Slow Cooker Leek and Potato Soup

It's been a busy week with parents' evening and my birthday, so not much time for cooking! But today I made a gorgeous slow cooker leek and potato soup with one of my birthday presents.  It was a new Morphy Richards slow cooker and I love it. 

I haven't made leek and potato soup very often at home before, but I'm always drawn to it, if it's on offer for a restaurant starter, and I do occasionally buy tins of it. There's something very comforting about eating it. The advantage of slow cooking the soup is of course the convenience, but also that you don't need to use any butter. It makes a nice thick, creamy leek and potato soup that keeps really well in the freezer. A definite winter warmer.

If you are doing Slimming World, this recipe is "Syn" free.

Slow Cooker Leek and Potato Soup pinnable image

Cheat's Mince Pies

These are quite the cheatiest mince pies you'll ever find! Minimal effort, a bit of mess, but worth it. Shop-bought mince pies are lovely, but the pastry is usually quite soft. I much prefer it to be short and crumbly. By posting this, I'm doing something that annoys me so much, when I read other people's recipes. So many times I have been researching something new and found something that looks good to try, and the recipe is full of shop bought items, jars of enchilada sauce, Italian dressing and so on. I get grumpy, and then start googling "How to make traditional enchilada sauce". It's not the sort of thing I would normally post about.

So be warned, if you've arrived at this recipe, it's not really a recipe, it's more how to put these ingredients together! As you know, I don't make pastry, and the mincemeat was on special offer.

Basically, if you want to eat home-made tasting mince pies with minimum fuss, this is for you. If you want to make your own pastry and learn how to make mincemeat from scratch, keep on googling!

Rustic Chocolate Chip Scones

Close up of scones in a cake tin with text

Scones are a fabulously British thing, the cornerstone of every Afternoon Tea. Traditional scones are light and fluffy, perfect with fruity jam and clotted cream. Usually the only additions to the traditional dough that you might find are dried fruit or cheese. I like a lot of different non-traditional scone flavours though, and chocolate chip is one of my favourites.

These chocolate-chip scones are nothing like the delicate scones you get at afternoon tea. They are much more rustic; nothing delicate about them and they have dark chocolate chips dotted through them which gives them a rich flavour. Not exactly a traditional scone, but sometimes you just need more chocolate in your life. You probably won't want any jam with these scones, but some clotted cream won't go amiss!

Rustic chocolate-chip scones are great for a breakfast treat, afternoon tea or an after-school snack. Hope you enjoy them!

Images of chocolate chip scones with text

Mini Chimichangas

We are obsessed with Mexican food at the moment.  Due to the sad lack of Mexican restaurants where we live, we always choose Mexican whenever it's on offer in other places. Cardiff, which we visit a lot, has an abundance of choice! We can't go to Cardiff every time we fancy some though, so trying to do home-made was the next step.

My husband recently tried chimichangas and loved them, so that's what I went for first. Very simple.  The trickiest part is the folding and keeping them together when they fry. Lesson learned, keep  toothpicks in the cupboard for this purpose!

The chimichangas became mini when I realised that I had small flour tortillas. Another lesson learned, the bigger the better really, unless you want to have mini ones as part of a buffet.  Which would be amazing, so we should all definitely do that too! In this instance, it was for dinner, so we just had lots of mini ones. They are great with spicy rice ( a recipe for another day!) or with salad.

A note about the level of spice. I put a fair bit in, but we thought it could have taken more. So if you are a spice fiend like we are, add more, if you're spice wary, take a bit out.

Well worth giving them a try.

How to Use Yummly to Store Recipes

Yummly is a fab new find if you are a recipe fiend like me. It's a haven of millions of recipes from blogs and websites around the world and it allows you to store all the recipes that you find in one place together. I highly recommend signing up for an account (it takes seconds).

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Brownies  are not something that I bake very often, despite how much I enjoy eating them! I tend to veer towards cake or tarts when I want to bake something. These Cheesecake Swirl Brownies are lovely and fudgy, but the outside edge is quite cakey, which is handy if you have some people who don't really like the fudgy texture.

The  cheesecake swirl in the brownie gives them a nice additional flavour, but more importantly, makes them look pretty! Using cream cheese in the UK can be problematic as our cream cheese, including Philadelphia, has a lot more water in it than US cream cheese. So when we use it for baking, mixing it with egg etc, just makes it even runnier. Some bloggers advocate squeezing a lot of the water out of it using a cloth, not something I have tried! I tend to just try and work with it.

You will need to be persistent with this recipe, to make sure the cheesecake swirls through effectively. It's worth the effort, though, as they look and taste amazing. Good luck!

Sausage Tray Bake

Pinnable image with text for Sausage Tray Bake

This is the quickest sausage recipe that I know. It's a brilliant 'chop it all up, chuck it all in' type recipe. Perfect after a long working day for a quick weeknight dinner. Ideally you need one of those large rectangular baking trays to cook it on. My favourite are the Circulon ones. They are just the right height at the sides to stop oil spilling over, and they clean beautifully. Nothing sticks to them either!

The Sausage Tray Bake recipe has parsnip, potatoes and peppers with garlic, thyme and rosemary mixed together with the sausages for added flavour. Because all the ingredients in this recipe cook together, none of the flavours are lost and everything gets a lovely stickiness from the sausage juices. I can't tell you how delicious it is! If you're not a huge fan of sausage, you could swap it out for chicken, but you would need to let the veg cook for a good 15-20 minutes before you add the chicken, so it doesn't dry out.

