Friday, February 24, 2017

The BEST Chicken Marinade

The Best Chicken Marinade- pinnable image

You're about to read about the BEST chicken marinade (in my humble opinion) and once you try it, I promise you'll keep going back again and again and again.

I'm not usually one to boldly proclaim that my recipes are the 'best ever' because there are so many amazing recipes out there and it really depends on personal preference. That being said- you must try this marinade! 

I keep trying to describe the flavour and just coming up with yummy, delicious, juicy (is juicy a flavour???) er delicious... and other hopeless descriptions. All I can really say is that it's the ultimate chicken marinade and you won't be disappointed if you try it.

I love marinated chicken. I have a couple of marinades on the blog already: Spicy Maple Chicken and Sweet Smoked Paprika Chicken and I quite often have a lot of fun playing about with different ingredients and seeing what kind of marinade comes out of it. One of these experimental marinades was frankly amazing and all those other hopeless descriptions I came up with earlier. The trouble was, as I had just thrown various ingredients into a dish and added chicken, I didn't really know what I had done! I knew what I had used, but I hadn't paid attention to the quantities so I had to try and recreate it. (Note to self- write experiments down!)

I finally cracked it and the recipe is recorded for posterity below. The ingredients are pretty simple. The only item you might not have readily to hand is onion powder. It's widely available in supermarkets though and it's a useful little pot to have in your store cupboard, so you might want to grab some next time you go shopping. The marinade recipe also comes in pretty light on the calories, which is an added bonus.

I tend to chargrill the chicken when I use this marinade because it adds so much to the flavour. I bought a chargrill pan a few years ago and I really love it. If you don't have one, you could could cook the chicken under the grill, or in a frying pan instead. It's perfect with rice or to top off a salad or on the side on a jacket potato. Today I served it with mini rosemary potatoes because I was a bit 'riced out'.

So next time you're staring at some chicken breasts in the fridge and wondering what to do with them- give this a try! You'll be hooked in no time.

If you are following a calorie controlled diet such as My Fitness Pal, this recipe has 260 calories per portion.

The Best Chicken Marinade- pinnable image

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hazelnut Brownies

Hazelnut Brownies

It was half-term this week and, after a couple of days of enjoying my freedom and visiting family and seeing friends, I got the baking itch. I wanted to make something that would serve as dessert and as an afternoon treat to have with a cuppa. Brownies fit the bill perfectly!

I had a packet of crushed hazelnuts in my baking cupboard that I had been hoping to use for something, and brownies seemed to fit for that too. Chocolate and nuts is never a bad idea, so I threw them in with the mixture to add some extra texture. My husband is not a fan of nuts in any form, so I ended up doubling the mixture and only putting hazlenuts in half.

We were going away for a few days to Canterbury for our anniversary, so I packaged them up to take with us. I thought it might save some pennies if we had our own treats instead of buying cafe treats everyday. Unfortunately, even though we packed very light, there still wasn't room for an enormous tupperware of hazelnut brownies so, at the last minute I popped the tub in the freezer.

I've already defrosted them, ready to have warm with ice cream for dessert. 

I hope you will enjoy making a batch for your family too! You might also want to try my Cappuccino Brownies.

Hazelnut Brownies pinnable image

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Mini Cheese and Onion Quiches

The Improving Cook- Mini Cheese and Onion Quiches pinnable image

When me and my sister were young, and my mum first went back to work, one of our standard after-school dinners was cheese and onion quiche with jacket potato and salad. It was also one of our first food technology lessons at secondary school- how to make cheese and onion quiche. I vividly recall a girl in my class dropping hers on the way to the oven and spending the whole rest of the lesson mopping up the eggy mess! We took our quiches home and had them for dinner. Mine wasn't half bad, but I probably didn't really eat quiche again until I was first teaching. That was when I first ate the (frankly amazing) quiche that the school caretaker makes for the staff training day lunches.

So, when someone asked me if I would make them a quiche last week, I wondered, why haven't I made one since school? Maybe it's trickier than I remembered? Well, I can tell you that it really isn't difficult at all and, if you use shop-bought pastry, it's even easier!  I actually made one whole quiche and then this set of mini quiches. They are bite-sized quiches filled with cheese and onion deliciousness; little mouthfuls of melt-in-your-mouth heaven! If you do want to make a full sized cheese and onion quiche, all you need to do is double the quantities that I've given you and then increase the cooking time to around 25 minutes.

The mini cheese and onion quiches would be perfect for lunch boxes. Add some carrot and cucumber sticks and a yoghurt and you've got one delicious lunch! They would also make great savoury nibbles for an afternoon tea or a party.

The Improving Cook- Mini Cheese and Onion Quiches pinnable image

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Valentine's Choc-Chip Shortbread Biscuits

Valentine's Choc Chip Shortbread Biscuits

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so get ready to see hearts and flowers everywhere (if you haven't already!) This year, I am doing a Valentine's Day collaborative post with Danielle from Welcome 2 My Jungle with a focus on Valentine's baking for kids.

