Friday, 28 September 2012 - , , , , 0 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Belazu Balsamic Pearls

 Wowee! I love exciting new ingredients!
When I find a food I've never seen before, it's a bit like discovering that a new colour suddenly exists. Just when you thought you'd seen it all, along comes a product to whet your appetite and make your head spin!


These Balsamic Pearls are scientific little balls of vinegar and look exactly like caviar. At £4.99 for a small 55g pot they seem expensive, but go a long way and are a wonderful treat for a special occasion. You could probably divide this little pot over 20-30 canapés or 10-15 main courses, as you only need so few to liven up a dish.
I bought these in Waitrose.

Once opened, they stay fresh for 10 days in the fridge and you have a dinky glass lidded storage jar to keep afterwards...

They are perfect for little canapés, salads, dotted onto smoked salmon...or if you are more adventurous, sprinkled on strawberries!
They 'pop' on your tongue just like caviar, releasing a beautiful, balsamic buzz. As they are basically vinegar and you eat such a small amount, the pro points/calories are negligible.
They are also gluten free and suitable for vegans, so at last, vegetarians can have a 'caviar' experience!


Belazu-you are so clever!
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 - , , 0 comments

RECIPE : '1 Cup' Chicken Casserole Served in Roasted Harvest Vegetable Bowls

Now this blustery, Autumnal weather has arrived, I think we're all craving some real hearty, comfort food.
This chicken casserole is so easy to make with my '1 Cup' idea. 
It's really tasty, nutritious, filling and low in pro points and calories too at 5pp/approx.350kcal per portion. You could serve it with a jacket potato, but I love it dished up in these cute roasted harvest vegetable bowls. Not only are they extremely yummy, they also happen to be zero propoints!


 There seem to be so many colourful and inspiring vegetables in the supermarkets at this time of year. I fell in love with all the baby versions around-they have really fresh and intense flavours...but you use whatever you have available. All you need is 1 measuring cup, a lidded casserole dish and 2 hours cooking time for all the combined ingredients to do their funky stuff...(Those little carrots may be small, but they do take time to tenderise!)

So...I treated myself to this rather beautiful set of measuring cups recently. (Well, a girl with a blog has to have lovely utensils-right?) They are standard cup measurements but just to be clear, the cup holds 200ml of liquid.(Worth checking).


YOU WILL NEED : (For 2 generous servings)

Take a lidded casserole and literally measure out each ingredient and 'chuck' into the pot as you go!...

...1 cup (300g) diced chicken. This is the only ingredient you need to weigh accurately. Make sure the chicken pieces are chunky, of equal size and an even number for easy reallocation on serving....

...1 cup of chicken stock. This is made up of 1 low salt chicken stock cube and boiling water.

Add another cup of water...

...1 cup of tinned, chopped tomatoes...

...1 cup of button mushrooms...

...1 cup of baby leeks...

...1 cup of baby carrots (how sweet!)

1 cup of peeled baby onions...

...and 1 cup of seasoning. This consists of;

2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon Piri-Piri seasoning
Fresh herbs-I used tarragon, sage and thyme
A couple of grinds of black pepper.

Give it all a good mix up...

...Then cover and pop in the oven at 200 degrees centigrade for 2 hours.


While the casserole is cooking, prepare the Harvest 'bowls'. These only take 1 hour to cook, so you have plenty of time.

I bought a tiny pumpkin and some round courgettes. If you can't find these, improvise with 2 ends of a marrow and a round butternut squash. Just think of a bowl large enough to hold a generous portion of casserole.

Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and discard. Cut the stalk off so the bowl 'sits' flat on the plate.

Cut the round courgettes in half. Cut the stalks off so that they 'sit' flat too.

Hollow out the courgettes with a spoon. Add the excess to the casserole.

While you are adding the courgette pieces, mix 1 tablespoon of cornflour with a little cold water. Add to the casserole to thicken the sauce.

Spray the vegetable bowls lightly with Frylight oil then roast them on a baking tray for 1 hour until soft and turning brown and crispy around the edges. Arrange a selection on each serving plate.

