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What’s Your (Th)inspiration?

Originally posted on Operation Mini-Mummy:

Firstly a big grovelling apology for not being the best blogger lately, I have seriously been neglecting my little corner of the web for a few weeks…. booooooo me! I have been quite neglectful of a few things recently, with exception of the children- at least my priorities are in order I suppose!

Over the past few days I have been on a quest for thinspiration- I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit flaky lately, but I do really want to recapture that enthusiasm I had in the first few weeks. I’m not sure how everyone else gets themselves inspired diet wise (I’d love to know) But among other things, I like reading other peoples blogs- I often pick up recipes, hints and tips, as well as boosting morale or just realising that other people have the same struggles and you’re not the only one who…

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Mr Squid and his Testicles

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The weekends begin on Saturday morning with Mr K asking what I want for dinner.
Me: ‘But I’m drinking my first cup of tea, I don’t even know what I want for breakfast yet. AVA (7) STOP SINGING FROZEN, IT’S TOO EARLY’.
Mr K: But I need to go to the market this morning if you wan’t fish’
Daisy (3): Mummy, Mummy, is it swimming day?’
Me: Yes, now get your swimming things together, (turning to Mr K)’I don’t mind, you decide’
Mr K: ‘But if I don’t do something Slimming World you will get cross with me’
Me: ‘But everything can be adapted but I don’t really fancy (select random food as appropriate)’
Mr K: ‘Well that’s helpful, I was going to do ‘insert random food’ huff.
Daisy (3): I can’t find my swimming things and I need a poo’
Ava (7): Do you have a pen, I’m going to write a book today?’
Whilst all of this is going on Gracie (10) is still asleep in bed…

And the next Saturday repeat, and so on. Sometimes I am astonished we even manage to get out of bed and dressed let alone to swimming lessons and even manage to get something for dinner despite my ‘random daily dislikes’ as Mr K calls them but hey, sometimes I just don’t fancy a certain something. It drives him insane!

I’m sure most of you can appreciate those conversations if you have kids, surely it’s not just in my house, is it?

This recipe was on my ‘to make’ list as soon as I saw it – tasty, already Slimming World friendly and somewhat unusual so it was made the very next Saturday, although I’m not sure that went down very well with Mr K either as he couldn’t have THAT Saturday morning conversation. But it was brilliant, the squid was lovely and tender because it was cooked for so long and the kids absolutely loved it – we had sauce left over that we used for pasta coating another day which was great.

To show my kids I do listen to them and am not always doing ten things at once I have named this exactly as Daisy named it – there is trouble when you say tentacles to my 3 year old. Hopefully that won’t bring up anything ‘unusual’ if you search for this, but I can’t promise….

Mr Squid and his Testicles – serves 2 hungry adults syns – 1/2 syn

  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 medium or 8 small squid tubes, plus tentacles reserved
  • 400ml passata
  • 400g can cannellini beans, drained
  • large teaspoon shrimp paste (or 8 small raw, peeled prawns)
  • 2 handfuls flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 10 olives in brine, chopped

Spray fry light in a saucepan and add chilli, garlic and onion. Saute for 5 minutes until onion is softened. Add squid tentacles until they tighten and have a little colour.

Add passata, simmer and place lid on pan.

For filling:
Place cannellini beans in blender and blend until smooth, stir in prawns or fish paste, three quarters of parsley and olives. I made all of this in blender (and forgot to save some parsley for serving).

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Stuff filling into squid tubes pushing all the way down and fasten with cocktail stick.

Place squid into simmering tomato sauce, put on lid and gently simmer for 40 minutes.

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Serve with a green salad

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Rolling Rolling Rolling Rotolo!

