This is a dish I make when we are short on time and fancy something a little bit naughty but tasty. When I say a little bit naughty, it is probably more than that, but it is good all the same and everybody needs a treat every once in a while. This recipe makes enough for two.
A large bag of salted tortilla chips
A jar of salsa dip
sliced chicken breast
Grated cheddar cheese
On two dinner plates, layer a few tortillas, a spoonful of salsa, a bit of chicken and a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese. Repeat this until all the ingredients run out (usually about four layers I find) and top the whole lot with some more grated cheese. Put each plate into the microwave for five minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom of the plate is hot.
I make this cheaply because I use supermarket own brand salsa and tortilla chips. You can use flavoured tortilla chips, but I find that plain salted ones work the best.
If you like your food with a bit of a kick, use spicy salsa, or stir in some chopped chili into the salsa before adding it to the recipe.
It is hard to make it so the two plates are ready at the same time unless you have two microwaves, so I tend to cook one for four minutes, then the other for four minutes and then finish each of for a minute so they are ready closer together.
You can make the stacks quite high because they do shrink a bit during cooking!
SIMPLE ITALIAN SNACKS
In Italy the summer is very hot so for daytime meals we often prepare a selection of snacks instead of one larger meal and we take time to eat this over an hour or more. Here are some of the snacks I prepare alot in England because I do not have the same variety of food here so I can not make everything exactly like I do at home.
BRUSCHETTA WITH FRUITY RICOTTA
Cut 12 slices of ciabatta that are all about 1cm thick. Heat up a griddle pan and griddle the ciabatta for about 3 minutes on each side until it is golden brown.
Spread 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese over the bread and 1 tablespoon of marmalade over the cheese, serve it immediate. You should use the best quality marmalade and the ones that have a lot of peel in are the best.
PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED STUFFED DATES
Mix 75g goats cheese and 75g mascarpone cheese in a bowl and add 10g chopped basil that has been chopped very fine then mix it again.
Slice the date across the length to about 3/4 of the way through and split the cheese mixture between them then carefully close the dates back up so that the filling is all the way inside.
Wrap a slice of Prosciutto around each date and fasten it all with a cocktail stick and serve immediately.
1 carton of chilled breadstick dough
24 slices prosciutto
30g fine grated Parmesan
Heat the oven to 180C and grease a baking tray. Tear the breadstick dough across the perforations that are marked in the dough then carefully cut each one down the length again so that you have got long thin strips. Twist each breadstick to look nice and roll them into the Parmesan.
Bake the breadsticks for about 20 minutes until they are gold broken. When they have cooled down wrap a slice of prosciutto around each one and serve them on a plate.
5 Dooyoo Stars.
If you have read any of my other food/recipe reviews then you will no that cooking is not my strong point but I have a few favourite dishes that never go wrong and this is one of them.
A few weeks ago at work one of my colleagues was eating something called habas fritas. I tried it not knowing what it was except that it was very tasty. I was then told that it was fried broadbeans. I then admitted that I'd never had broadbeans and didn't know how to serve them. This is when I was told of a recipe which I have adapted to suit my taste.
As normal, I don't have any measure of ingredients I just guess.
Boil a pan of water and whilst doing this remove the broadbeans from the pod. Place the broadbeans in the water and leave to simmer until they have risen to the top and have started to turn white.
Whilst the broadbeans are simmering slice the mushrooms and bacon into smallish pieces.
Melt some butter or vegetable spread in a small pan and then add the mushrooms and bacon and gently fry until near golden.
By now the broadbeans should be ready to remove from the water, drain and leave for 30 seconds to drain the access water from them. Now remove the whitish skin as careful as possible. I find that some of the broadbeans split during this process but that is fine.
Now transfer the mushrooms and bacon into a frying pan and add some more butter or vegetable spread and the broadbeans. Fry until your required taste. Personally I like mine more on the crispy side but not burnt.
Now place the pitta bread in the toaster and remove the broadbeans, mushrooms and bacon from the frying pan. When the pitta bread is toasted split it open and squeesh some mayonaise into the bottom. I then add some of the broadbeans, mushrooms and bacon and some more mayonaise, repeating until the pitta bread is full.
I find this is great for a quick snack or cook enough to fill two pitta breads and you have enough for a surprisingly filling evening meal. Although I've not tried any variations yet I think you could make four changes to this meal and it would still be as enjoyable. They are -
1 substitute the bacon for mincemeat.
2 substitute the bacon for chicken.
3 add garlic - fried until cruchy.
4 substitute the mayonaise for sweet chilli sauce.
I think you could just do one of the changes or do all four of them and have a completely different meal.
Try it and see, I guarantee you will enjoy it.
Being a working mum with two hungry boys to feed, I have learned the importance of rustling up simple, quick dishes in as little time as possible. So here is a selection of my favourite standby items and quick snacks that can be rustled up in the time that it takes a child to say "Mum! I'm hungry!"
These are great for kids of all ages, especially as you can hold your head up high amongst all the yummy mummies at the school gates when your two year old is asking for Quesadillas for tea!
Basically, a quesadilla is a kind of mexican version of cheese on toast. Take one flour tortilla and pop it in a pre-heated frying pan with just a dash of oil. My technique is to sprinkle a covering of grated cheese over one half of the tortilla, fold it in half and then flip it over allowing both sides to brown and the cheese inside to melt. Allow to cool slightly and then slice up like a mini pizza.
