Courgetti and Strawberry Salad

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Since starting my blogging journey, I’ve been inspired by (and in awe of!) the many fabulous health food bloggers out there, creating amazing recipes with deliciously fresh ingredients, and sharing drool-inducing photos of their creations.  It was while perusing some of these awesome foodies’ websites and salivating over their culinary endeavours that I came across spiralizing. Clearly, I am way behind the times – how have I missed all the hype about fruit and veggie ribbons and spaghetti styled courgettes??  I wondered if the spiralizer was just the latest kitchen gadget: something I would use once and then retire to the cupboard over the fridge, which is rarely opened: I need a stool to reach it!

I reasoned that I use my mandolin regularly and love Japanese food.  Surely something food-related originating in Japan can’t be bad?  So after a little research on the various brands and models I purchased a spiralizer online and eagerly awaited its arrival!

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I’m certainly not giving up on my yummy homemade pasta (mon Dieu!) or carbs altogether.  I think they are an important part of a balanced diet, especially for children.  However, I am bursting with ideas for new recipes using my spiralizer and it is a fun way to introduce kids to new ways of eating fruit and veg.

So here is the first of my spiralizer creations……[drum roll!]

I’ve made this salad both with and without chicken and it’s as tasty either way so if you’re vegetarian just simply leave out the chicken.

Serves 2 adult & 1 child portion.

The what:

2 large (3 smaller) chicken fillets, diced

handful of spinach leaves, stems removed

12g flaked almonds

150g strawberries, topped and quartered

2 courgettes, topped and tailed

3 tbsp natural yoghurt

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For the dressing:

juice from 1/2 an orange

juice from 1/2 lime

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

a pinch of ground black pepper

Tip: If you don’t have a spiralizer, a mandolin or julienne peeler are just as good for thinly slicing the courgette. If using a julienne peeler, you may find it easier to slice the courgette length-ways.

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The how:

Marinade the chicken in the yoghurt for a couple of hours / overnight.

You can also prepare the dressing in advance: just give it a good shake / stir again before using as the oil will have settled on top.  Add all the ingredients to a jar and shake well.  Taste test with a spinach leaf.

Pre-heat the oven to 220 (200 fan) and back for about 8 minutes and then flip the chicken pieces over, draining off any excess liquid and bake for a further 8 minutes.  Be careful not to let the chicken dry out.

Meanwhile slice the courgettes, either using a using a spiralizer to make courgetti, a mandolin or a julienne peeler (see tip above).  Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the courgette on medium heat for a couple of minutes to soften.  If you have used a mandolin and have very thin courgette slices, cook on a lower heat and stir and toss continuously in the pan to avoid too much browning, or burning.  Take of the heat and set aside.

toast the almonds in a dry saute pan on medium heat for about 1 minute, tossing regularly, and again being careful not to burn!

To assemble the salad, add the courgetti / courgette slices to your salad bowl.  Place the spinach leave on top and then add the chicken and strawberries. Sprinkle the almonds over the salad and pour the dressing on top.

Enjoy!

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Beet, Carrot and Barley Salad

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The beetroot of my childhood was the pickled variety out of a jar. I thought that was the only way to eat beetroot and I was not a fan!

Thanks to the superfood revolution, fresh beetroot has become very popular again having found favour with chefs and food writers alike. According to an article by Khaleda Rahman in Mailonline weekly sales of beetroot in the UK now exceed £1 million.

I had a lovely beetroot and lentil salad in Gail’s cafe recently, which prompted me to have a go at creating my own salad with this purple taproot of the beet plant. I’ve never cooked beetroot before so had to refer to my trusty “Vegetable Book” by Grigson to learn how!

It takes a while to cook the ingredients for this salad, but you can do everything in advance.  The beetroot and carrots are oven baked so once you set the timer you don’t need to watch over them.  Of course, I also think the flavours in this yummy salad are worth the cooking time and I hope you’ll agree.

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The what:

4 beetroot, gently washed (see below)

400g Chantenay carrots, washed

160g Barley (pearl barley is fine, but hulled barley is supposed to retain more nutrients although can be harder to find).

100g Feta cheese

a handful of blanched hazelnuts

a handful of spinach or mixed leaves

squeeze of lemon juice

a handful of mint, finely chopped

for the dressing:

1 tbsp mirin

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1cm ginger, finely sliced

3 tbsp olive oil

pepper to season

Tip: 

I usually make my dressings in an old jam jar so I can close the lid and give it a good shake to mix it well.  Always taste your dressing too with a piece of fruit or veg from the salad before adding to the rest of the salad and adjust, if necessary.

The how:

Gently wash the beetroot to remove any dirt, place in a baking tray and cover with tinfoil.  Bake the beetroot in oven for about 3 -3 1/2 hours at 150 (130 fan).  To test if the beetroot is cooked Grigson suggests wrinkling the skin and if it easily comes away from the root it is cooked.  Leave to cool, peel and chop.