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So I’m being a bit unfair, the rotolo was not reluctant but I have been the reluctant blogger.  Why would anyone want to cook anything I cook?  I want, and hope that people do try to make the dishes I put on here.  But more than that, I hope people who follow Slimming World get some ideas on some different dishes as it is far too easy to get stuck with the same food, for everything to get a bit dull, and before you know it for you to slip back into certain habits or crave certain foods you never would have in the early days.  It’s a long journey, that’s not a bad thing, the longer it takes the more likely it is to stay off – that’s the way I see it.  So, dust myself off, have a bit of faith and hey, if no-one else likes it, at least I enjoy writing it.

I made this Rotolo weeks ago, photographed it and it was absolutely delicious but just didn’t get round to putting it down in a blog post.  It wasn’t without difficulties though.  I have made this for many years but it was always with fresh pasta.  Fresh pasta and Slimming World do not really go together so I had put the recipe to one side for a while until I came across a new cookery book (oops, another accidental purchase of cookery book).  I remembered how much I loved it and thought I could try it with dried lasagne sheets and cook them first, then wrap them around the mix – this was a bit hit and miss.  Once I got into a rhythm it was fine as I found that the easiest way to roll them was to thoroughly cook the lasagne sheets, then cut them in half lengthways and then roll them all up – it’s a bit fiddly compared to fresh sheets which you can just use straight from the packet, but worth it for me.

And another really exciting find is ‘Foodie Penpals’ which I have joined.  I will tell you about this when I send my first parcel and receive mine – you won’t believe how much I am looking forward to it.

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Rotolo made with Butternut Squash and Spinach – Serves 6 – syn free (if using cheese as HEX A)

  • 1 Butternut squash
  • 2 small onions or 1 large
  • 500g pack spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 700ml jar passata
  • Dried lasagne sheets
  • 50g feta cheese
  • 20g parmesan
  • Nutmeg
  • Sage leaves

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Chop squash into chunks and roast until cooked.  Remove from oven, when cool enough, scoop flesh out off skin (I find this easier than peeling it first).  Mash with a fork and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and leave in a bowl.

Peel and chop onion, fry off in frylight for around 10 minutes with salt and pepper, until softened.

Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, cover with lid and cook for around 10 minutes, until all liquid has evaporated.

Peel and slice garlic, and put in pan with passata, adding a bit of water to loosen, season and leave on side.

Cook the lasagne sheets until soft – if you are not following Slimming World it is MUCH MUCH easier to use fresh lasagne sheets but these are not free is you are following SW.

Put tomato sauce in ovenproof dish, making sure it doesn’t go too far up the sides as you will see in next step.

I found the trick to the next part was to cut the lasagne sheets in half lengthways, then put in a layer of squash, the spinach mix and a crumbling of feta on them and then roll these up.  Place these end facing upwards in the tomato dish – you can get the idea from the finished dish, I’m not sure why I didn’t photograph this part – possibly frustration and being covered in mixture ;-)

Continue until you have run out of mixture and the dish is full – hopefully this will happen at the same time.

Grate over light dusting of parmesan and throw on sage leaves, Bake for 30 minutes in the oven and service with a lovely salad and just in case the kids didn’t like it, some bbq chicken.

Disasters and a Dumpling Delight!

DSC_0481It was a bank holiday and half-term – this can only mean one thing in the UK – rain! Yep, lots of it. In fact, I don’t think it stopped raining for 24 hours. Still, advance warning of this meant I had a plan.

The plan was steamed dumplings, noodle dishes, pavlova’s and cheese. Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to make them all for one meal but realised it was a good excuse for getting some blog posts backed up.

This was not to be.

Most of the ingredients to be used for the noodle dishes were ‘liberated’ by Mr K as his family were coming over so he was cooking.

I bought everything to make the cheese and then realised I didn’t have any ‘starter’ and when I want to do something there is no time for waiting for the internet order to arrive, I must do it now! After lengthy searches it was clear this could be substituted with lemon juice or vinegar so all was saved – or not. The lemon juice didn’t work so after all of the ‘standing over the pot, heating it with thermometer in hand’, even after the rennet and calcium choride were added, nothing, still just hot milk. Then one of the children dropped something all over the floor, off I dashed with cloth (and possibly shouting a bit) I returned to find the milk boiling and after a quick stir realised it was burnt to the bottom of the pan. I consoled myself with the fact that I may well have been standing there for another hour hoping, just hoping it might still work so she did me a favour really. I have since ordered the starter (and much more of it than usual so next time I’m prepared).