This is the very basic version as, essentially, any of the toppings/fillings that you tend to add to things like pizzas or omelettes can be added to your Quesadilla. My husband adds ham and makes his using two tortillas - so leaves one flat in the frying pan, tops like a pizza, adds another tortilla and then flips over once the bottom is crisp and brown.
These really taste gorgeous and are so quick to make! I buy the long life tortillas that come vaccuum packed and these can be kept in the cupboard and then whipped out whenever needed. It is also a handy way of using up any slightly stale tortillas that have been left over from any other dishes as, since these are fried, it doesn't matter if they aren't particularly fresh.
* Microwaved scrambled eggs*
I have only recently been converted to the concept of microwaving eggs rather than scrambling then in a pan in the traditional fashion. One of the major advantages of this technique is the ease of washing up afterwards, as I beat the eggs straight into a pyrex jug and microwave them in that. After all, there is little point saving time by making quick dishes and snacks and then spending ten minutes trying to scrape off all the leftovers from a burnt pan!
Microwaved scrambled eggs take around 2-3 minutes, depending on the number of eggs used, and need stopping halfway through the cycle to stir vigorously with a fork. It is easy to overcook the eggs using this method though but I have learnt that whisking in a tablespoon of mayonnaise at the end helps to make them soft and fluffy again, if need be.
*'Home made' pizza*
Another handy store cupboard standby that is great for kids are the longlife packs of plain pizza bases. A squirt of tomato puree, sprinkle of cheese and a selection of toppings and ten minutes in the oven and dinner is served. Handy for my two year old as he loves to make silly faces on his pizza and he is much more likely to eat it then.
Whilst not always renowned for the speed of preparation, I find jacket potatoes the ideal choice for evenings when my husband is at work and I'm settling down for an evening meal after the kids have gone to bed.
I generally have two jacket potatoes, cleaned and pierced and then stick them in the good old microwave for 7-10 minutes, depending on how big they are. I microwave them just as I get the kids out of the bath and they are ready by the time they are in their jim jams. After this, I just stick them in the oven at 200 degrees and they can stay in there getting nice and crisp until the kids are settled and I'm ready to fill it with my food of choice. You can, of course, do away with the browning in the oven all together, but I much prefer the skin to be crispy rather than the papery strands that come out of the microwave so I think the extra minutes in the oven are well worth it.
I think we tend to think of snacks and standbys as being savoury items, but fruit is nature's great standby and it needs very little preparation and just helps to bridge that gap, particularly where hungry toddlers are concerned! I also like to add a generous helping of a good quality yoghurt to soft fruit which makes a lovely afternoon snack. Rachel's Organic Greek Style Yoghurt is particularly nice with a selection of berries. Yum!
Hopefully, that might have given you some food for thought for some quick dishes, the next time your little ones (or your not so little stomach) demand feeding in a hurry.
Snacks and standbys - here is a review that could be expertly written by my 13 year old son, who is constantly hungry, and pretty independent when it comes to cooking. He makes about half the meals (all cooking from scratch) that we eat at home, and when he gets as far as university, he will never go hungry or be destined to spend 3 years of his life eating baked beans cold out of a tin, or 8p noodles.....
Snacks and standbys for some people mean a cupboard full of crisps and bars of chocolates. In my house, the rule is that you can eat as much fruit and yoghurt as you want in between meals, but that if you "need" something proper, you have something proper - it saves you snacking on rubbish later on.
Mealtimes in our house are often disjointed - my two do a lot of sport, and so cannot eat too close to training otherwise indigestion sets in. That means, that they may need to have something to eat at 4pm, and again when they finish at 9.30pm. They are using a lot of energy while they train, so I need to ensure that they can make themselves something nutritious and delicious before they train that will keep them going until later on, when again they probably want something small but substantial rather than a large meal due to the time of night at which they will eat.
So.....here we have it, my "snacks and standbys" - all easy, storecupboard based, nutritious and delicious snacks that take the absolute minimum of time and effort to make, that cost next to nothing, and that any budding university layabout, I mean student, can do.......
1) Sardines on toast.
Toast one side of the bread, and spread sardines, in tomato sauce, oil or any other dressing on the untoasted side. Place under the grill for a couple of minutes to heat the sardines through. Oily fish such as sardines or mackerel is incredibly good for you and gives you calcium as well as essential vitamins. The combination of protein in the fish, and carbohydrate from the bread is pretty good too!
2) Baked Beans on toast.
The food of students the world over. A cheap, low fat, filling meal that, again, provides a good source of protein as well as the carbs from the bread. Some will go as far as to count the tomato sauce as one of your 5 a day. I don't, personally, but still reckon this is one of the best lunches you can get for the money!
3) Eggs of any sort
Parents - please please please teach your children how to boil eggs - I am amazed at how many university students can't make a boiled egg! Scrambled, boiled with dippy soldiers, poached or fried, a couple of eggs are nutritious, filling, and delicious! Hot buttered toast on the side, or with a couple of rashers of bacon.....yum!