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Meanwhile add the carrots to boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes to soften.  Then drain and place in a baking tray.  Drizzle with some olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with the mint.  Cook in the oven for one hour at the same temperature as the beetroot.  Remove and leave to cool.  Remove the ends and chop.

To cook the barley, first rinse it in cold water, place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil, drain, return to the saucepan and cover again with about 300 ml cold water.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 1 hour (until tender), stirring occasionally.

To make the dressing add all the ingredients except the olive oil to a jar, close the lid and shake well to combine.  Then add the olive oil, close and shake again.  Test the flavour with a carrot or piece of beetroot.

To construct the salad, arrange the spinach / mixed leaves at the bottom of your bowl.  Place the barley, beetroot and carrots on top.  Then break in the feta cheese and add the hazelnuts.  Drizzle with the dressing or serve on the side.

Enjoy!

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Spinach and butter bean burgers

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It is thanks to Lorraine Pascal that we first ate homemade veggie burgers in our house. Her Spicy been burgers are full of flavour and really quite substantial: “meaty” springs to mind, although obviously they are entirely meat-free!  We try to have a couple of meat-free days a week and as Lorraine’s burgers are a tried and tested formula we make them quite regularly.  To mix things up a little I decided, last week, to try out a few combinations of my own. I was really chuffed that my first creation was an instant success: we all loved them, little Coco included!  I’ve decided it’s probably very difficult to go wrong with veggie burgers.  I haven’t suddenly acquired that illusive culinary goodness status, there is simply a fantastic range of fresh veg available these days, it’s hard to go wrong!

Makes 2 large and 2-3 small burgers

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The what:

160g sweetcorn (frozen, or of course fresh).  If using frozen, cook for 2-3 minutes.

60g spinach leaves

100g feta cheese

400g butter beans

3 large spring onions, chopped

a handful (ca. 1 tbsp) basil, chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

50g panko (or fresh breadcrumbs if you don’t have panko)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tbsp olive oil

Tip: As we were making these for Coco and her three teeth too, I blended all of the ingredients in blender.  It makes the burgers a little wet, so you need to fry them lightly in the pan before baking so they don’t fall apart.  But for more texture mash the butter beans and mix in the beans, feta and the sweetcorn after you have blended the other ingredients.

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The how:

In a food processor combine the basil, coriander, parsley and spinach and garlic.  Next add the butter beans, spring onions, sweetcorn and pulse a little further.  Finally add the feta, egg and panko and blend to combine.  Season with a little pepper.

For more texture (see tip above) just blend the basil, coriander, parsley, spinach and garlic. Mash the butter beans and add along with the sweetcorn, spring onions, feta, panko and mix well.  Beat the egg, pour into the mixture and stir well to combine.  Season with pepper.

Shape the mixture into the burgers.

Either grill the burgers on each side until lightly browning and cooked through or fry on each side in a little olive oil. Serve with some cream fraiche and a salad.

Enjoy!

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Aubergine, goat’s cheese & squash salad

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Despite rather cloudy, overcast days, the sun has been making a consistent appearance in the evenings of late providing a great opportunity for some al fresco evening dining!  I’ve been experimenting with a few different salads to have on their own or as an accompaniment to a barbecue.  Here is the recipe for one that passed the Lentil and Papa Lentil test (after a few goes at the dressing!).

Brown, green or puy lentils are usually best for salads as they retain their shape and texture after cooking.  However, I had run out of all of the above and only had split-red left in the cupboard.  The colour actually works well with the butternut squash!  Although they do go a little mushy when cooked: good for Coco and her three front teeth!

The What:

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1 aubergine, chopped into chunks

1/2 butternut squash, seeds removed

40g lentils (brown, green or puy – see above)

100g hard goat’s cheese (or you can use feta as an alternative)

1 red onion, sliced

a knob of unsalted butter

Olive oil for drizzling

Some spinach leaves (optional)

For the dressing:

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

5 tbsp olive oil

a little black pepper

Tip: I usually make my dressings in an old jam jar so I can close the lid and give it a good shake to mix it well.

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The how:

Preheat the oven to 200 (180 fan).

Place the butternut squash on a baking tray and brush with the melted unsalted butter.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes initially.

Meanwhile, place the aubergine chunks on another baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  When the butternut squash has cooked for 10 minutes, add the aubergine to the oven and cook both for a further 25 minutes.

Rinse the lentils and then put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes (until soft).

Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan and cook the onion on medium heat until caramelised.  Set aside to cool.

Once the butternut squash is cooked, chop into chunks and place in a salad bowl along with the aubergine, lentils, onions and spinach leaves (if using). Break up the goat’s cheese and place on top.

For the dressing add the balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and pepper to the jar (or a bowl) and mix well.  Next add the olive oil, close and shake well to fully combine. Drizzle the salad with the dressing or serve on the side.

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For the adults a chilled glass of fruity white wine is a good accompaniment to this salad!

Wedding photos - Carlo Gorgio 582

xx

Coco’s weaning diary – week 3

Day 15:

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Mmmm, I’m eating some more of that lovely “but..er..nut…quash” stuff today. Papa mixes it with some peas, which I also like.