One of the easiest baking ideas to do with children is shortbread. It's very simple, only has 3 main ingedients, lends itself to small hands joining in and always turns out well. More importantly, shortbread is buttery and delicious! All the best biscuits come from the UK, in my totally unbiased opinion, and shortbread is number one.

For this Valentine's version of shortbread biscuits, I added chocolate chips and then dipped the tops of the biscuits in dark chocolate. I finished them off with pink and white sprinkles because, for kids, sprinkles are essential, right? They're the best bit! The biscuits look great when they are finished and would be perfect as little Valentine's gifts (if you can get them in a gift bag fast enough- they lasted one day in my house!) 

I used both a heart cutter and a standard round biscuit cutter, just to show you that they look great both ways. If you don't have heart cutters, you could make yourself a template with greaseproof paper or pop out and get  a set from M&S or Wilkinsons, who are both stocking them.

If you want another Valentine's recipe to make with your kids, pop over to see Danielle's Valentine's Day Cake with Buttercream Frosting. Great fun- get them involved in the decorating!

While, you're there, have a look through some of her other posts.  She blogs about parenting, DIY and the occasional recipe too. You can also catch her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Valentine's Choc Chip Shortbread Biscuits pinnable image

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

I am usually really good at finding interesting ways to use up any bananas that are on the turn (see here for my banana recipes). But, when it comes to apples, I don't have that many recipes at my fingertips. You can make crumble with leftover apples but it's much better with cooking apples than eaters.

When I remembered that a few eating apples were lurking under a big bunch of bananas in our fruit bowl, and that they were a bit past their best, I wasn't sure quite what to do with them. I decided to make an apple cake to use them up, rather than let them go to waste. I was very pleased as the apple cake turned out beautifully, all golden brown with little pieces of apple peeking out of the top. It has a lovely, soft texture and the apple pieces make it very moist.

This apple cake works very well with slightly softened, eating apples (ours were Galas). If you wanted to use cooking apples, you would need to chop them quite small and cook them down a bit with a little sugar.

I was originally intending it to be a cake, cake,  the kind of cake that you eat a slice of with a cup of tea. It's actually even better as a dessert cake, the kind you have warm with a big slosh of cream or a jug of custard. We have tried it with both, just to be thorough in our testing! It's a perfect, simple, winter dessert.

Apple Cake Pinnable image

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Seeded Wholemeal Bread Rolls

Seeded Wholemeal Rolls

Do you ever make your own bread? I first made some when I was at university and I remember being very proud of it! It was a lovely white crusty loaf.  The only problem was that the crust was quite salty and I suspect that I hadn't followed the recipe I was given correctly. I was a bit slap-dash in those days!

I didn't make bread all that often after that day but, when I was getting married, I took the opportunity to put a breadmaker on my wedding gift list. My lovely sister and brother-in-law were kind enough to buy it for me (ahem, I mean us!). It was one of my most favourite gifts and it made me so happy when my sister was pregnant and craving cinnamon, that I could make her a home-made cinnamon raisin loaf.

It took me a little while to brave making bread rolls, because I was a bit scared of trying things that weren't baked in the breadmaker, particularly getting the second rise of the dough right. It's actually not that scary, you just need to tackle the kneading with confidence and find a suitably warm place for the bread to rise again (not my freezing cold kitchen, then!) 

This weekend I made some seeded wholemeal rolls. I wasn't perhaps as careful as I could have been when making the roll shapes, so some of them are a bit rustic looking! I used various seeds that I like in the mixture, but you could switch any of them for a different seed that you personally prefer. We really enjoyed them this week for our work lunches, filled with Very Garlicky Slow Cooker Lemon and Rosemary Chicken, a little mayo and some cherry tomatoes. So delicious!

Don't be scared, have a go- you can do it!

Seeded Wholemeal Rolls Pinnable image

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow Cooker Lamb Madras

Slow Cooker Lamb Madras

You just can't have enough curry recipes in my opinion, especially slow cooker ones. They help to get the absolute best out of those cheap cuts of meat which absorb all the delicious spices. So with that in mind, I was inspired by a pack of diced lamb that I got on special offer, to do a slow cooked lamb madras.

Madras comes in many styles and originates from South India. The name madras for the curry however, is a British invention, like most of the curry names that we know and love.  Madras is a red curry with plenty of chilli used to make it hot. It usually has a sour element included such as lime juice or vinegar, and sometimes will have yoghurt added to cool the heat.

I used both fresh chillies and chilli powder to make this slow cooker lamb madras and add lime juice for the sour flavour. It thickens up beautifully and packs a decent punch in the spice department! 

It will freeze well too, so it's well worth making a nice big batch. Don't forget that if it's been left over night or frozen, the heat will increase.

An added bonus is that is a great deal lower in calories than your average curry take away. I had to chekc the calories 3 times, because I didn't believe the number at first!

This slow cooker lamb madras is syn-free on Slimming World (if you ensure to trim all visible fat from the lamb). This recipe is approximately 180 calories per person (plus the calories for rice).

Slow Cooker Lamb Madras Pinnable image

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