Fill the bowls carefully, allocating the chicken evenly between the portions. Pile in the remaining ingredients generously, with lashings of delicious aromatic sauce.
This will leave you feeling as satisfied as if you had eaten a huge Sunday roast, but with none of the damage to your waistline!


Happy, healthy Harvest


Sunday, 23 September 2012 - , , , , , , 0 comments

SMASH & GRAB : 'Cheese-on-Toast'

I had a lovely RECIPE post planned for you today, but I'm having a few technical problems with my photos, so thought I'd show you this really easy 'SMASH & GRAB' idea instead.
Sometimes, the simplest foods are just what we need. I often have this for breakfast and it is so filling and delicious. 
I use 2 slices of wholegrain toast. The bread I use is 6pp for two slices, but please calculate your own propoints depending on your chosen bread. One pot of Extra Light Philadelphia is 1pp. 

Just adding the halved cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves makes this such a tasty and interesting snack...the creamy Philadelphia and the garden-fresh tang of the tomatoes work as a great team. Just finish with a grind of black pepper-wow!
Friday, 21 September 2012 - , 0 comments


I didn't even know I was looking for a jam funnel until I spotted this in John Lewis the other day! Obviously, it's that jam/harvest time of year, so they had a lovely display of all the necessary equipment.


Of course, I wasn't thinking 'JAM' at all....this is PERFECT for decanting thick soup (such as my magical mushroom soup we all love so much), into storage jars.

I always save passata jars for this purpose, as they are so useful for storing soup in the fridge. They take up much less space than a huge pan....and a jar of homemade soup wrapped in some cellophane, makes a lovely gift too.


I used to make such a mess decanting it though, as the necks of those jars are quite small. Even kilner-type jars can be tricky to fill-especially if you're a klutz like me.

Not any more! Because a jam funnel has this wonderfully wide opening. This is perfect for thick soup or even chunky ones such as minestrone...everything slips through easily without creating any mess. I love it! Since I became a food blogger, I'm amazed at the simple things in life that make me so happy!
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - , , , , , , , 0 comments

RECIPE : Pesto-Infused Wheatberry & Chicken Parcels with Wasabi Mayo

I've been trying to think of a recipe for a chicken 'parcel' idea for a while - something that isn't fried and is delicious served cold. When I discovered these wheatberries last week, I realised that I had found my missing ingredient!


These little parcels are so pretty and very filling. The starchy, pesto-flavoured wheat berries and tasty chicken, blended together and wrapped in lime-drenched courgette ribbons, make a fabulous starter at 4pp/approx.160kcal per portion, or a light main meal at 8pp/approx.322kcal per portion. They look so impressive too, but are really very easy to make.

I featured wheatberries  in my CUPBOARD LOVE section earlier this week. They do a similar job to brown rice but, to me, the texture and flavour is far superior. They are also lower in propoints and calories, which is always a bonus in my book!


You will need:
(Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter)

100g wheatberries
(If you can't find wheat berries, replace with brown rice but you will have to adjust propoints/calories accordingly)
Water 4 times the volume of the wheatberries
1 tablespoon green pesto
1/2 a low-salt chicken stock cube
130g cooked chicken

(I used this Moroccan variety from a supermarket. If you cook your own, make sure it's really tasty).
Small bunch coriander
6 spring onions
2 tablespoons lighter than light mayonnaise (85% less fat)
Courgette ribbons made with a vegetable peeler or mandolin
Juice of 1 lime
Bunch of chives

To serve:
(1 extra propoint/40kcal per serving)

1 Tablespoon Helmans wasabi mayonnaise per portion


Weigh out the wheatberries then add 4 times their volume of water to a pan.

Add the pesto and the 1/2 stock cube. Bring to the boil and cook for 25 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Allow to cool, then mix with the cold chicken.

Pop into a food processor and 'pulse' to blend the ingredients together, but retain most of the texture of the wheatberries. The mixture needs to be slightly sticky so that it binds together, but retain its 'bite'.

Put the mixture into a bowl. Add the chopped coriander, sliced spring onions and the light mayo to bring everything together. Season to taste.