Day 16:

After some peas and potato for lunch Mummy gives me some sweet-tasting red stuff for “pudding”. Mummy says pudding is usually a sweet dessert course after lunch.  Another course??

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Mummy calls the red stuff plum and says it’s very tasty. The first spoonful is bitter and makes me shudder.  This makes Mummy smile, but then she adds a little apple to the plum stuff, which makes it much tastier.  I feel full afterwards. When Mummy lifts me up from my chair my tummy is big and round!

Day 18: 

DSC_0993aMummy, Mummy, hurry up! That thing on our kitchen wall is “tick-tocking”. That means I’m hungry!

Uh-oh, this looks VERY green!  It looks a bit like that stuff that the cows in my storybook eat. Mummy calls it spinach.  I tentatively like a tiny bit off the spoon. It’s warm and a little floury.  I think I taste some of that nice white potato stuff. I’ll have some more of this please Mummy.  I open my mouth as wide as I can.

Day 20:

Ooh, this looks promising.  I think Mummy has some yummy sweet potato for me again today. I kick my legs with excitement!  Quick, quick Mummy. Mummy sits down opposite me.  She has a spoon which she lowers into my bowl to shovel up some scrumptious food.

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Oh no, what’s that on top of my sweet potato?  Something green again! Why is there so much green food this week? I really want the sweet potato, but how do I get it out from under the green stuff?  I don’t think I can – it all goes into my mouth.  Luckily I can really only taste the yummy sweet potato.  “Asparagus”?  Is that what you said Mummy?  The green stuff is called Asparagus.  That’s a difficult word.  Maybe I should only eat things that are easy to remember, what do you think Mummy?

Day 21:

Untitled design (2)Today everything is green: literally everything! There are pictures of funny green flowers on Mummy’s iPad and phone. Mummy says they are called Shamrocks.  She says they are to celebrate Ireland’s special day: St Patrick’s Day. I think I’ve heard of Ireland before….but I’m not sure. Is it one of those food stuffs Mummy keeps giving me? No, mummy says it’s a county across the pond.

Mummy gives me something that looks like a Shamrock for lunch. Mummy says the green stuff is called courgette.

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It doesn’t look very tasty. Maybe if I turn my head away and don’t look at the green stuff, it will taste OK.  Whenever I turn my head Mummy does some strange flying arm movements with the spoon. She seems to find it difficult to put the spoon in my mouth. It’s quite funny so I laugh and before I realise it I’ve opened my mouth and the food is in.  It isn’t nearly as bad as the orange carrot stuff so I gobble down the rest of the bowl.

Mummy’s edit 

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Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables and I guess I am hoping my daughter shares my enthusiasm for this perennial plant.  However, I discovered that you really do have to love asparagus to make an asparagus purée.  The blender alone is no match for it.  Having blended it for some time, I had to call on Mr Mummyummygoodness for help. There were still too many chunky bits in it for little Trouble.  The pestle and mortar eventually did the trick, but it is a lot of labour for very little produce!

When I made the spinach and potato purée, I was a little eager (or just completely sleep deprived) and threw all the spinach into the potato at once.  The result was a very, very green purée, which I doubted my daughter would find appetising.  Oh well, it was too late.  I’d used all the potatoes.  To my surprise, it really didn’t taste bad at all and Coco wolfed it down.  The green colour simple masked the amount of potato that was actually in the purée.

We’re on to 3 meals next week.  Aggghh, how will I keep up?  And she’s still waking up at least twice a night for a milk feed!

What mummy made:

Plum purée – makes 3 portions

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Bring some water to the boil in a large sauce pan.  Place 3 plums in the boiling water until the skin starts to split (about 3 minutes).  Remove the plums with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water.  This should make the skin easy to remove.  Cut the plums in half to remove the stone and then chop and blitz with a hand-held blender.

Add some baby rice for a thicker consistency or mix the plum purée with another fruit purée, such as apple.

Spinach and potato purée – makes 5 portions

Peal and chop 3 medium-sized potatoes.  Place in a saucepan of boiling water, bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or until soft).  Wash 100g of fresh spinach and remove any woody stalks.  Place the spinach in a microwaveable steamer and steam in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Alternatively steam over a saucepan of boiling water.

Once the potatoes are soft, drain off the water, add a knob of unsalted butter and some of your baby’s normal milk and mix.  Mash the potato using a potato ricer or a masher.  Add more milk if needed to achieve a really smooth consistency.

Once the spinach is done, squeeze it using a fork to remove any excess water.  Add to the potato and mix well.

Asparagus purée – makes 2 portions

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Steam 85g of asparagus, woody ends removed.  Puree using a hand-held blender and then break down any remaining lumps using a pestle and mortar.  This is best mixed with another purée such as potato or sweet potato.

Courgette purée – makes 6 portions

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Slice 260g of courgette and place in a microwaveable steamer.  Steam for 5 minutes.  Remove and purée using a hand-held blender.

Happy weaning!!