social spark Aisling Beatha: August 2012

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hairy Dieters Recipe Reviews

I have been sharing a lot of recipes from the Hairy Bikers new Hairy Dieters book, but I don't always have time to take photos as I am cooking or even of the finished product.  I did however promise to share reviews of each of the recipes we try, so here are some of those.

Together in this post I will review and comment on:

Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip

Harissa Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Salad

Cottage Pie

Rich Beef and Ale Casserole

Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Cheese, Leek and Onion Pasties

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Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges and Chive Dip
page 67
Well, we didn't quite follow this recipe completely.  I still had some Cajun spice mix that I made for a previous recipe in the cupboard, so I used that.  The chicken took longer than I expected BUT I don't think I bashed it thin enough with the rolling pin at the start. The wedges were just right and the dip was great, especially since I used chives straight from the garden.


Harissa Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Salad
p 68
Really worth squeezing the lemon over this, it lifts it.  This time, when bashing the chicken breasts, I got them the right thickness and they cooked quicker than in the Cajun Spiced Chicken.  The salad is great and you could easily add more vegetables for those with heartier appetites.  I did need to use two pans for both of these recipes though, so be aware of that when getting equipment ready.


Cottage Pie
p81
You're going to get fed up of me gushing about these recipes aren't you?  Believe me they don't always work as expected.  However, this one was delicious.  I would recommend letting the meat sauce cool a little before trying to add the potato and leek topping. Another good idea would be to find an ovenproof dish of the right volume but deeper, rather than the lasagne dish I used.  That meant the potato was spread really thinly, so much so it was difficult to cover all of the meat.  We will certainly cook this again but I will rethink which of my dishes I cook it in.

Rich Beef and Ale Casserole
p96
Usually I am the only member of this family to eat Parsnips, but everyone ate everything on their plate for this one.  We used stout rather than ale and since the cans of stout we had were 330ml I actually used all of both cans, rather than the 500ml the recipe calls for, lowing the amount of stock accordingly.  If you follow that route, don't forget to take account of the extra calories.  We froze the portions we didn't use that night and ate them a week or so later and it was just as tasty as first time around.

Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce
p148
My 17 year old foodie son cooked this for us as I had to fetch his dad from work.  We used plain pork mince rather than beef or a mixture of the two.  The meatballs did break up a bit on cooking.  I think the extra calories of one egg in the whole recipe might be worth it for the binding power.  Another good dish that we will cook again.

Cheese, Leek and Onion Pasties


p180
These weren't as cheesy as we would have liked, but the whole thing of using bread dough instead of pastry worked really well.  I would make one suggestion, MAKE SURE the potato mix is cooled completely before you add the cheese and form the pasties.
We have decided that for us, we would prefer more cheesy flavour and so we will double the amount of cheese next time, accounting for the extra calories.  We will also only grate half of it, dicing the other half, so that there are mouthfuls where you get more of a cheesy hit.


I am really enjoying the recipes from the book, even if they don't all quite come out the way I expected, they are tasting delicious.

So far I have blogged about these recipes from the book:

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Healthy Minestrone Soup

Have you been checking out my recent recipes and recipe reviews from the Hairy Dieters book by the Hairy Bikers?

Today I have another lunch recipe for you.
Minestrone Soup


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4 ripe tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 slender leek trimmed and finely sliced
2 medium courgettes, diced
1.5 litres of chicken stock
50g dry spaghetti
1 tbsp tomato puree
200g frozen peas
100g curly kale or green cabbage, thickly shredded
25g parmesan cheese, finely grated
fresh basil leaves to serve
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper




Prepare your vegetables.


Make a cross in the bottom of each tomato and put them in a heatproof bowl.


Pour over enough just boiled water to cover the tomatoes and leave for 1 minute. If the tomatoes are ripe enough, the skins should shrink back under the hot water. Drain and leave to cool.


Hmmm, the skins certainly didn't shrink back as much as I had expected, but I still managed to get the skins off just fine, so don't panic if yours look just like this.


Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan or saute pan and fry the onion very gently for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring often.


While the onion is cooking, slip the skins off the tomatoes and cut the flesh into quarters. Scoop out the seeds and chuck them out. Cut the tomato flesh into rough 1cm cubes.




Add the celery, garlic, leek and courgettes to the pan with the onion.


Stir over a low heat for a couple of minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, pour over the chicken stock and bring to the boil.



Break the spaghetti into short lengths and drop them into the pan with the tomato puree.



Bring the soup back to the boil, then cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peas, kale or cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pasta is just tender.



