Category Archives: Cooking

Squish and stuff

After yesterdays muffin not-a-total-failure I have been inspired to get a bit more creative with the veg box ingredients again. If you have been reading for a while you’ll know that I used to do a veg box round up each week. I stopped these because we stopped getting the veg box half way through my chemo – I had oral thrush for about three months and that puts a severe downer on your eating habits. I can’t tell you how crap oral thrush makes your life. I also had sod all energy to cook by that point!!

We started up the veg boxes after my surgery though and we’ve been pretty good at using all the stuff up – but in all honesty I’ve not been very inventive or put much effort into the cooking! So today I decided to put a teeny bit more effort in and did a stuffed butternut squash. The last stuffed squash I did was a bit too sweet – if I remember rightly it involved cinnamon and various veggies. It was nice – but I remember thinking something salty would work better with the sweetness of the squash. So this time I opted for pancetta, feta and red onion as the filling.

Before we get to the filling though I had to prepare the squash itself… to do this:

Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Score the flesh with a knife and put a bit of butter, squashed garlic clove and sprig of rosemary in the hole where the seeds were in each half. Whack that in the oven for 50 minutes at about 180 degrees and it’s ready.

While it is cooking fry your pancetta and onion and set to one side. Cube however much feta you want to add and have that ready too.

Once the squash is done you need to scoop out the flesh without damaging the skin. I’d suggest just using a spoon – I started with a knife but inevitably ended up stabbing a hole through the skin. Once you’ve got the flesh scooped out into a bowl, squish it with a fork, add the pancetta, feta and onion and mix together. Spoon it back into the squash skin cases and sprinkle a bit more feta over the top. Pop it back in the oven  for 15 minutes. While that’s cooking knock up a quick salad and / or any other sides you think would go well – add your squash once it’s done and this is what it should look like:

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NOM NOM NOM!!!

This was good – much nicer than the previous effort and I can’t imagine it is particularly bad for you. Ok, there is bacon and cheese, but the rest is veggie based. You could do this with just feta or just pancetta / lardons – I think it would work equally well and if the squash was smaller it would make a good side dish.

Pretty pleased with today’s veg box effort – we’ll be having that again!

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Define ‘muffinpan’?

The veg box and ‘The Great British Bake Off’ have inspired me to have a crack at baking. The veg box because they sent a whole punnet of redcurrants – and what the hell else are you gonna do with redcurrants? Make jam? No.

I love TGBBO though – along with everyone else in the UK it seems! I think it is fair to say I’m not much of a baker myself, but I’d like to be – and I love watching the contestants. When we move to our new house with our much improved kitchen I have great plans for baking and cooking in general. For now, I’m stuck with a bit of a crap tiny kitchen and limited tools!! With that being said… I tried to make redcurrant muffins…

It all started with a trip to Asda and a root through the cupboards and I was able to assemble this collection of provisions:

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Which once I’d weighed it all out and measured etc became this:

60g unsalted butter
175g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
120g caster sugar
1 large egg
120ml milk
125g fresh redcurrants

My recipe instructions were:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 12 cup muffin pan. Melt butter; set aside to cool. Sift flour into a medium mixing bowl, add baking powder, salt and all the sugar apart from 2 tbsp – reserve this to sprinkle over the muffin tops before cooking. In a small mixing bowl beat egg enough to combine yolk and white. Whisk in milk and melted butter. Add to flour mixture; stir quickly and lightly just until flour is almost dampened. Gently fold in redcurrants; be careful not burst too many of them. Spoon batter into prepared muffinpan cups, filling each slightly more than half full. Sprinkle reserved sugar over batter in each cup. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

My first little bump in the baking road was realising we don’t own a sieve for sieving flour… so I just skipped that and moved straight on to mixing everything together. This was after spending quite some time picking redcurrants off their stems – fiddly little buggers they are! I was also a bit unsure about my ‘muffinpan’ – I have two things that may or may not be ‘muffinpans’. One has 6 cups, one has 12. I went with the 12 cup one which I am now fairly confident wasn’t the right choice!! I don’t know what it is for – but it’s definitely isn’t muffins.

