July’s Foodie Penpals

I mentioned a little while ago that I had joined Foodie Penpals and luckily a couple of my lovely blog friends also said they were doing the same thing. I thought it might be simple, I mean, I’m a foodie and it should be no problem buying local or lovely things for other people right?  Wrong, although I got paired with the fantastic Christine from Germany to buy for who didn’t have any particular dislikes it’s a bit tricker buying for someone you don’t know – although I’m sure it will get easier.  Christine doesn’t blog so I will show you what I sent to her later on.  Firstly I will show you what a fantastic parcel I received from Nikki at Your Last Mouthful who is based in Cardiff.

So here it is with explanations – Nikki had asked me my likes and dislikes and it’s useful if someone has a blog as you can see the kinds of things people like, and had perfectly paired the goodies with me.  In the Shrinking Queen household we have taken great pleasure in opening the parcel and inspecting it’s contents, the mini K’s loved it as much and me and Mr K so it’s a really great thing to do – Nikki must have a really great oriental shop nearby as you can see (oh and an amazing obsession with Japanese Kit Kats – I know, did you even know there were such things?)  The smell of this box was amazing (like my earlier post on curry here, it smelt like my favourite cupboard).

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  • Thai Green Curry Kit
  • Sesame dessert from Japan (add hot water until thickened)
  • Methi Leaf
  • Jelly Straws (the kids adored these and I need to go and find some for Big Miss K as she is constantly swimming so could do with the sugar hit)
  • Green Tea Mochi (amazing, you think it should be incredibly sweet but just isn’t,)
  • Chinese Preserved Figs (addictive, sweet and sour)
  • Hot hot Chillies
  • Variety of chinese inspired teas
  • Macha and Sakura Kit Kat – I saved this for an evening on my own and have to say, this one was very much like the Western kit kat we know and love but just has a slightly different edge (and I can see why they are an obsession – the only issue is that they are too small ;-)).

Onto the parcel I sent to Christina with explanations – she has sent me a lovely email saying she had already tasted the sesame snaps – these are a staple snack in my house as the mini’s love them and there are no arguments about wanting more as a pack is a pack!  I’m hoping she enjoyed the rest of my parcel too.

DSC_0931My parcel contained:

  • Vietnamese prawn crackers (I adore the way these little waxy discs explode into something so familiar when added to oil)
  • Local Marmalade (with bits in, it MUST have bits in)
  • Sesame Snaps
  • Peanut Brittle (apparently Christina loves peanuts and sweet things, a perfect match)
  • Some Yunnan tea from my local market stall (slightly floral)
  • Home-made vanilla and chocolate fudge (I was concerned this may not make it in the heat so hope it was ok)
  • Recipe for Banana and Nutella Cake (here if you wish to give it a go)
  • And her favourite thing, a loom band bracelet made by Big Miss K (who was determined to get involved).

I can’t wait for next month now…

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‘Pimped’ Mary Berry Carrot and Walnut Cake

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Big Miss K, aged 10, decided she absolutely MUST make a carrot cake. This was a great idea, I had a work call to make and Little Miss K needed some entertaining so off she went to retrieve her step so she could get up to the kitchen counter and they were off.

Big Miss K is generally self-sufficient and obviously takes after her parents as she is always wanting to do something or other in the kitchen – and she’s definitely a feeder, she just wants everyone to enjoy the things she makes. And enjoy this cake we all have. I had to try it, but only a small slice – if you are following Slimming World then I can only hope you too are a ‘feeder’ and are able to resist it – if you can’t then all I can do is blame Miss K – but look at her proud face, you wouldn’t blame her, would you!

I actually used a square tin to bake one large cake, then forgot after 40 minutes we had to go out so it got 40 mins, then I turned the oven off and left it in the cooling oven to cook through so not actually sure how long it took. I like to bake in one and slice through afterwards into 2 cakes as it stays really moist and doesn’t have dry edges but will put the Mary Berry way of doing it below.

The ‘pimping’ of a Mary Berry recipe is seen by some as sacrilege, but who am I to stop experimentation of a 10 year old. When the suggestion of caramelised chopped walnuts came up I did insist that I had to make that part and like an idiot when I was pouring it onto the top of the cake a piece dropped off so I just picked it up, ouchie, I now have the blisters on fingers to prove that a woman in her 40’s should also not be left alone in the kitchen with caramel – I’m sure Mary Berry wouldn’t have made this error!

