soon enough….

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First of all, let me introduce you to my new friend, America: The Cookbook. This tome is home (ooh that rhymed) to an epic amount of regional recipes spanning the length and breadth of the American states. It’s almost 800 pages long, contains very few pictures and a hosts a whole lot of yummy goodness. I’ve already been through it and tabbed all the recipes I want to try. So expect to see a fair few dishes from this book, in the coming weeks.

I decided to try something simple for this week’s recipe, and barbecue spaghetti fit the bill – I had all the ingredients already and it looked easy and quick.

This recipe hails from Memphis, Tennessee and usually has pulled pork added to it, but as semi-vegetarians we decided to skip the meat.

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I started off by gathering my dry ingredients. 25g sugar (!), 1 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 paprika, 1/2 dried oregano.

Then I started my linguine (we don’t like spaghetti so we went with linguine, which I’d snapped in half before boiling, so it’s easier to eat) by adding it to a large pot of well-salted boiling water. You need to cook this according to the instructions on the packet.

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In a large frying pan I heated some olive oil and added 80g chopped frozen onions (I had these frozen ones left over from a previous recipe) and 75g sliced frozen peppers (again left over from a previous recipe) and cooked these down until tender.

I then added 1 cup (125ml) of barbecue sauce – now here’s where you need to choose your sauce wisely. I happen to live in a house which holds at least five or six different types of barbecue sauce in the pantry at any one time, so I was able to make a choice. Since this recipe already has chilli powder in it, I didn’t want a sauce that was too spicy, but this left only one sauce, which was already quite sweet. I would suggest going for something with mild spice (unless you like things very hot) and one that’s more on the vinegary side. This sauce was not, and I could tell we were basically cooking dessert at this stage….

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Nevertheless, I added the sauce along with the spices and sugar (eek!) and, after mixing, I left this to simmer and reduce for 10-12 minutes. I tasted this towards the end of the cooking time, and decided to add some more seasoning and more oregano to try to create a further savoury lift to the sauce.

At this stage you would add your pulled pork. I think adding some meat would have helped us along with the savoury notes it needed, but alas we skipped this step.

I added the cooked linguine and stirred it all up.

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In the photo it looks nice and almost Bolognese, but in reality it was spicy dessert. It was so sweet I needed to brush my teeth afterwards. The peppers and chilli did help a little, but still. I couldn’t even finish it all, which is very unlike me!

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Even if you have a very sweet tooth, you might still find this too much. Although, feel free to add some pulled pork to this and let me know otherwise. Or if you’re a Memphis native and love this dish, please let me know where I went wrong (other than leaving out the meat!).

I give this recipe 3/10

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

Food Challenge Recipe 18: Sweet & Sticky Tomato and Onion Bake

You’ll probably have noticed an unintentional theme in my last month or so’s recipes. I mostly eat vegetarian food, and a lot of it focusses on tomato and basil maybe with potato thrown in there.

I’m lactose intolerant so can’t eat dairy and my husband has Crohn’s meaning there are a few things that have to be omitted from his diet, including red meat. We never ate a lot of that anyway, so that wasn’t a problem, but I thought it worth mentioning, just in case you wondered why I rarely include meaty or cheesy recipes!

This week’s recipe is one I found whilst scooting through recipe books on Amazon. I don’t know if you’re aware, but sometimes they publish full recipes in the image section of the recipe book. I use this to gauge whether I think I’ll like what’s included. But on this occasion I liked a recipe so much, I screenshotted it, and that’s what this week’s recipe turned out to be! I’m rubbish so I can’t remember the name of the book. I’ve looked but I can’t find it. If I do I’ll update this post!

Anyway, this recipe was for 4 people but I cut it down by half and it was the perfect amount for 2.

You start off with preparing 250g of baby onions. I couldn’t find baby onions so I used the same amount of small shallots.

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To prepare them, you pop them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Then after about a minute, I pulled them out one by one with a slotted spoon and peeled the skins off. They just slipped right off! I’ve never prepared an onion in this way so I learned a new skill, and found it quite therapeutic!

I’d turned the oven to fan 190c already and lined a roasting tray with foil (for easier clean-up!) In hindsight I think, for my oven, 170c would have been a bit better.

I tumbled the peeled onions into the tray and then added 375g of cherry tomatoes and 375g of halved new potatoes.

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Then I drizzled about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil over the top and added salt and pepper, and gave it all a good mix.

This then went into the oven for an hour. You’ve got to stir it all around every 15 minutes to make sure the tomato juices get all up in every nook and cranny.

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After the hour was up, I added 200g drained and rinsed cannellini beans and a handful of fresh basil leaves and mixed it all together.

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At this point I turned the oven down to 170c as you can see the onions are already quite charred. Everything went back into the oven for 15 minutes more, and then it was served!

The recipe states to ‘make sure not to miss a drop of those juices’. There weren’t any juices in my pan, so I really believe the temperature of the oven had been too hot!

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Everything was cooked well, and you can still see the tomatoes have some moisture but if there had been some more moisture in the pan I think the beans would have been slightly more tender.

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I served this with some (probably too many) green beans, which added some clean greenness to the meal.

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This was a very good meal. The onions were sticky and caramelised, the tomatoes had deepened in flavour and basted the rest of the meal. The beans, though a little dry, added a texture and savouryness to the dish, and the potatoes soaked in all the lovely flavours from the rest. The basil added a great hit of fresh herby green.

I had thought we might want to add some balsamic glaze to this meal, but it wasn’t necessary. A simple, fresh and relatively healthy dish – we’ll be making this again (with only a tweak in oven temperature!)