The pavlova was the next day. I made it early in the morning so it had time to cool in the oven before we needed to switch it on again – how organised I was feeling. Thought I would try to make it a little more Slimming World friendly by using sweetener instead of sugar – this was NOT a success. In fact, a complete failure. It didn’t have any lightness when it went into the oven, there was no chewiness that you get when you add white vinegar and cornflour and when it came out and it looked like a large pancake. I will not be trying this again, I would rather make a proper pavlova and have less of it. It had to be rescued with a last minute chewy giant peanut cookie, topped with fromage frais and rasperries and the ‘pancake’ settled on top of this. Apparently it was delicious but I wasn’t going anywhere near a disaster like that on a plate, sob!

So to the triumphant dumplings. These were simple to make, the little hands in the house loved making different shapes and Baby K liked dipping her fingers in water so the older ones could seal the edges. They also rather liked eating them. I’m not sure I have ever seen a plate of food disappear as quickly. I also made a new discovery – Chinese dark vinegar. The recipe said I could use balsamic but when I went to get the wonton wrappers from my fab local oriental store I saw the vinegar and thought I would give it a go – and I am so pleased I did, it is lightly floral and not as ‘vinegary’ as any vinegars I normally use. It’s like using Chinese rice wine instead of white wine, there is no comparison. If you are able to get it then I highly recommend you do so. I can see it becoming a regular in our house.

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So, on a rainy day, with as many hands as fancy giving you some help give these a go, you won’t be disappointed. Be warned, they are addictive….

Tricky to syn these as there is not a lot of English writing on them but after looking in detail most will end up being 1 syn per dumpling wrapper as long as you steam them and the filling is free.

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Chinese Dumplings with Dipping Sauce – SYNS 1 per dumpling

  • Wonton Wrappers

Filling:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 5 spring onions, finely chopped
  • ½ red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ½ thumb ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp five spice powder
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 egg

Dipping Sauce:

  • ½ tsp five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp Chinese dark vinegar
  • 1 spring onion, sliced

Place all ingredients for filling except wonton wrappers in bowl and using hands mix everything well, this will become slightly sticky and you may feel it is a little moist but this is fine.

Take small amount of filling and make into ball. Place in centre of wonton wrapper.

To wrap, go for it – my children had some very inventive ways of doing this (see above) but the trick is to make sure there is no air in them and make sure you put a little water all the way round so they seal properly. If in doubt place wonton in front of you like a diamond and seal over top of mixture to make a triangle (make sure there is no air in it). Then turn both sides into centre front and seal at front so it has little base to stand on.  Does that makes sense? see below.

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I steamed these for 5 minutes but you could poach them –the water shouldn’t be boiling so the wrappers don’t break.  Make sure you check one is cooked through also as the mixture went in raw.

While doing this make the dipping sauce by mixing everything together.

Serve and watch them fly off the plate.

A Flying Queen and a ‘Hug in a Mug’

So I was having to lay low (or rather sit low) as I had a cycle accident.  I would like to point out there was no alcohol involved contrary to popular belief, might be tricky to keep the glass straight when cycling.  No, the chain came of my bike as I was cycling up a hill and was standing up.  It was a rather unceremonious flying across the cycle path with bike on top of me and everything in my basket flying.  I won’t show you a picture of the damage but suffice to say it was not pleasant (and of course a brand new pair of trousers were ruined).  A couple of days off work not being able to do a lot has driven me mad – however, my eldest daughter is delighted as her cardigan is now almost finished (other than that second sleeve and blocking it).  If you fancy having a go at this one then the pattern is here. knittingThen I chanced upon a recipe for a quick tomato soup so thought I had nothing to lose.  Normally I don’t go for speedy cooking but I must say that this really had the ‘hug in a mug’ and more importantly it really did only take 5 minutes to make.  So here goes, if you are under the weather and don’t want any effort but need to pack in those free foods then this is the baby for you.