I’m getting ahead of myself though… once I’d mixed it all together and decanted into the not-a-muffinpan they looked like this:

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My other clue to this not being the right type of pan was that I had quite a bit left over. Waste not want not though – so I bunged it into some paper cupcake cases that I found in the cupboard. At this point I should of sprinkled sugar over them – but I forgot. So that didn’t happen until they had been in the oven for about 5 minutes which was obviously a bit late! I left them in for 20 minutes and this was the result:

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Not entirely muffin shaped!! Not sure all that sugar should be there either.

I mangled them a bit getting them out of the pan too – but it was all good as I went to work with the squirty frosting on a few for our dessert this evening – tasty and covers the mangeledness. Winner!

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…and I bunged the rest in a box for another day:

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We’ve actually just eaten the ones with frosting and while they look a bit crap, they taste yummy!!

Baking effort #1 not a total success… but not a horrible failure either. I think I could get quite into this baking malarkey…


Courgette Pasta?

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So I don’t think I’ve mentioned that we’ve started to get the fruit n veg boxes from Abel & Cole again. Now I can taste and have some energy to cook it seems worth it!

We’re also both trying to loose a bit of weight and eat more healthily again too. On that note I wanted to post about a dinner I made the other day which was surprisingly good. Courgettes are not my favourite veg – but they arrived in the box so I had to find something to do with them… and that was ‘courgette pasta’.

Basically, take a courgette or two and a veg peeler and ‘peel’ the courgette into ribbons. You could leave them like that but I cut them lengthways so they ended up like linguine.  Whack them in a pan of boiling water for one minute and the drain and rinse with cold water.

Make the rest of your normal pasta dish at this point – but only using half the amount of pasta as normal. I did tomato & chilli prawn linguine. Right at the end of cooking combine the courgette ribbons ‘pasta’ with the actual pasta juat to warm it – and serve as normal.

This was lovely – and cuts the calories significantly!! We got courgettes again in the veg box this week and I’m thinking some kind of smoked salmon / creme fraiche ensemble this time… I’ll let you know how it goes!


Super Duper – Tomato & Courgette

Shock!

A non cancer related post 🙂

Well, technically it is because I woke up this morning feeling a bit glum that I was home alone again and my stupid back has joined in the pain fest. I think I must have been holding myself funny on account of the foobs – or possibly it is because I am still having to sleep in a sitting up position. Whatever has caused it, I’ve had enough now!

It would have been very easy to just lounge around in my PJ’s all day but I decided that some exercise would probably do me good and I wanted to do something vaguely constructive. I have been really pleased with how much weight I have managed to lose since chemo. Granted – a lot of it (about 1/2 stone I think) was water retention. Can’t tell you how much better it is not having to carry around that much water in your legs! Surgery also seemed to re-set my eating a bit. I just didn’t want very much to eat while I was in the hospital and what I did opt for was the lighter / healthier choices. I have made a conscious effort to carry this on since I got home – with a good sprinkling of norty treats too of course!

The point (which I am finally getting to) is that I decided to walk to the supermarket. I needed some more painkillers and I could have gone down the road to the pharmacy but the walk to Asda is longer and I wanted to get some exercise in too. Once I found myself at Asda, painkillers in hand, I decided to grab a few other bits and make myself something nice to eat. I’ll admit to hanging around the cake making aisle for quite a while but then I had a word with myself and decided soup would be easy, healthy and I could use some of the herbs from my herb garden.

So that is how I found myself making Tomato, Courgette and Oregano soup this afternoon. I’m quite proud of myself for being a bit productive (I dusted our spiral staircase too – a thankless task!!) and the soup turned out really good. Hurrah! Feeling a bit less glum now.

So, here is what I used – I made this up as I didn’t take a recipe to the shops. I had just got the tomatoes and courgette and the rest we already had:

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That is:

4x Vine tomatoes (chopped)
1x Courgette (sliced)
1x Red Onion (diced)
Bunch of Garlic Chives (from the garden)
Bunch of Oregano (from the garden)
Sprinkling of ground nutmeg
Sprinkling of generic Italian seasoning
Liberal squeeze of lemon juice
Ground black pepper – to taste
500ml Vegetable Stock
Glug of sunflower oil

Method:

Chuck courgette slices in collander and sprinkle with salt – leave for 10 minutes and then pat dry. Warm the oil in a big pot and then sautee the onion, courgette and chopped chives for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes and simmer for a further 25 minutes. It should look something like this at this point:

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I then blended it with a stick blender – but you could use a food processor or whatever device you happen to have. Add nutmeg, italian seasoning, oregano, pepper and lemon juice, stir and you are done. Easy!