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I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 17: Simple, Quick Pasta Sauce

I’m going to be straight with you, I was really stumped for this week’s recipe. I had no inspiration and after spending 2 days on Pinterest I gave up. But Gary made a good point – the pasta sauce we usually buy (just a stir-in tomato and basil sauce) isn’t available in stores any more for some reason and we’re struggling to find a sauce we like.

So he found a recipe on the NHS website (did you know they had recipes?!) and it looked simple and quick so I thought I’d give it a go. Being from the NHS, the recipe had no salt or sugar in it and very little oil, so I adapted it a little so that it would actually potentially taste nice. Which is the point, right?

This was a recipe for 2 people’s worth of sauce.

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The only ingredients you need other than the pasta you’re going to put it on are:

  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion chopped as finely as you can manage (for me that’s not very fine!)
  • 2 tsp of garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato puree
  • a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, to taste
  • pepper, salt and sugar to taste (sugar is really important to take away the acidity of the tinned tomatoes)

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All good recipes start with frying an onion. I fried this off in the garlic oil until they were soft (but should have probably left them in a little longer than I did…. I was feeling lazy!)

Then you add the tin of tomatoes, puree and herbs.

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I mixed this all together and allowed it to simmer for about 15 minutes. I tasted this at the start of this time, seasoned and added sugar. I also tasted again about 5 minutes before the end and tweaked it a little.

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In this time you can cook your pasta according to the packet.

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The finished sauce was okay. But it was just okay. It needed more sweetness, and I should have fried the onion down a little more. It was fresh flavoured and the herbs came through. But I still had that creaky feeling on my teeth from the acidity of the tomatoes. I feel like maybe some stock and a bit more sugar would have helped that.

The recipe suggested this might also make a good pizza sauce, and I can see how that would work. I appreciated the speed of this recipe and the fact that you would probably have all of these ingredients in your cupboard anyway.

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I give this recipe 5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 16: The Ultimate Veggie Burrito

For about a week before I made this recipe, I wanted to eat it. I pulled the bulk of the method from this recipe, and adapted it to my skill set and for the kind of flavours I like.

I love carbs and this recipe includes rice, potatoes and tortilla wraps, as well as beans and peppers. It was love at first sight! Burritos aren’t really a thing in the UK and I can’t say I had much to compare this to, but it was easy and delicious, and though my burrito wrapping needs some practice, I don’t mind eating one with a knife and fork until I’ve perfected that part!

Also, this part of the recipe (the filling) feeds 8 people, and I made that much so I would have leftovers for my lunches in the week.

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I started with 3 tablespoons of garlic infused oil in my largest pan, and popped a diced onion and 3 peppers, also diced.

Once these had cooked down a little and softened, I added 3 peeled and diced potatoes, 1 can of rinsed black beans, 500ml of vegetable stock, 85g of double concentrate tomato puree, 1 tsp of ground cumin and 1 tsp of smokey chipotle paste (add more or less dependent on your tastes and how hot the paste you have is). I then seasoned to taste once this was all mixed together.

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I brought this to the boil and then let it simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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You need to make sure, after this time, that the potatoes are fork tender, so if they’re not keep them simmering until they are.

When the filling was nearing the end of its cooking time, I started on the rice. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t cook rice, so I like to use the microwave rice packs. They’re so easy and the rice is perfect, so why not! I microwaved one pack according to the packet, and then heaped in 3 large spoonfuls of salsa from a jar. I mixed this together lightly, and presto the rice was done!

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By this point the filling was cooked, the liquid had boiled down nicely, and I tasted for seasoning and everything tasted good!

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To put this together, I laid a tortilla down, popped a thick line of filling down the middle, and then some rice to one side and some grated cheese to the other.

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My condiment of choice for these type of flavours is ketchup, but you choose whatever you want or no sauce at all. Guacamole would be lovely too. I added mayonnaise and ketchup and then tried to roll my burrito….

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I decided to leave my second one ‘open’ since my first collapsed so much, and I definitely ate this was a knife and fork. But either way, it was delicious!

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Despite the first one collapsing, the flavours were all wonderful and it was all very filling. Gary and I both agreed we could have managed one and a half instead of the two we ate!

This was a definite success, and I’ll be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 13: Flapjacks!

The week I made these flapjacks it was my other half’s birthday and I had a week off. And he happened to request I made them – he loves flapjacks and I’d never made them before, but they looked pretty easy so I said yes!

For my American readers (you probably already know this, but….) flapjacks in the UK are not pancakes, but a baked sweet rolled oat-based square.

Happily, these flapjacks ended up being Vegan!

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I started with 175g of Vitalite (vegan sunflower spread) which I melted slowly on a low/medium heat.

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Then I added 175g of soft brown sugar, and 175ml of golden syrup.

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You’ve got to heat and stir this until all the sugar grains are dissolved.

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Then you take this off the heat and stir in 350g of porridge oats.

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I stirred half the oats in to coat and then the other half, just to ensure everything was coated properly.

I then pressed the mixture into a 20×20 cm pan which has been lined and greased, and pop into an oven at 150c for 25-30 mins.

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The top will be turning golden brown. I left the bake inside the tray until it was completely cool. At which point lifted the whole thing out using the sides of the paper, and I cut it into squares. I made about 16 squares.

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These flapjacks passed my husband’s taste test, and he even took some into work for his vegan workmates to enjoy! Being dairy-free I know what’s like to have to pass on all the goodies people bring into work, so it’s always nice to be able to say yes to a sweet treat now and then!

I give this recipe 10/10!

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