4) Jacket Potatoes
I don't like mine done in the microwave but if you don't mind, then you can have a baked potato in just a few minutes - add butter, a bit of cheese, the rest of the baked beans that you didn't have on beans on toast yesterday, or whatever you have in the fridge, and you have a meal that is full of fibre and goodness! I do mine in the conventional oven, where they take about an hour, but taste oh so good!
Pancake batter is one of the most simple things in the world to do, so why do we save it for Shrove Tuesday!? Flour, milk, water and an egg is all you need to make a load of batter. Fry and toss, add a bit of butter, lemon and sugar, and you have a filling snack that will keep you going until your next big meal, quite nicely!
6) Jam fritters
With some of the remaining pancake batter, make a jam sandwich, dunk the sandwich in the batter, and then fry it. Wicked, filling, sweet, and not something we need to save for campfires!
7 ) Eggy Bread
Got a bit of bread that is past its best? Got an egg that you don't know how to boil? Then you can make eggy bread! Beat the egg in a bowl and dunk the bread in it - then fry it in a frying pan. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on it and you have something you will make time and time again!
Look in the fridge at the end of the week, and what do you see - a few mushrooms, half a pepper going a bit wrinkly, a courgette you never knew what to do with, one remaining rasher of bacon and the leftover sausage from earlier in the week. Chop everything up and fry in a little olive oil or butter. Add it to some cooked pasta and if you have either a tin of chopped tomatoes or a bit of philadelphia type soft cheese add that too, and you have a veritable feast that you can serve any unexpected guests!
So there you have it - I don't think any of the above are unhealthy if eaten in moderation, most have a good balance of carbs and protein, and all are cheap, easy to make, and not reliant on being a good cook. OK, so they don't include a load of veggies, but grab an apple or banana on your way out and you can offset this!
These are not intended to be substitutes for main meals, but if you are having one of "those" days where you don't seem to have time to cook and eat, try one of the above instead, and it will see you through!
My teenagers are very good at rummaging through cupboards to make a pre or post training snack, and will excel in student accommodation, I am sure!
Thinking back to my childhood in Italy, I can remember there often being evenings when my mother was coming home late from work, my dad had quickly left to go work a second shift, and there was seemingly nothing to eat in the cupboards. Yet within a half hour my mother had appeared, and rustled up a meal for herself and four hungry kids. All of this without a call to the take-away, an artifical ready meal, nor a sniff of frozen chips, and definately no mention of a "chicken" nugget, or vile fish finger.
Sadly, many of todays mothers across the developed world, have lost this skill, apparantly todays mothers work harder, feel more tired, and have less time. Which is rather odd, as my mother walked to work, had four kids, worked a double shift in a manual job, and still cleaned the house, played with us, and fed us all. Also, unless im mistaken the day has always consisted of 24hrs. Thankfully, she now takes it much easier, unless I visit.
As I grew older and my interest in food grew, I noticed that far from being some magician, or grand chef, my mother just had a few basic (sorry mum) cooking skills, the bare essentials in the cupboards, and what she classified as her snack and standby repotoire.
So next time your short on time, or have bare looking cupboards or fridge, instead of reaching for the phone to call for a pizza, have a go at one or more of these high speed but healthy meals, for you and your family. You might also save a penny or two.
You will notice that when in some recipes I list fresh Herbs, I will add a *, the explanation for this is below.
*All leftover fresh herbs can be chopped, bagged and thrown into the freezer. They can be kept there for a few months, and used straight from the freezer. They will taste far superior to dried herbs, and work out alot cheaper! This also prevents wastage, as you are not letting them go old sat in the fridge.
You will also notice, I have omitted the obvious standby meals such as salads, but if your going to object. Then add some lettuce leaves, tomatoes, sliced cucumber, radishes and spring onions, into a bowl, and throw on some olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, season and your done.
Pasta, the original Fast Food!
In many ways Pasta is the original, Italian fast food. It is healthy (relatively), is very fast to cook, and is the perfect carrier to a host of sauces and other ingredients.
Pasta, and Tomato Sauce,
Let me start by saying, Tomato Sauce is easy to make. Please stop wasting money by buying ready-made sauces. You can create any of these yourself with no trouble at all. Once made, you can freeze it for 6 months, or store it in the fridge for 2-3 days no problem. To be honest though, I think most people buy them because they have never tried to make the sauce themselves, but you can definately do it! Trust me..
The Easiest Pasta Sauce in the WORLD! Honest!
Fry some chopped onion and garlic in a pan, in a little oil, when soft, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon or two of Tomato concentrate, some italian herbs, salt and pepper, and cook for between 10-30 minutes. That is it finished.
Some more ideas:
-If you want it smooth, use Passata instead of Chopped tomatoes.
-Add some chopped chilli, black olives, and capers, and it becomes a simple Puttanesca Sauce.
-Or try adding some Spinach to the basic sauce,
-Or try with some sliced red Peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, or artichoke hearts too.
As a meal:
- Pour over a pan-fried steak, or pan-fried cod fillet, add some black olives and capers, and you have a very basic, "Pizziaola" style steak/fish.
Ok, now the below sauce is NOT quick to make, but once cooked it can be stored and having some of this in the freezer, is a great standby for anyone to have.
The Best Tasting, Smooth, Basic Tomato Sauce in the WORLD! Honest!