In a separate mixing bowl, squeeze the lime then slice the courgette into ribbons, straight into the lime juice. This will soften the courgette and drench it with citrus flavour.

Weigh the chicken mixture then divide into 8 equal portions.
For each 'parcel', make a cross shape using 2 courgette ribbons.

Form the chicken mixture into neat 'patties' by pressing it together firmly. 

Fold up the courgette ribbon neatly against the patty.

Fold up the other ribbon to make a satisfyingly neat parcel.

My intention was to tie the chives around the parcel to finish it beautifully...however my supermarket chives were too short! So I tied 2 together then tucked them around and under the parcel to give the effect of being tied. Do what works best for you!

Arrange simply on your serving plate with a few sprigs of fresh herbs. This dish is pretty complete as the courgette acts as a refreshing contrast to the patty. You could serve with a simple salad of mixed leaves.

If you have enough pro points/calories, I can highly recommend serving this dish with a tablespoon of wasabi mayo. It just seems to bring all the flavours together and will get your palate dancing all the way to food Heaven!


Little parcels of deliciousness.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012 - 3 comments

CUPBOARD LOVE : Wheatberries

I thought I would introduce you to this find, as I have an interesting recipe coming up later in the week which uses these delicious wheatberries.


Wheatberries are the whole wheat grain, so are rich in fibre and make a lovely change from rice or pasta. They have a really creamy texture and nutty flavour.

If cooked with stock or something tasty, they absorb and benefit hugely from the added flavours.
They remind me of a cross between brown rice and large, toasted cous-cous. (One of my absolute favourite ingredients).
Propoint value-wise, they work out slightly less than brown rice as they are 4pp for 50g compared to 5pp for the same amount of rice.


If you can't find any, don't fret as my recipe works equally well with brown rice!
Friday, 14 September 2012 - , 2 comments

USEFUL STUFF : Funky Garlic Chopper

O.K. - So this is a fun gadget- by no means a kitchen essential, but I'm always on the look-out for new and interesting products that actually do what they say they do, or are fun to use, or make our lives a little easier in the kitchen.


I was always a bit of a Kinder Egg fan when I was younger - especially when the toy contained in the little 'surprise'
plastic egg had cogs and needed building.
This nifty little gadget is called
a Garlic Zoom, and reminds me of those days...although this does have very sharp blades!


If you love garlic but don't like the smell all over your fingers when preparing it...or dislike cleaning mushy garlic pulp out of a garlic press, then
this one's for you.
It's made by Chef'n' -I've reviewed a couple of their products before. I bought this in a specialized kitchen shop. It comes in this size and a larger size.
(It costs around £8.95 but is very robust and well made).


I have since checked and seen them on for around £7.90.
You can buy many of the Chef'n' products online. They are well-designed, well-made products.


It's quite hard to show in a photo because the whole unit is clear, but that way you get to see all the workings!
It's basically a hard, clear plastic 'squashed' ball-shape on wheels. The body is hinged half way across and has a little trap door in the top. Inside, it contains a rotating bar with 4 extremely sharp blades.


So you start with it upright...

...Open the little trap door on the top and pop a peeled garlic clove inside. If it's a huge clove, you may need to cut it in half.

Close the door, then literally 'zoom' the gadget backwards and forwards on the work top like a toy car! This turns the wheels and the connecting blades, which chop the garlic. It's quite hard to begin with, then it becomes much easier as the garlic breaks up. You can add another clove and repeat. Chop the cloves one at a time. I did 3 in mine and there was room for more.

You then open the gadget up from its main hinge, remove the sharp blades (very easy)...

...and tip the chopped shards of garlic straight into your pan.
Any residue inside is easily scraped out with a knife.


The three main benefits I've found are;

1. The garlic is chopped rather than pressed-so more texture, drier, and makes a nice change from crushed, wet garlic.

2. It's much easier to clear the garlic out of the device and there's no wasted 'pulp' that always seems to get stuck in all the holes in a garlic press.

3. The whole device can be rinsed quickly under the tap, then is totally dishwasher-proof.


Apart from that, it's just a really fun kitchen tool...I think I'm going to give mine a name! Herbie?


Herbie rides again!