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This tasted lovely and also had a great consistency which is something I often get wrong with soup. I ate the lot – a bit piggy but I figure there can’t be many calories in this at all! It made enough for two of the below bowls full exactly:

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Definitely a successful enterprise and one I will be making again. The only thing I would change is to chop the Oregano smaller as there were some big bits that I missed when ripping it up.


Veg Box Wrap Up – Week 6

It has been a bit of a better week – just knackered rather than knackered and feeling like shit… which means the food this week is a tad more interesting. Lets not dilly dally…

Sunday – we had stir fry. For some reason I didn’t take a picture – but it was much the same as all the other stir fry’s I’ve posted. From the veg box this used broccoli, chard, red pepper, carrot and some of the mushrooms. I think it was sweet chilli sauce and we had it with chicken and noodles. Stir fry is always a winner in our house 🙂

Monday – Something I have not mentioned before is that M is a bit funny about eating fish. It’s not that he doesn’t like it, more that he really really hates fish bones. So on Monday I decided to cook (boneless fillets!) or salmon with the last of the chard pesto that was still in the freezer. I chucked a load of basil, broccoli, extra chard, some of the mushrooms and the last of the sour cream from when we had taco mix on tortilla chips. There wasn’t too much sour cream!!

Salmon Pesto Pasta

This was very lovely and best of all – M liked it too. I grilled the salmon. I was going to do it in foil parcels in the oven but I took the foil out of the draw, held it upside down by mistake and it fell on the floor and tumbled away under the sofa leaving a trail of foil across the room. A sort of foil red carpet… that the cat immediately walked down. So that was the end of the foil.

Tuesday – pancake day!!! M made the batter and then we split it evenly between savoury and sweet. For the savouries we opted for easy and just had cheese and ham – we did get fancy ham from M&S though:

Ham n Cheese Pancake

Nom nom nom!! I had two, M had three. They were gooood! But not as good as what I made next:

Banana chocolate with ice cream and squirty cream

Banana Chocolate Pancake

and Clementine chocolate with ice cream and squirty cream:

Clementine Chocolate Pancake

Is it wrong to have two desserts? Not on pancake day surely…

Wednesday – chicken and (sort of) chips. M made a lovely honey mustard marinade for the chicken and we did it all in the air-fryer. The potatoes were not quite done enough to be honest – I think there was too much in there. Next time I’m going to try potato wedges on their own so I can shake them around properly. It was still nice though:

Honey Mustard Chicken

Thursday – I took on the stripetti squash. I did actually go to work on thursday for once as I had a workshop I really didn’t want to miss in the morning. So I sorted the District Nurse to come in the afternoon. The workshop went really well – so I was pretty happy when I got home and being their early gave me plenty of time to cook the squash – it did take two hours!!

I ended up cooking it for 1.5 hours and then adding a stuffing mixture of onion, red pepper,bacon  lardons, feta cheese (and it wasn’t bloody Apetina) and a bacon / tomato pasta sauce from the cupboard. Cooked it for another half an hour and it came out looking like this:

Stuffed Squash

This was great – the squash had a sort of pasta like quality and the saltiness of the cheese and bacon worked perfectly. It took a long time in the oven but it was worth waiting for!

That’s it for last week – we treated ourselves to some M&S food on friday (lasagna) as we were both really tired. We also got some of the best custard ever (M&S vanilla, extra thick – trust me, it is delicious) and a slice of lemon tart each on friday night and a jam sponge pudding on saturday. Norty but lovely… sorry, no pictures.

On the fruit front – we used some of it for the pancakes and to be honest, I just ate the rest as snacks and with my lunch. We ended up with one apple left over I think which isn’t bad. All in all it was a pretty good week of eating.


Veg Box Wrap Up – Week 5 … and Week 6 Inspiration

Oh dear.

It has been a terrible week. To be honest I’m just going to draw a line under it and move on. We do seem to have eaten most of the veg box ingredients we got but I couldn’t tell you what they were or what we had apart from a couple of meals. FEC chemo #4 completely fucked me over in a way it hasn’t previously. All Side effects amplified (although I managed not to actually puke again – hurrah for the fancy anti-sickness pill). Eating has not gone very well due to nausea and I’ve been walking around in some kind of fog since February 1st. So lethargic and brain not at all functional! Finally feeling more normal again yesterday. I guess it’s a cumulative effect – which is a bit worrying as I’ve now got to do it all again with four lots of the new drug. I’ll write about that in a different post though.