2 cheap, beef frying steaks,
2 garlic cloves, diced up
fresh parsley chopped,
1 bottle of Passata.
2 Tablespoons of Tomato Puree
1 teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs (dried)
Salt and Pepper,
Pinch of Sugar,
-Get two pieces of cheap Beef, frying steak, lay one flat on a board, into the middle of it, put some chopped garlic, some chopped fresh parsley. Now roll the steak up, and tie it up with some cotton (yes, any colour is fine). Repeat this process for the second steak. Nothing hard so far right? The rest is even easier.
-In a pan, heat some olive oil on a medium heat, and place the rolled steak inside, heat gently, colour the meat (not brown though) next add two tablespoons of tomato puree, stir in for a few minutes, then increase the heat slightly. Next add a bottle of Passata sauce, add some water equivalent to an equal volume of the bottle you just added.
-Stir the sauce, add salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 3-4 generous grinds of pepper), a pinch of sugar, and add the herbs, stir.
-Now reduce the heat to simmer setting, and cover the pan with a lid, and leave alone for 1 and a half hours, or longer. Go away and do something else, in Italy people would traditionally start making a sauce on Sunday morning, and during this period they would go to Church, or clean the house.
-Remove the lid, stir, and then increase the heat slightly, and cook until the sauce reduces to your preferred consistency. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
-Serve sauce with cooked pasta, I recommend Penne, and serve with grated parmesan over the top.
The leftover sauce, can be cooled and frozen for later use, or left in the fridge for a few days if you want to eat pasta again. This sauce can be the base for Lasagna, or for Canneloni. The cheap steak within the sauce, can be eaten, and normally even a cheap cut will taste great if cooked for hours.
If that is all a bit much, here are some more quick Pasta options which include:
Pasta e Patane (Pasta an Potatoes) In Italy, the hard working southerners, just can't get enough of those carbs, so sometimes they serve them together. Fry some diced celery stalks, carrott and onion until soft, then in a measuring jug make a weak chicken stock using boiling water from the kettle, add to the pan, throw in a half can of chopped tomatoes, some diced potatoes cook for 5 minutes, add some pasta to almost upto the water level. Cover and cook until pasta and potatoes are soft. Check the water level during coooking, and stir quite often. Season to taste, and serve.
Pasta con Agli, e Olio (Pasta with Garlic and Oil) I have mentioned this recipe before in a review, it is just basically cooked spaghetti, tossed into a flavoured oil. To make the flavoured oil, heat some olive oil, throw in some garlic, colour it slightly, closer to burned than you would normally or else it will taste of nothing. Then add some chilli flakes, or ideally an Italian dried chill chopped up, and after about 5 minutes toss in the pasta with a handful of chopped parsley (flat-leaf). Note! for some reason, UK Chefs and a few of the Italian Chefs that are here, have decided that Italians throw pasta into the sauce always and only this way. Basically it makes no difference, so feel free to add the sauce to the pasta.
Pasta e Pezzeli, (Pasta and Peas) There are lots of ways of making this, however a very quick cheats version is to do it like this! Make a weak chicken stock, add to a pan, throw in a half can of chopped tomatoes, some frozen peas cook for 5 minutes, add some pasta to almost upto the water level. Cover and cook until pasta is soft, check it once in a while, top-up with water if needed, and stir to make sure the bottom isn't sticking. Nobdoy likes a sticky bottom! Season to taste, and serve. This dish can be ready in less than 15 minutes.
Pasta e l'uovo, (Pasta and Egg) Cook some spahetti, drain. Put back into the pan, and add some butter, and egg, keep stirring until the egg is cooked. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese. I can remember eating this more than once when I was a kid. With it being a one-pan dish, and ready in under 10 minutes, I can see why my mother liked making it.
Pasta con Burro (e Formaggio), For some reason, alot of Italian immigrants took an unnatural bizarre, liking to Dairylea slices! Probably because Italian cheeses were not commonly available here at the time. An clearly Dairylea must share some similarity to an Italian cheese. So it is not surprising that this product, somehow got incorporated into our childhood meals. Actually, this is probably as close to ready-made meals as we got. So it was a real treat at the time. Basically this meals consists of cooked pasta (any shape) served with butter and parmesan melted into it ( which is fine as it is, as a quick snack). Then however, a Dairylea triangle or two gets melted into it too. (I have not eaten this for about 10 years, but I do remember this and if memory serves me well, it tasted nice).
2 Options for Bruschetta
To most Italians, this is just a cheap and simple snack. It is quite strange to see this being sold on resturaunt menus at quite a premium price. It is very easy to make, no harder than making cheese on toast, and is alot more healthy for you to eat. No matter how tired I am, I still manage to rustle this up as a snack for my friends when they are hungry. Do not be scared of using alot of Olive oil, it is extremely healthy for you. My grandad is 98, and he has had it every morning since he can remember, poured over fresh warm ciabatta, (the same way we would use butter), thats before spending the day drinking red wine, looking at the ladies walk past, and smoking packet after packet of cigarettes, go figure!