Tomato soup ingredients

Hug in a Mug Speedy Tomato Soup – SYN FREE

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 small-ish carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs

Peel and chop onion and garlic and roughly chop everything except the canned tomatoes and mixed herbs into a food processor until finely chopped.

Throw everything into a pan with the tomatoes and mixed herbs and some seasoning and put on the hob for 5 minutes until veg is cooked through.

Blend this again (I use a stick soup blender for this part) until smooth, you may want to add a little water to get the right texture, or a little milk if you have a HEX A left.

Top this with a little fat free fromage frais and some basil (yes, that is basil but it had only just started growing).

tomato soup complete

A Swweeeeet Potato Lunch

Eggs with sweet potato crust ingredients

I had one of those unexpected mornings on Saturday (well in my house anyway). The kids were at swimming lessons and I went to get my hair cut and when I got back the house was still empty – this is NOT NORMAL. Normally I come in to everyone talking, singing (Frozen has a lot to answer for in this house), shouting, badgering me for food and general chaos but no, silence. So I did what any sane person would do and think about lunch – or rather, lack of anything that might resemble Slimming World friendly in the house. Looking in the fridge the thing that jumped out at me was eggs. Seriously, the hens had been working overtime and there were well over a dozen in there so that was what it was going to be in one form or another.

Those who go to my Slimming World class know I have a real bugbear about conversion of food that doesn’t say what it actually is. A while ago, everyone was talking about Slimming World Quiche, now I was well up for this, I mean pastry, on a diet, as my 10 year old daughter says ‘it’s the best part of a quiche’. Obviously she doesn’t mean mine I’m sure… I then find out that this is in no way, shape or form a quiche, it is an omelette poured into a tin and put in the oven. THIS IS NOT A QUICHE, see I told you I have a bugbear about these things, IT’S AN OMELETTE baked in the oven.

On that note out came the sweet potatoes and I set to work on using this to form a crust of types (something that can hold eggs in it really) – now I don’t want to call this a quiche (as it doesn’t have pastry and it’s my bugbear) so the name, hmmmm. I settled on Eggs with a Sweet Potato Crust – I’m still not happy with that title but have made a rod for my own back with that one.

Oh, and gradually I get more tech friendly, as well as here and Pinterest I am now here on Istagram so pop over, it’s likely I will post more there and on Twitter as it’s quick and easy so if you haven’t had enough of me blathering away then come and have a look (that is if I have got the links to work…) I still haven’t got to grips with linking my pages to recipes though – need to sit down and get that sorted (advice gratefully received…)

Eggs with Sweet Potato Crust – Serves 6 with a salad – SYN FREE

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes, grated
  • 8 eggs
  • chilli flakes
  • Mixture of veg for filling, I used onion, mushrooms, courgette, red peppers
  • Mixed herbs
  • Grated cheese – HEX A – measured
  • Seasoning

Fry off whatever you are using for your filling in frylight, I fry onions gently first to release their sweetness, the add everything else until just cooked making sure it’s not too moist.

Grate potatoes with large side of grater and line a loose based cake tin with baking parchment and spray on fry light

If potatoes are a little watery put them in a tea towel and squeeze out moisture. My potatoes were quite dry.

Mix grated potatoes with chilli flakes and seasoning, throw in 1 whole egg and mix together. Press this mixture into the cake tin, I do this carefully to make sure there are no holes in the base as the eggs would leak through. Then press up the sides of the tin to the top.  Pop this in the oven for about 20 minutes until lightly coloured and drying out (see below).

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Place filling on top of potatoes, I like quite a dense filling so used rather a lot of veg.

Whisk together remaining eggs with a dash of milk and mixed herbs and pour over the top of the veg, making sure it can get through all the layers of vegetables.