Put Sausage Tray Bake on your list of quick dinners today!

Pinnable image with text for sausage tray bake

Traditional Apple Crumble

Close up of a dish of cooked apple crumble

Apples are in abundance at this time of year, so it's a brilliant excuse to make apple pie and apple crumble. 

You just can't beat crumble in the autumn; lovely crunchy crumble topping, sweet/sour apple filling, a hint of cinnamon and a great big dollop of custard. Yum! It also brings back memories of childhood. My mum makes a mean crumble, usually with fruit my dad has grown. Making apple crumble is incredibly easy. You just need to make sure you have the quantities right and that you get the blend of spices that you like. I personally prefer a high crumble to apple ratio, especially if I am having custard.

The Americans call Apple Crumble, Apple Crisp, which I don't really understand- it's not crispy? Apple Crunch would be more like it! Crumble is very quick and simple to make and it's usually a crowd-pleaser as it's such comfort food.

Pinnable image and text of traditional apple crumble recipe

Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Gammon

Close of up of shredded brown sugar gammon

Today's recipe is for Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Gammon. Gammon reminds me a lot of my childhood. Gammon steaks with pineapple and eggs! It's a bit of a weird British thing. I didn't eat it for a long time as an adult, but in my search for different meals to cook for dinner, it came back on my radar. It's often included in the 3 for £10 meat deals, making it very affordable too. 

I have cooked gammon steaks on the grill in old-school style, but they can be quite rubbery if you're not careful. By far the best results I have had with gammon, is by slow cooking it. For slow cooking, I buy the gammon joints which are around £3 for 750g usually. Slow cooking them makes them fall apart beautifully so they can be shredded and shredded gammon makes amazing sandwiches! This Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Gammon recipe has a sweet, garlicky flavour to offset the saltiness of the meat. It's amazing hot with roast potatoes or cold in salad.

Give it a try- it's a cheap and easy meal.

Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Gammon pinnable image with label

Easy Meat Pie

My mum is a  pie-maker extraodinaire. My husband and my brother-in-law are always pleased when "Pam's Pies" as they call it, makes a delivery. My dad is less pleased about how many pies get given to them and not to him!

I decided I ought to learn from the master and get to grips with pies myself, so that I could  make a pie for my husband when Pam's Pies were on hiatus. The easiest way, I have found, is to use the slow cooker to cook the meat.  As I use shop-bought pastry, that means there's very little to do after that. Easy.

You can also use this mixture to make mini pies as snacks, you just need to cut up the ingredients much smaller.

Chicken Fajita Pasta

Close up of chicken fajita pasta with grated cheese on top

Quick weeknight dinner ideas are a must in our house and Chicken Fajita Pasta is one of our favourites.  I try to have a few quick dinners at my fingertips for days when I have late staff meetings, parents' evening and that sort of thing. Sometimes we'll have something shop-bought with a jacket potato; chicken kiev and jackets, chunky breaded cod and jackets, that sort of thing. But more often than not, I prefer to cook something quick myself.

When I want to cook, pasta is always a winner for speed. Plus you always have some in your cupboard! I quite like spicy pasta dishes, and Mexican food is a great inspiration. I'm a huge fan of Mexican food. There are no Mexican restaurants where we live, so we always take the opportunity to eat out in one if we go anywhere else. I always order the chicken fajitas- yum! And that's what inspired this chicken fajita pasta dish. Chicken, peppers, onion, tomato and seasoning- All the flavour of fajitas, but with pasta instead of tortillas! 

Chicken fajita pasta is easier to make than it might first appear- I always read recipes where it tells you cook something and then set it aside while you do the next bit, with some suspicion. Sound complicated! Well there's some 'setting aside' involved in this recipe and it's really not complicated, so don't be put off!

You don't need many ingredients that you wouldn't already have. Fajita seasoning is easy to find; most supermarkets have their own version and all the big spice companies make it too. Jalapenos are also widely available- I like the Santa Maria brand. They really give the pasta dish the kick it needs. 

Next time you are in the mood for Mexican, give Chicken fajita pasta a try!

Apple Pie Cupcakes

My dad brought me another big haul of apples from his garden last week. I wanted to use them to do something different for lunch, when my sister and her children were visiting.  I came up with a twist on an apple pie-  apple pie cupcake! I told my niece that the cake had a surprise inside. She first licked off all the icing and then an hour later ate the cake part and declared "Apple!"

The batter needs to be quite thick to stop the apple from sinking to the bottom, so don't over mix it.

Onion Gravy for Sausage and Mash

Onions are such a staple. I go into panic if I forget to buy them- there's not many recipes that can be done without an onion! I tend to keep traditional white onions and shallots to hand all the time, with the occasional red onion if I need it for something in particular and spring onions in the summer.

Onion gravy is really something that I only ever had in a pub meal. Gravy at home was either good old Bisto, or was made from the juices from the roast. But those gravies are just no good for when you're having sausage and mash; onion gravy is so much nicer. It's very easy to make, but you have to be patient!

You need to resist the temptation to turn up the heat and cook them quickly. Ideally, you want a medium heat and to cook them really slowly until they almost break down a little bit. It will probably take around 20 minutes if you do it right. The slower you do it, the more the natural sugars are released (apparently!).

close up of onion gravy