Prep Time : 2 minutes, Cooking Time: 5 minutes,
Extra Virgin Olive oil,
Sliced Ciabatta (but you could use any real bread, but not the ready sliced bagged stuff)
Salt an Pepper to season,
Slices of Mozarella (Optional 1)
Balsamic Vinegar (Optional 1)
Tinned Cannelini Beans, Crushed with a fork, (Optional 2)
-Chop some fresh tomatoes into a small dice, seeds, skin, everything. (Forget cutting those huge beef tomatoes into neat slices, that is not for Bruschetta).
-Mix a tiny pinch of salt into the chopped tomatoes, this will extract excess water, and improve flavour, and now add torn (or chopped) fresh basil leaves.
-Brush some Extra Virgin Olive oil onto both sides of the bread, and drop the bread onto a hot grill pan, or under the grill if you don't have one, and toast.
- When the bread is toasted, you have a choice of rubbing garlic onto the bread, for a subtle hint, or if like me you love garlic, crush/finely chop the garlic and mix into the chopped tomato mixture from earlier.
- Onto the bread add a tiny extra drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and then add the chopped tomato mix, so that they cover the bread, not too thick.
- Throw the bruschetta under the grill for a few seconds, and drizzle with a final drop of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper.
Instead of the plain Bruschetta as above, you can make this more substantial by adding a layer of mozarella cheese. The addition of the balsamic really helps to contrast the milkyness of the Mozarella, and in my opinion is essential.
- If you wish you could now heat some BalsamicVinegar in a pan until the quantity you add, reduces to a syrup consistency.
- Place a slice of Mozarella onto the tomato, and grill again until it softens.
- Drizzle the Balsamic reduction you made, over the top (not too much, it is very powerful).
Not everybody loves tomatoes, or just for a change, you could use Cannelini beans in lieu of the tomatoes. Mash them up a bit, and paste them on. Do not use, the basil in this case, also you can cut back the use of salt, as flavour enhancement is not required so much.
Minted Pea and Ham Soup
Most people will have frozen peas in their freezer, they are an outstanding ingredient and wether a nice accompaniment to a meal, or a meal in themselves, they are a fantastic standby to have at your disposal.
Prep Time: 2 minutes, Cooking Time: 20 minutes,
1 teaspoon of Vegetable Oil,
1/2 onion chopped,
Frozen Peas, (around a full cup per person, as a rough guide)
Chicken Stock (1/2 stock cube, quite dilute or it will over power, enough to cover the peas by about a cm or two)
Fresh chopped mint* or a couple of teaspoons of dried mint.
Ham (chopped up) Alternatively you could use Pancetta, or Bacon, or go Veggie and omit this altogether.
Salt an Pepper to season,
-In a deep pan, heat a few drops of oil, and throw in the onion and cook until softened/translucent.
-Add the frozen peas straight from the freezer.
-Make a dilute Chicken Stock with boiling water from the kettle, and pour this over the Frozen pea mix, until you cover them by about a cm or two.
-Leave to simmer gently for 10-20 minutes.
-Meanwhile fry the ham, bacon or Pancetta, until crispy and set to one side for garnish.
-When almost ready, add the chopped fresh mint, or the dried mint and either use a hand blender, or a liquidizer to make a smooth soup.
-Continue to heat very gently, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste.
-Serve into hot bowls, and drop a few of the crispy Pancetta/Bacon/Ham into the bowls.
-Serve with warmed crusty bread, or croutons, and enjoy!
-You could add a swirl of cream to finish, or just blend some cream into the soup to make it richer.
-It sounds horrendous, but left over brussel sprouts make an equally nice soup too, just don't add the mint.
THIS REVIEW IS WRITTEN EXLUSIVELY FOR DOOYOO'S USE, NO PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS REVIEW IN WHOLE OR IN PART, WITHOUT MY CONSENT IS GRANTED. IF NOTICED ELSEWHERE PLEASE INFORM ME.
I have an illness which affects my stomach, my immune system, and (rather unfortunately as I love food) my appetite. Therefore, I often need reminding or encouraged to eat, or to eat a 'proper' amount of food, the right type of food, or indeed, any food at all that isn't yoghurt!
For this reason, I often cook snacks or smaller meals for myself, or my lovely other half will make them for me, if I am too tired or having one of my bad days. I very seldom have the appetite to cope with a huge plateful of food, and find it off-putting to say the least. A small bowl of soup followed by a sandwich is my normal evening meal, sometimes just the soup is enough, and I find that after a while I get so bored or fed up with eating this all the time, that I go off it completely and my poor other half is flapping about in a panic because I show no inclination to try and eat something else. (I should point out at this time that another side-effect of my illness is rather dramatic weight loss, and at the moment, I am doing well and am only about half a stone underweight.)
Anyhow, I thought it might be useful to share a few of my little "snack" recipes, which to be honest, are more like my evening meal most of the time. Saying that, I have used some of them at parties, or when guests are visiting, and they have all been well received. See what you think....