Sprinkle with cheese and place in a 180 degree celcius oven for around 20 minutes.

Remove from tin as soon as you are able to handle (you will be grateful for the baking parchment here) and serve warm with a lovely green salad.

I also had some left for the next day and can tell you it was equally delicious cold.

Eggs with Sweet Potato Crust

A Cornish Escape

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We have just had a fantastic week in Cornwall, beaches, long walks across clifftops to pubs, cycles along the Camel trail with the kids. We come back filled with ideas of moving (this is not unusual). So the decision is we shall sell up and buy a fantastic house with land where I can grow micro salads and sell them to all the restaurants and deli’s and Mr K can run an Art Gallery, the kids can go to the beach every day after school and learn to surf – sounds perfect eh. Then thump, back to reality. After a week of lovely sleep I make the fatal error of checking my work emails on a Friday night and I haven’t slept well since. It wasn’t that there was anything particularly dramatic in the emails, it was the sheer volume of them and realizing that actually, I will have to deal with them, but for now I will try to forget (as I kept saying to myself when I’m tossing and turning all night). Apparently I really irritatingly tap my foot when I’m awake in the night. I do try lots of relaxation techniques, imagining the sinking into the mattress type stuff, and the sheep counting too but I find that I end up dressing the sheep up or trying to make them jump over the fence in a gymnastics fashion which IS NOT condusive to getting to sleep.

So to take me away from all of that Mr K made me a delicious crab risotto with the leftover spider crab we brought back with us, we got this is Port Isaac (the place where Doc Martin is filmed, see below), a lovely little village – he loves spider crab and this only cost £1 (seriously £1), apparently it’s claws were quite small so we wouldn’t get much meat out of it and as people in the UK don’t like them so the fisherman told us (too spiky or something), but they are sweet and a I love picking it over, as do the children and Mr K’s Nanny Devon just would have sat with my kids adoringly helping them pick it over too if she were still alive. I know this is similar to Singing Aida that I posted a while ago but had to share it with you as the crab is so delicate and sweet it is just so special.

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Oh, I weighed myself when I got back and whoops, those large glasses of wine had an effect as my scales says 6 ½ lbs on (nooooo). Luckily, after some real best behaviour over the next few days when I stepped on the SW scales it was only 1 ½ on which I thankfully lost, plus another pound this week – back on track!

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Spider Crab Risotto with Grey Mullet – Serves 2 – 2 syns per serving

  • 3 shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • small glass white wine
  • Pinch saffron
  • 1 litre Shellfish stock (can use fish stock)
  • 1 spider crab, picked over and brown meat also removed and used
  • 2 fillets grey mullet
  • Samphire

Gently fry shallots and garlic until soft but not coloured

Add risotto rice and keep stirring but leave it on the heat until it is ‘singing Aida’ (what a great description)- this takes longer than you think, be brave but do not let it burn.

Add the saffron to the wine and leave for a couple of minutes to infuse then take wine and stir into rice until it has evaporated and turn down to a simmer, then start adding warm stock ladle by ladle, only adding another one when the last one has been soaked up by the rice. Mr K insists that you should only stir this clockwise (something to do with not breaking down the rice) but I have to say I have never done this, just be kind to it.

Keep doing the above for a good 20 minutes until all of the stock is used and the rice has a ‘slight bite’. If you have used all of the stock and the rice is still not cooked you can then add water.

Lightly brush fillets of fish with some olive oil, then season and place skin side down in a frying pan, when slightly crisp turn these only to slightly cook the top side without letting the fish dry out (this should only take 3-4 skin side and a further minute flesh side).

Add the samphire to a pan of water and blanch for couple of minutes until tender.

Here is a really good tip. Once the risotto is cooked turn off the heat, add the crab meat and a little more water so that when you run a spoon across the pan the risotto falls back to make a flat surface, basically so it is not too dry. Put a lid on and leave for 5 minutes – this relaxes the risotto and all of the flavours merge to make a lovely, creamy risotto.