Season the soup with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.


Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and torn basil leaves.


Results?  Delicious soup that was filling without bread and low cal enough that you could actually have two bowls and still be OK.  Just watch the size of the bowls and how much parmesan you put on.


I am really enjoying the recipes from the book, even if they don't all quite come out the way I expected, they are tasting delicious.

So far I have blogged about these recipes from the book:

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I know I know, recipes recipes, recipes, where are the crafts and art?  Believe me, they will be back soon, when our eldest returns to university and I get my art space back!  But for now, I will be sharing more recipes from the Hairy Dieters book by the Hairy Bikers.

For copyright reasons I will not be sharing full ingredients list and recipes from all the recipes I share from this book but I will be commenting on all of them eventually.  if you want full details either buy the book OR check out the website for the series, but you have to wait until each recipe has featured for it to appear.  Thankfully, this one has been featured and you should be able to find it here.

Today we have Sweet and Sour Chicken


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You will need


Chop the peppers and cut the onions into wedges.


To make the sauce, drain the pineapple, in a sieve over a bowl, and keep all the juice, you should have around 150ml. Put the cornflour in a large bowl and stir in 3tbsp of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining juice and the water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined.




Cut each chicken breast into 8 or 9 even pieces. Heat a tbsp of the oil in a large non stick frying pan or wok and stir fry the onion and peppers for 2 minutes over a high heat.


Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally.  The recipe only calls for one can, but we love them so we used two cans.


Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir fry for 2 minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir fry for 30 - 60 seconds.





Give the cornflour and juice mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables.


 Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4- 6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times.

Serve with a small portion of rice.


Results?  Certainly not the same colour as in the book, but we did use a really thick, dark soy sauce, so that probably accounts for that issue.  Flavour wise it was Great!  We all enjoyed it and said we would definitely eat it again just as it is!

I am really enjoying the recipes from the book, even if they don't all quite come out the way I expected, they are tasting delicious.

So far I have blogged about these recipes from the book:

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hairy Dieters Masala Marinated Chicken

I told you, I LOVE these recipes.  When the Hairy Bikers announced they would be doing a tv show and book with diet recipes in it I KNEW they would be good and I was NOT disappointed.

Today we have the Masala Marinated Roast Chicken with Minted Yoghurt Sauce.  INCREDIBLE!


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You will need:


1.65kg whole chicken
1 lime, quartered
freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE MARINADE


6 cardamom pods
2tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp ground fenugreek
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1 - 2 tsp hot chilli powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp flaked sea salt
4 garlic, peeled and crushed
40g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
100g low fat natural yoghurt

FOR THE YOGHURT SAUCE
200g low fat natural yoghurt
1tsp ready made mint sauce

To make the marinade, split the cardamom pods and remove the seeds.



Put the cardamom seeds in a non stick frying pan and discard the husks. Add the cumin and coriander seeds, cloves and black peppercorns and place the pan over a medium heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly until the spices are lightly toasted - you know they're ready when you can smell the spicy aroma.




Tip the spices into a pestle and mortar, or an electric spice grinder, and pound to a fine powder.



Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the fenugreek, turmeric, paprika, chilli powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the garlic, ginger and yoghurt, then mix well and leave to stand while you prepare the chicken.




Place the chicken on its breast on a sturdy chopping board and cut carefully either side of the backbone with good scissors or poultry shears.


Chuck out the backbone and cut off the foot joints and wing tips.





Strip all the skin off the bird apart from the ends of the wings.   I find it easier to do this starting at the breast side by cutting down the middle of the skin with the scissors, but do it however suits you.


Cut off and discard any obvious fat. Open out the chicken and place it on a board so that the breast side is facing upwards.



Press down heavily with the palms of your hands to break the breastbone and flatten the chicken as evenly as possible. This will help it cook more quickly. Slash the meat with a knife through the thickest parts of the legs and breasts. Place the chicken in a shallow non metallic dish - a lasagne dish is ideal - and tuck in the legs and wings.

Spoon over the marinade and really massage it into the chicken on both sides, ensuring that every bit of the bird is covered - get your hands in there and really go for it. I managed with a spoon, without "getting my hands in there" and it worked just fine, I didn't fancy the staining that comes with handling certain spices.


Cover the dish with cling film and put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.