*~* CHEESY MUSHROOMS ON TOAST *~* (COOKING TIME: 10 MINS)
INGREDIENTS (serves 1)
one tin of creamed mushrooms
two slices of crusty bread
pinch of mixed herbs
1. Empty tin of mushrooms into a pan and heat slowly.
2. Place sliced bread under grill until lightly toasted and grate cheese.
3. Season mushroom mixture to taste, i like it with plenty of black pepper and some herbs added.
4. Spread the heated mushroom mixture onto your bread and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
5. Pop topped bread back under the grill until cheese melts. Delicious!
*~* EASY PEASY NACHOS *~* (TIME: 10 MINS)
INGREDIENTS (serves 1)
Small/regular bag of doritos or other tortilla chips
Spoonful of salsa
Handful of grated cheese
Spoonful of sour cream to taste
1. Spread the tortilla chips onto a plate and spread the salsa over them
2. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top (I like lots!) :-D
3. Pop under the grill until the cheese has melted and top with some sour cream for dipping.... Yum! :-D
*~* QUICK LEEK AND POTATO SOUP *~* (TIME: 15-20 MINS)
INGREDIENTS (will make a pot of soup)
a large potato
stock of your choice (I like vegetable with this)
Small piece of onion
1. Wash the leek and cut into small pieces.
2. Peel and dice the potato.
3. Peel and dice the onion, and fry slowly in a small amount of oil over a very low heat, until lightly golden (do not cook too quickly or you won't get the same flavour).
4. Add the potato to the onion and some stock and boil for few minutes.
5. Add the leek and continue to boil, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste (I like lots of black pepper).
5. Continue to simmer until your potato is soft to the touch and your leek is cooked.
6. Blend the soup if preffered. A small dash of cream can be added as a garnish, although I prefer it without. Enjoy!
*~* TUNA PASTA *~* (TIME: 10-15 MINS)
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
Handful of pasta (per person) (I like macaroni but you could probably use any)
A red onion
One tin of tuna (drained)
Salad cream or mayonnaise
seasoning to taste
1. Cook the pasta
2. Stir pasta and tuna together in a large bowl.
3. Chop the onion finely and add to the mixture.
4. Add plenty of mayo or salad cream, and combine until all the ingredients are coated
5. Season to taste and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour
(This is a huge hit at buffets and parties alike, and so quick to make!!)
*~* CHEAT'S CHEESY GRATIN *~* (TIME: 15 MINS)
INGREDIENTS (serves 1)
Handful of frozen broccoli
Handful of frozen Cauliflower
Packet of cheese sauce mix (usually requires milk and butter to make)
Handful of homemade breadcrumbs (Stale bread works best)
Spoonful of mustard to taste
Handful of grated cheese
1. Cook the vegetables together (I find it quickest to do this in the microwave, but these can also be cooked earlier in the day, and left until needed)
2. Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce, following the instructions on the packet and stir in your mustard and season to taste.
3. Mix the vegetables and sauce together in a large bowl or pot, coating them evenly.
4. Place the mixture into a casserole dish, or similar ovenproof dish, and spread evenly.
5. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top evenly, and finish off with the grated cheese.
6. Pop under the grill until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese melted.... delicious!
Hopefully these snack suggestions of mine have given you a few tips for a quick and easy snack. The gratin is not only quick and easy but is very cheap to make, and as long as you watch the amount of added cheese, is still fairly nutritious, and provides two of your recommended "five-a-day" portions of veg. It's a huge hit anytime I make it for friends.
The Credit Crunch has really helped me to learn a lot of basics of cooking, here are a few cheap and easy dips, i've learned how to make as I can't see the point in paying for them at the moment, all are easy to make and require a food processor just for speed and ease of use, obviously give it a good clean before using it again though!!!
This is much easier to make than I ever imagined:
2 Cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 400g tin of Chickpeas - Drained
Juice of 1 lemon
Black pepper - Just a good splash
One third of a cup of Tahini (Available at the Deli section of any decent Supermarket)
This is so simple to make, simply put the chopped garlic and drained chickpeas in the food processor and process, add the lemon juice, tahini and pepper and process until smooth. You can use Kidney beans instead of Chickpeas although i'd rather not. Once done transfer to a dish and sprinkle with paprika, it is possible to make variations, add some capsicum or peppers in the processor to develop your own flavours.
Serve your home made hummus with Pitta bread, or for a healthier option, fresh carrot sticks, celery or pepper slices.
Wonderful fishy olive flavoured dish, again lovely for dipping.
1 cup pitted black olives
2 anchovy fillets in oil (Drained)
2 cloves garlic (Crushed)
3 tablespoons olive oil (Use Groundnut oil if you have an allergy)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
half a tablespoon of rinsed capers
You place all these ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth, it should come out as a lovely dark paste, with a distinctive flavour, you can always add more garlic, capers or anchovy to taste. Serve with pitta bread or veggie slices as in the previous recipe.
White Bean Dip
I tried this recipe at the weekend i'm really trying to eat loads of pulses as they give you energy, fibre, are cheap and good for you, this needs seasoning to taste as you wish but is great with olives, cheese and crackers.
1 400g tin of cannelini beans
1 clove garlic chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (I use groundnut oil as my other half is allergic)
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 of those lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mixed herbs.
Whizz in the food processor and blend until smooth, you can add the herbs before or after whizzing depending how you want to present the dish and what texture you want.
Ok, so these dishes are nothing special but if you have garlic and lemons in the house and a decent store of tinned beans you can have a nice little dipping evening if you fancy a variety of flavours at very low prices. Once you've mastered these add your own flavours to taste.