Anyway – the point is I don’t have much of a wrap up for you. Here’s what I remember and have pictures of:

Tuesday we had sausages with broccoli and a potato and fennel gratin that I made as wanted to do something different with the potato:

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I remember that I didn’t much like the sausages – they were bratwurst. I think they were just a bit much for how rubbish I was feeling. The gratin was nice though – I just did it with full fat milk and a bit of cheddar. Fried the fennel a little bit just sliced up the taters thin and layered it all with a liberal sprinkling of salt, pepper and thyme. Bunged it in the oven for about 45 minutes. It is the only thing I achieved on tuesday and I was quite proud of myself!

We have to fast forward to Friday for another meal – but during the week I mainly ate stuff like this:

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I ate a whole pot of tzadziki and humous and a lot of carrot and cucumber sticks… and hula hoops. Not the healthiest diet but I just went with what I fancied. Oh, I did eat lots of fruit – it was a good box for fruit with grapefruits, oranges and a mango. Nom nom nom!!

Anyway, on Friday I made another not so healthy dinner. I actually had to take the day off work sick on Friday and slept for most of the day. Managed to drag myself out of bed by the afternoon though and felt a bit better – so wanted to do something that was a bit of a treat. So we had taco mix on tortilla chips:

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This is not the best picture – I promise you it was a treat! Made the taco mix with turkey mince, kidney beans, onion, peppers and mushrooms (and spices obviously) and layered it on top of the chips. Grated cheese over the top, banged it in the oven for about 12 minutes and then served with a ton of sour cream. Lush!! We both love this but obviously it’s not very healthy so we don’t have it very often.

I’m afraid that’s it – not a very good wrap up but there’s no point pretending. Am thinking about skipping the veg box on chemo recovery week from now – but maybe I’ll wait and see how I react to the change in drug. Apparently it should not make me sick or nauseas so will probably keep the box for the first one and see how I get on.

SO – onto week six. This is what we got:

  • Broccoli
  • Brown Mushrooms
  • Chard
  • Clementines (with leaves again!)
  • Fairtrade Bananas
  • Red Delicious Apples
  • Red Pepper
  • Stripetti Squash
  • Valour Potatos
  • White Onions

This weeks mystery item is definitely Stripetti Squash. I’ve cooked lots of things with butternut squash but this is a different beast altogether. Looks like a water melon!

We also got an extra box this week as it is pancake day on tuesday – could not pass up the special ‘Pancake Day Box’ obviously! We needed eggs anyway and for £6.99 we could get all the other ingredients needed too…

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In the box we got:

  • Micheal and Clare Marriage’s freshly milled flour from the Wiltshire/Berkshire border
  • Guernsey rich milk
  • Creamy butter from Somerset
  • Organic Welsh eggs.
  • 2x Lemons and golden
  • Fair-trade sugar

and another freebie:

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This bread is lovely – I’ve practically scoffed the lot today. It is only a small loaf!

So we’ve got lots of interesting ingredients this week and I’m determined to do better than last week. Wouldn’t be difficult I suppose. Inspiration-wise, so far I’m thinking:

  • Stir-fry. I know we have it practically every week but we both really like it! This should use up the last of the chinese leaf and carrots we got last week plus some chard, pepper, mushrooms and broccoli.
  • Pasta dish – I’ve still got one serving of chard pesto in the freezer so I’m going to do something involving that plus fresh chard, mushrooms,  fresh basil and salmon fillets. I’m now wondering if I can incorporate the last of the sour cream into this too… hmmm.
  • I need to make something with the squash. Apparently it is similar to a spaghetti squash. This doesn’t help me as I’ve never cooked one of those either!! Still working on this one…
  • Pancakes! Obviously we can do traditional lemon and sugar but we will probably have savoury pancakes too. Normally I would do a smoked salmon / mushroom / creme fraiche mix but I’m not supposed to eat smoked salmon while on chemo so will have to think of something else. I saw a chorizo and scrambled egg filling recipe that looked good – or maybe we’ll go with a more standard ham and cheese.  I’m thinking the sweet pancakes will involve some of the bananas… with icecream and chocolate sauce and cream… mmmmm!
  • We got some chicken pieces in the shopping today – thighs and legs and drumsticks. I think I will do another air-fryer meal with some of these and the potatoes. Will try to make it a bit different to the last one – but this could just involve a different marinade and spices on the taters.