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‘Pimped’ Mary Berry Carrot and Walnut Cake

  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g muscovado sugar
  • 200g carrots, grated
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 75 g walnuts, chopped, plus some to decorate

Icing

  • 50g butter, at room temperature
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 250g full-fat cream cheese
  • a few drops of vanilla extract

To top

  • sugar
  • walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan. Grease two deep 20cm round sandwich tins and line the bases of the cake tins with baking parchment.

Put the oil, eggs, and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Whisk until the mixture is well combined, lighter, and noticeably thickened. Gently fold the carrot into the cake batter, then stir in the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, ginger, and chopped walnuts until evenly blended.

Spoon the mixture evenly between the tins. Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown, risen, and shrinking away from the sides of the tins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the icing: Put the butter, icing sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk using a hand or electric whisk until smooth and thoroughly blended.

Spread half the icing on one cake, sit the other cake on top, and spread the remaining icing on top to make a swirl pattern.

For the topping: put sugar in heavy based pan and heat until it has turned to caramel, do not stir, thrown in walnuts then when cooled slightly pour over cake – and if you drop any DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT pick them up.

It’s a Humous Day

DSC_0924 What an amazing time we had watching Le Tour de France leave Cambridge – a lovely sunny day, we visited all of the fun activities first thing in the morning and then cycled out to just past the start line, catching the ‘caravan’ which were lots of advertising cars throwing all sorts of odd things out of them (my children managed to accumulate a fold up frizbee and a blow up guitar amongst other things – how random).   Then we saw the pack coming towards us, the riders all got up on their haunches and flew past us in a haze of speed. It was great, and just lovely being able to cycle through the main roads of Cambridge without having to pay much attention to the children cycling safely as the roads were closed to vehicles – I don’t think they could quite believe it either, something they have never been able to do.  However, with all of the positives there is always a negative and that was I put on 4lbs – oops.  I had treated it like a Bank Holiday as we all had the day off, it was so hot I felt I just had to participate in a glass or two (or 3) of wine.  Then there was lunch out – see, now I’m writing it down I know exactly what happened don’t I – but that’s fine, it’s the scenic route again, no problem.

Mr K went off to the cricket a few days later so it was only me to feed once the kids had gone to bed.  It really was a hot evening so I couldn’t face much, but I also know that risking no food I may well head for a disaster of being hungry late at night, so I decided on making humous, not just any old humous but one with onions, which both bulks it up and gives it lots and lots of flavour – you really do have to like onions, probably quite lucky that I was on my own as I may have been rather unsociable if anyone else was around.

I still had my HEX B left so toasted a couple of pieces of brown toast, then I sliced them on a board so it actually makes 4 pieces and then toast the cut sides until crispy and it makes them like melba toasts – delicious.  Then I had some cucumber and carrots sticks and it was addictive, standing by the cool fridge and just eating – thank goodness I had decided on that, otherwise it really might have been a disaster!

And it must have worked – the 4lbs had gone by the following week – onwards and upwards, or rather, downwards!

N.B.  You can leave the tahini out of this and add water to make it right consistency but I’m afraid there is nothing to beat the tahini really (you can add up to 3 tbsp if you are happy with the syns!) DSC_0926 Balsamic Onion Humous – syns – 4 for the whole lot

  • 2 medium yellow or sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sweetener, divided
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons reserved liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoons tahini paste (4 syns)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Really good squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Water (optional for consistency)

Cook onions in a frying pan in frylight with sweetener added.  Season with a bit of salt. Spread onions out across the pan and let cook, stirring every few mins, until softened, about 20-30 minutes total. In last 10 mins add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and stir to coat. Once they are caramelized to your liking, remove from pan.

Save a small amount of onions to top the hummus later, if desired. Add the rest to the large bowl of a food processor.

Reserve about 3 tablespoons of liquid from the chickpea can and drain and rinse the rest of the chickpeas.

Put 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and let simmer until reduced to a thick, syrupy liquid, about 1-2 tablespoons worth. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add to the food processor the chickpeas, liquid from the chickpea can, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon sweetener, salt, and pepper.

Process until smooth. Adjust to taste, adding water if you want to loosen consistency.

Serve hummus topped with reserved caramelized onions and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

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.