These are two very simple vegetarian recipes that can very easily and quickly be cooked and prepared. The ingredients of each recipe are aimed at serving 4 people. All the snacks require easily available everyday ingredients. They are also very tasty. Why not try one today?
~~ Saucy salad ~~
4 oz brown rice
2 spring onions
2 ticks of celery
1 red apple
3 tbsp canned sweet corn
2 tbsp sultanas
2 oz peanuts
Dressing - 4tbsp mayonnaise (made with free range eggs), 1-2 tbsp of honey
Cut the cheese into small cubes.
Trim and chop the onions and celery
Cut the apple into four quarters, remove the core. and then cut into small pieces.
Now mix together the above ingredients.
Put all the pieces into a large bowl.
Make the dressing, adding salt and pepper if required.
Stir the dressing into the mixture and serve.
~~ Credit Crunch Bars ~~
3oz Demerara sugar (raw cane sugar) or just use brown sugar.
2 tbsp clear honey
3oz rolled oats (porridge)
2oz brown self raising flour
1oz shredded coconut
Heat the oven to 180oC (Gas mark 4).
Brush the base and the sides of a baking tin with oil.
Stir the margarine, honey and sugar into a medium saucepan with a wooden spoon.
Melt the mixture over a gentle heat.
Remove from heat and then stir in the oats and muesli before adding and stirring in the flour.
Give it a good stir and leave the mixture to cool.
Press the mixture into the tin and sprinkle with coconut before patting down the mix.
Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
When cooked mark out into 12 fingers with a knife. Once cold, the hardened cake like mixture can then be broken into twelve bars.
I have loved samosa's ever since I was a little kid and every time my mum makes them I still to this day jump for joy as they are no doubt my fav snack!
They are a little tricky to prepare especially folding the samosa into a cone but with everything in life practice makes perfect! And you will have some great fun in the process!
For this dish you will need the following ingredients (measurements are approximate, please adjust to taste preference);
For the filling-
Peas, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of green chilles, 1 teaspoon of red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of garam masala powder, corriander, salt.
For the dough-
1 cup of flour, 3 tablespoons of oil, 4 tablespoons of salt
First you will need to make the dough. To do this you mix the dough ingredients together and add water a bit at a a time in order to make the dough hard. Then keep this under a wet cloth for about 15 mins.
Next, you will need to cook the peas in some slighlty salted water until they are soft and drain out the excess water.
Then, heat up some oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds to it. When they start to change colour add the ginger, chillies and potatoes. Then after a couple of minutes add the red chilli powder and garam masala powder and stir well. I always spinkle some water over this and then cook with a cover on top until the potatoes are cooked. Add the peas and mix together.
You then need to prepare the dough you made earlier, by rolling them into balls and spinkling a bit of flour on top. You then need to roll them out into disks and cut them in two. Add a bit of water to edge of it and make it into a cone and fill it up with the peas and potatoes mix. Seal the cone up and deep fry the samosa until it is crisp and golden brown.
I have had great fun with my mum learning to cook these.
I think of cooking as a way of spending time together with my mum and have been doing so since I was a teenager. I think it's a great family pastime in which we try to think of new and more healthier ways to eat.
Cooking is a great way to bring any family closer and is great as you all get to eat together after which is the always the best bit (now we are grown up this is now normally with a beverage or two!!).
Try these they are great!
A tortilla chip is a snack food made from corn tortillas (but you can buy ones made from maize) which are cut into wedges and then fried or baked.
Use these chips for dipping in salsa or your favourite tortilla dip. My way is very easy to make and healthier than frying the chips or buying them.
Makes:- One tortilla is enough for one person; use 6/7 if you're having friends over
You will need:-
* 1 packet of corn tortillas
* Melted butter
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit, 220 degrees Centigrade or Gas mark 7.
2. Lightly grease baking tray with margarine/butter
3. Cover each tortilla with some melted butter using the back of a spoon; sprinkle lightly with salt.
4. Using knife, cut into wedges
5. Put on baking tray in one layer, laying as close to each other as possible without overlapping.
6. Bake for just a few minutes (3 to 4 minutes watching closely for burning) till they turn a very light brown.
7. Remove and enjoy hot or cold with a salsa or dip of your choice.
Yummy and gives Doritos a run for their money...
Batata Vada -These are well seasoned potato mixture balls covered in batter, very popular snack food normally found in Mumbai, but can be found all over India now. It is simple to make and very popular amongst family and friends. Not one batata vada is left over after they are made as they are everyone's favourite. I like these lemon flavoured potato fritters and am always disappointed when there are none left because someone has eaten them all.
Batata Vada - makes about 12 to 15
4-6 medium potatoes (Peeled, boiled, mashed and cooled) or you could cheat and make 500g of Smash.
4 green chillies
8 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste
½ tsp of turmeric
3 tbsps of corn oil
Corn oil for deep frying
¾ tsp of mustard seeds
6 Curry leaves
2 tbsps of lemon juice
1 ¼ cups gram flour
A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
1. Place green chillies and garlic together in a blender and make a paste.
2. In a bowl mix mashed potatoes, garlic-green chillies paste, coriander leaves, half the turmeric powder and season with salt.
3. Heat two tablespoons of corn oil in a pan, when the oil is hot add mustard seeds and let them pop, then add curry leaves. Remove from heat and add to the potato mixture. Remove the curry leaves. Add lemon juice and mix well.