Not too ambitious – really I’m just aiming to do a dinner every night unless we are out! Lets see how that goes…


Veg Box Wrap Up – Week 4

I realise I have not done a weekly inspiration post – I wasn’t feeling very inspirational last week. Thought of final FEC chemotherapy and the possibility of finally getting my HER2 results back got me down a bit. Final FEC is now done though and HER2 results came in negative. For those of you that don’t know – this means my cancer is not as aggressive as it could be and I don’t have to visit the chemo ward every three weeks for another year to have a drug called Herceptin to combat this. Great news! FEC #4 has knocked the stuffing our of me though. Had it on friday and I feel like crap. I’d also been waiting since september for that HER2 result and it’s just all a bit draining. It’s difficult when people say “halfway through!” like you’re supposed to dance around with joy. In reality all I think is “oh god, I’ve got to do it all again – with new and interesting side effects like eyebrows falling out and nails potentially dropping off”… must try not to be glum though. Maybe Tax will be kinder than FEC in the side effects department. Just have to wait and see.

On the plus side – M had a burst of enthusiasm last week and did quite a lot of the cooking, so I do have some dinners to show you.

I guess I should start with what we got in the box:

  • Carrots
  • Cocktail vine tomatoes
  • Courgettes
  • Fairtrade bananas
  • Fennel
  • Kiwi fruit (approximately 33 of them!!)
  • Parsnips
  • Pomegranates
  • Red Pepper
  • Silvana potatoes

This was our fourth box so we got it free due to an offer – total cost for eggs and delivery £3.08. Bargain!!

Onto the dinners…

Saturday – M made a casserole in the crockpot – Sausage and bean:

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Did not actually use anything from the veg box for this one! It did involve onion and potato but they were bought separately. Was tasty though – and very filling. I’m not the biggest fan of beans but I enjoyed these – cannellini beans apparently.

 

He branched out in a big way on Sunday though – cooking fennel which was a first for both of us. Schnitzel and roasted vegetables – I’m sorry these pictures are crap, I had the wrong lens on my camera and was too lazy to change it!

The veggies:

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The Schnitzel:

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Used loads of veg box items for this one – fennel, potato, vine tomatoes, onions and we think carrot – but could have made that last one up!! This was a lovely dinner and we are both fully converted to fennel. We were a bit worried it would be a bit dry but the tomatoes added just enough juice. Nom nom nom!!

 

Monday’s dinner was another German inspired effort – frikadellen, again with roasted vegetables and feta:

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Another really good dinner – using courgette, last of the tomatoes, carrots, red pepper and finally the last of the Apetina feta cheese. I discovered that roasted Apetina is the best way of eating it – still won’t buy it again though!!

 

Tuesday’s dinner – I was feeling lazy so it was a pasta dish with store bought garlic sauce, chorizo, four random leftover meatballs I found in the freezer chopped up and penne:

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I chucked in the rest of the courgette and red pepper and of course we topped it with cheese. Not the best for you but I had to have my pasta fix!!

Now Wednesdays dinner doesn’t look all that appetizing but I promise it was yummy. Another one of M’s creations – it always tastes good, he just needs to work on presentation!! Pork chop with roasted carrot, honey and mustard parsnips and mash:

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The best bit of this was the parsnips – he made the marinade himself and got the mix bang on. Well done M!

Thursday M went to the cinema and I’ll be honest – I had a sandwich and crisps for dinner!! Very bad but I was depressed about chemotherapy the following day and couldn’t work up any enthusiasm to cook for myself. Friday was a lost day to eating and yesterday I had some toast, fruit and chicken Goujon.

We were very bad with the fruit last week I’m afraid. Both pomegranates and the majority of the kiwi are still in the fridge. I was just so lazy – I would normally take fruit for lunch but I just didn’t!! We did eat all the bananas though – some for lunches but on the more fun side of things I made this banana split:

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and this pineapple banana smoothie with the last one today:

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A new box arrived on friday – and it’s a good one. I will try to get round to writing an inspiration post this week but it’s tricky when you feel like crap to get too enthusiastic about food at all. Hopefully I will feel a bit better tomorrow. Until then I’ll be mainly eating fruit…

 

 


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