Saturday, July 01, 2017

Feta Cheese Salad with Balsamic Dressing


The Improving Cook- Feta Cheese Salad


With the warmer weather over the last few weeks (and the heatwave that I really wasn't a fan of), all I have wanted to eat is salad. That has encouraged me into looking for a bit more variety in my ingedients. Lettuce, tomato and cucumber on their own gets old fast, and there's really no excuse for a boring salad!

This weekend, I was in the mood for something Greek-style and I had a block of feta cheese in the fridge. I added a few delicious salady bits to contrast with the soft saltiness of the feta, whipped up a garlicky balsamic dressing and hey presto- a simple feta salad. The feta really is the star of the dish. If you can't be bothered to roast the peppers you can either put them in raw, or buy roasted peppers in a jar. It's absolutely delicious served as a starter, or with some crackers for lunch, or as a side dish at a BBQ. 

Strictly speaking, a Greek salad doesn't include any lettuce, but I'm a big fan of the baby leaf kind, so I put it in everything. It would also usually have a lot more olives, but I only used them as a garnish. I did only say Greek-style right...? You can always throw in more if you're a big olive fan.

The balsamic dressing is easy to make in whatever quantity you need and will keep in the fridge until it's finished. It really tops off the dish.


The Improving Cook- Feta Cheese Salad  pinnable image

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes

Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes on a plate


The recipe I am going to tempt you with today is Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes. A lovely summer meal that requires only a small amount of prep.

I love fish, really love it. I will happily eat any fish put in front of me. I even still love fish fingers. I have fond memories of sitting in my nana's back garden in Cumbria, in a den she had made out of sunloungers and a picnic blanket, eating fish finger sandwiches with my sister. Happy times!

I usually buy cod and salmon when I fancy some fish, but I am happy with the much cheaper cobbler or pollock as well. Cod is a lovely meaty fish, but it can be a little bland. For this recipe, I added flavour to the cod bites through the chunky breadcrumb crust with garlic and chilli and served it up with some oven roasted new potatoes with yet more garlic and some rosemary. It was light and just perfect for a warm summer's day. I'd venture that the crusted cod bites would be pretty delicious served on their own dipped into tomato sauce or tartare sauce- yum!

These home-made crusted cod bites would be perfect to serve up to kids. If you think the chilli won't go down well, you could switch it for paprika.

Crusted Cod Bites are syn free on Slimming World if you use spray oil on the baking tray and use the bread for your Healthy Extra B.


Crusted Cod Bites with Garlic and Rosemary New Potatoes pinnable image



Friday, June 02, 2017

Mediterranean Summer Salad

Mediterranean Summer Salad pinnable image

I am SO excited about this Summer Mediterranean Salad recipe! It's fresh and so full of summery flavours, I could eat it all day and not get bored. The inspiration for this salad came from a recent visit to a brasserie (The March Hare, Guildford) with my parents. It was a really hot day, and their 'Summer Salad' was the only thing that appealed as a starter in that sort of heat. When it came, I couldn't believe what I was eating because it was so delicious. How excited can you really get about a salad? Pretty excited as it turns out! I left determined to create my own twist on the idea.

After a week of tossing ideas around in my head, I came up with the Mediterranean Salad recipe I wanted to use. It uses the base idea from The March Hare salad of starting with bulgar wheat and lentils and topping the salad off with roasted red peppers, but I have added several other salad ingredients and made my own dressing to twist the flavours towards the more acidic side, rather than sweet. It's choc-full of Mediterranean ingredients.

I'm going to put it out there from the start- this is not a recipe that you can sling together on a Monday morning for your take-to-work lunch. It's perfect as a starter before dinner, or as a side at a BBQ, or when made in bulk on a Sunday ready for work lunches, but it does require around 45 mins of your time to get it all together.

The processes you'll need a little time for are: roasting the pepper, cooking the lentils and the bulgar wheat and making the dressing. Don't be put off though. If you're short of time, there are some short cuts you can use, such as buying pre-roasted peppers in a jar and using shop-bought dressing. If you do want to roast your own pepper, there's an excellent guide here: Don't Feed After Midnight

The result of your hard work will be a very tasty, filling salad, packed full of nutrients. Not one of those salads that leaves you feeling hungry half an hour later! Fibre, iron and protein from the lentils, protein and magnesium from the bulgur wheat and Vitamin C, B9 and potassium from the beetroot to name just a few of benefits. If you wanted to make the salad regularly and keep it interesting, you could change it up with a touch of goats cheese, some olives or some chargrilled chicken. The possibilities are endless!

While the sun's shining and the weather's warrm, this is the salad that you need. Try it- you won't be disappointed!

If you're following Slimming World, this is a syn-free salad if you switch the dressing for a syn-free branded one. With my dressing, it would be 6 syns. You could keep it down to 2 if you reduce the olive oil right down to 1 tsp.