Preheat the oven to 210c/190c fan/Gas 6 1/2. Take the chicken out of the dish and place it on a rack inside a large baking tray, breast side up. Squeeze over some juice from the lime and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Roast for 45-50 minutes until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked throughout, tossing the lime quarters onto the rack for the last 20 minutes to cook alongside the chicken. They'll be good for squeezing over the chicken later. The juices should run clear when the thickest part of the thighs is pierced with a skewer. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

While the chicken is roasting, make the sauce. Spoon the yoghurt into a serving bowl and stir in the mint sauce until thoroughly combined. Transfer the chicken to a plate or wooden board and carve into slices, discarding any skin that remains. Serve with the sauce and enjoy.


Serving Size: Make 4 1/4 chicken portions, or will spread to 5 portions if served with larger sides

Our thoughts:
Gorgeous, amazing, delicious and the mint sauce really MADE the dish, especially for those of us who prefer less spicy foods.


I am really enjoying the recipes from the book, even if they don't all quite come out the way I expected, they are tasting delicious.

So far I have blogged about these recipes from the book:

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lasagne Without Pasta

Have you been watching the Hairy Bikers new TV Series about diet foods?  Have you been wondering if those recipes really work?  I have bought the book and currently we are mainly eating stuff I have made from it, at least for main meals, and some lunches and breakfasts too.  I can honestly say it is the first recipe book I have bought that I have looked through and said "I can honestly say I want to try EVERY recipe in this book!"

For copyright Reasons I won't be sharing the full recipes to all of the dishes, but I will be sharing some of them and thoughts and alterations on the rest.


Hairy Dieters Skinny Beef Lasagne
This is the recipe where they use layers of blanched leeks instead of pasta sheets.


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For the amounts of ingredients you will need to check out the book or the website for the show, but you will need at least these items.



Trim the leeks until they are about the same width as your lasagne dish. 



Cut the leeks lengthways through to the middle but no further. Open out the leeks and remove five or six of the narrow leaves from the centre of each leek. 



Thinly slice these inner leaves. Separate the larger leaves – these will become your ‘lasagne’.
Finely chop half the onion and cut the other half into wedges. Thinly slice the celery and dice the carrots.



Put the minced beef in a large non-stick frying pan with the sliced leeks, chopped onion, celery, carrots and garlic.

Place the pan over a medium-high heat and fry without added fat for about 10 minutes until lightly coloured. You’ll need to break up the mince with a couple of wooden spatulas or spoons as it cooks.

Stir in the chopped mushrooms and cook for 2–3 minutes more. The pan should look fairly dry at this point.

Sprinkle over the plain flour and stir it thoroughly into the mince and vegetables. Slowly stir in the red wine and beef stock. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato purée and dried oregano, then drop a bay leaf into the pan and bring it to a simmer. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.  

Turn down the heat slightly and leave the mince to simmer for 20–30 minutes until rich and thick, stirring occasionally.



While the mince is cooking, put the onion wedges in a saucepan with the remaining bay leaf. In a small bowl mix three tablespoons of the milk with the cornflour.
Pour the rest of the milk into the pan with the onion wedges and set it over a low heat. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook for 2–3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the milk to infuse for 10 minutes.



Half fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the leek ‘lasagne’ and bring the water back to the boil.

Cook the leeks for five minutes or until very tender. It is important that the leeks are tender or the lasagne will be tricky to cut later.

Drain in a colander under running water until cold. Drain on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.



Remove the onion wedges and bay leaf from the infused milk with a slotted spoon, then return the pan to the heat. Give the cornflour and milk mixture a good stir until it is smooth once more and pour it into the pan with the infused milk.

Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly until the sauce is smooth and thick.

Season the sauce with a good grating of nutmeg to taste and plenty of ground black pepper.

If the sauce is a little too thick to pour easily, whisk in a couple more tablespoons of milk.

Spoon a third of the mince mixture into a 2.5 litre lasagne dish. Top with a layer of blanched leeks. 
Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with leeks. Pour the white sauce over the leeks and top with the sliced tomatoes. Mix the Cheddar and parmesan cheese and sprinkle all over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden-brown and bubbling.

Divide into portions with your sharpest knife. Serve with a freshly dressed green salad.




We tried it, we stuck to the recipe and out of the 4 people in the family only one would prefer to keep it that way, we just didn't get on well with the leeks instead of the pasta.  However we did like the meat sauce AND the white sauce and were fine with just the one layer of white sauce.  Soooo, we will probably just switch the recipe to using pasta sheets and account for the extra calories, but keep everything else the same.  I'll check back in on here when we've done that.


So far, I am really enjoying the recipes from the book, even if they don't all quite come out the way I expected, they are tasting delicious.

So far I have blogged about these recipes from the book:

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.
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