4. Make golf ball sized balls of the mixture. Keep aside.
5. Now to make the batter, take gram flour in a bowl, add bicarbonate of soda, the remaining turmeric powder, and season with salt. Add one tablespoon of hot oil and enough water to whisk it into a batter of coating consistency. Cover and rest the batter for 15 minutes.
6. Heat enough oil in the wok to deep fry. Dip the potato balls in the batter and deep fry until golden. Drain and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb the oil.
7. Serve hot with a chutney or dip.
Whilst searching for somewhere to put my pork chilli recipe yesterday (I put it in the healthy category in the end if you'd like to check it out!) I came across this one - Snacks and Standbys. That got me thinking about what foods we have in our house for when "there's nothing to eat" and we need a proper meal, or what we have when we just fancy a snack or light lunch. Generally hubby and I cook a lot of food, and don't like to cheat really, but sometimes there just isn't the time to be creative.
Perhaps you'll get some ideas, perhaps you won't!
There's few things more versatile than a potato. If I was going to take my time then a proper baked potato would have to be one down in the oven with a proper jacket (aka a jacket potato - or Jackson potato if you've read my Egypt review). However, sometimes there is just not time. So, get your potato, draw a line down the length of it with a sharp knife, cross over the lines several times, rub in olive oil, salt and black pepper. Put in the microwave on full heat for 10 minutes (or longer if not soft inside). Take out, and put butter on - then top with something exciting. My favourite would be a tin of tuna mixed with mayonnaise and salad cream (aka tuna mayo!), and then some grated cheese on top (you could put it under the grill if you want it to melt - but I like the contrast of hot potato and cold tuna/cheese). Baked Beans are also a good alternative, and we always have them in the cupboard. I won't add beans on toast as a separate food, I presume if you can put a potato in a microwave that you can put bread in a toaster!
---Frozen Corn on the Cob---
Often for a weekend lunch I'm in the mood for a corn on the cob. However, this is usually not when I've bought a corn on the cob! Therefore I always have mini frozen corn on the cobs in the freezer on stand by. You need at least 2 and you put them in a pan of boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes - serve with butter and black pepper - lovely!
---Sausage and Mash---
This is an ideal food for when you've not got anything special to eat and haven't got anything out of the freezer. We always have a supply of frozen sausages in our freezer which can be cooked from frozen (that's what the packet says!). They're not the best sausages (I think the best sausages really need to be cooked from being thawed out, or not frozen in the first place as ours are). Cook the sausages, and use up your old potatoes to make mashed potato - boil potatoes as usual, then mash adding in a knob of butter and splash of milk - if you're feeling daring you could add a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard. You can either do baked beans, or peas and gravy - I use Bisto (you could even fry off that old onion to add to the gravy) - the choice is yours - lucky you! Alternatively if you have no sausages there might be some fish fingers lurking in the back of the freezer - you could do fish fingers and mash instead!
A nice quick simple lunch is a crumpet pizza. This would of course assume that you have crumpets. But, if you do, gently toast the crumpets, spread a thin layer of tomato puree on them. Put on any left over ham from the fridge and cover in grated cheese - put under the grill for a couple of minutes. This is the sort of meal that kids would probably enjoy making and putting what they wanted on top - I don't have kids so I wouldn't know!
The final two are cheating as they are recipes using a pre-bought packets (which cost about 70p unless on offer) - but we always have these in the cupboard:
---Tuna Pasta Bake---
I love tuna pasta bake, and although hubby is an excellent cook, he still hasn't managed to make a sauce which I like as much as the pre-bought ones - there are Colmans and Schwarz versions of the Tuna Pasta powder, and I have no preference. Essentially you put the powder in a pan and gradually add milk until it simmers. However, as a twist what I like to do is fry off a chopped onion and some garlic in the pan first in some butter. Anyway, when the liquid boils you add a tine of tuna and a tin of sweetcorn.
Meanwhile boil up a load of pasta. Then mix the pasta in with the sauce (I do this in the dish), and put mixture into an ovenproof dish. Cover with grated cheese, and crushed crisps if you have them. Put under the grill for 5 minutes or so. Then serve with salad (if you have it!).
Carbonara is something we often have on a Monday - sometimes if we've been shopping we go as far as buying a pre-made sauce, or if we're not being extremely lazy we'll make a proper sauce from scratch. However, these packets (Schwartz) are great to have in - basically all you need is to add milk to the powder whilst heating up the milk. Fry an onion (I do this as you're meant to put in mushrooms and hubby doesn't like mushrooms) and a packet of bacon (I generally have bacon in the freezer and if you're pushed you can defrost it very quickly in boiling water - don't think you're really meant to though), then add the sauce. Meanwhile cook spaghetti or other pasta - when done mix the two together, and if you're hungry have garlic bread too (always useful to have in the freezer)!
It's always useful to have some tins of soup in the cupboard, Bachelor's Pasta and Sauce, some noodles (to knock up some sort of stir fry), and if you have bread which isn't mouldy toasted sandwiches are always good for a light lunch. Important to also have picked eggs in the cupboard - you never know when you might fancy one.
I have gone on quite enough now!