Mediterranean Summer Salad pinnable image


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chocolate Chip Ginger Cake

The Improving Cook- Chocolate Chip Ginger Cake

I love ginger cake. I love ginger in general, but ginger cake really is gorgeous, and dark chocolate accompanies it really well. The slightly bitter chocolate taste complements all that sticky golden syrup and sugar, add some chocolate buttercream and mmmmm, you've got yourself a winner!

A little while back I made a chocolate chip ginger sandwich cake, for one of my husband's colleagues who was leaving. It went down very well, lasted about 5 seconds according to my husband, but I never remembered to take any photos. I had some time spare this weekend, so I decided to have a bit of a baking/cooking day and make it again.

This chocolate chip ginger cake recipe makes a pretty foolproof sandwich cake. The ginger sponge is feather light and just slightly sticky. The only thing you need to watch out for is when you come to turn the cake out. It will stick and crack at any opportunity, so make sure that the tin is well greased and let the cake cool for several minutes before trying to turn it out!

The Improving Cook- Chocolate Chip Ginger Cake pinnable image



Sunday, May 07, 2017

Quick Summer Fruits Crumble

Quick Summer Fruit Crumble pinnable image


I am so ready for Summer to come round the corner, so I can put away my winter wardrobe, plant up up my garden and start carrying my sunglasses wherever I go. I want to eat strawberries, avocados and salad and sit in the garden on sun-loungers. Doesn't seem like much to ask, but summer is being quite contrary...

One of the other great things about summer is all the delicious fruit that comes into season- strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots, blackcurrants, nectarines. I love it all! We're not quite in the season for those fruits yet in the UK, although some early British strawberries are knocking around. I use the BBC Good Food Season Table to keep an eye on when I'll be able to find the fruit I want.

In my determination to bring summer on, I decided to make a Quick Summer Fruit Crumble for dessert, using the fruit that I could find. I mixed raspberries, blackberries and blueberries together in the bottom of a ceramic dish and poured the crumble mixture over the top. No pre-cooking and no peeling required makes it a super-quick crumble to make!

There are some nice summer fruits available now, but from June, you should be able to buy British- even better.


Quick Summer Fruit Crumble pinnable image

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bruschetta Flatbreads

Bruschetta Flatbread


I tend not to be very imaginative when I order starters in an Italian restaurant. I go for the Bruschetta almost every time. I'm so predictable on this front that I could even rank all the chain restaurants by how good their Bruschettas are (Pizza Express- excellent, Zizzi- terrible).

Bruschetta is a beautifully simple dish- some type of bread, chopped, sweet, fresh tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil and away you go. I like to use different colours of tomato, like the red and yellow cherry tomatoes, because it looks so pretty when it's served. Some people like the bruschetta topping to be warm, almost like pizza, but traditionally it's cold, with the warm bread underneath. That's the way I like it- it makes me think of summer!

Making your own bruschetta is very easy. Take any good bread like French stick or ciabatta and drizzle it with garlic oil or spread it with garlic butter and grill until crisped a little. Then serve straight away with the tomato salad topping and a little salt. Delicious for lunch, starters or a snack.

If you really want to go fully home-made then try out my simple flatbread recipe below and serve freshly cooked with bruschetta topping.




Monday, April 17, 2017

Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

 
Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

This week I have been making vegetable curry in my slow cooker. If you like a really fiery curry, often a vegetable curry is the way to go. The veg absorbs a lot of the heat from the spices and really packs a punch! The advantage of using the slow cooker (apart from the usual bonus of leaving it to do its thing)  is that it keeps the curry very low calorie because no curry paste or oil is needed. Add that to the fact that veg and pulses in themselves are packed full of nutrients and protein, and you're on to a winner all round. This slow cooker vegetable curry has around 160 calories for a pretty big portion. Can't ask for better than that!

I love everything about having a curry. Naan bread in particular is a hot favourite for me. I would rather have curry and Naan than have any rice. I'm hoping one of my friends who are experts in Asian cooking will teach me how to make them myself one day. The shop-bought ones are such a disappointment, but I made do with them!

  For this veg curry, I used butternut squash, potato, chickpeas, orange pepper, onion, coconut milk and plenty of chilli! You could adapt it by adding or swapping out your favourite veg. Cauliflower would be a lovely one to include. I made this version quite spicy by using fresh chillis and chilli powder, but you could swap that out for a mild chilli if you prefer less heat. Make a big batch today and pop some in the freezer for next week.  

Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

If you are following a calorie controlled diet, like My Fitness Pal, this recipe is around 160 calories per portion. If you are following Slimming World this is a 1 syn vegetable curry if you use Alpro light coconut milk. Other light coconut milks are 3-4 syns per portion.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...