Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Simple Spicy Chicken Pasta

Every Sunday,  my husband and I look through the following week's plans to see how many nights we need a quick dinner due to late meetings and things like that. We usually have a few slow cooker meals ready in the freezer, but it's handy to have a bank of quick-to-make dinners too. A favourite quick dinner of ours is Spicy Chicken Pasta. It only has a few ingredients and is great for using up left over chicken. If I get in late, it's great to be able to walk into the kitchen and knock something tasty like this up, in about 20 minutes.

It's essentially a tomato, garlic and onion-based pasta sauce, with a good hit of chilli and some red pepper thrown in too. It has a lot of flavour and can be thrown together very quickly. It's a great way to use up left over roast chicken too, if you have any.

If you're doing Slimming World,  switch the oil for a low cal oil spray and switch the harissa paste for powder to keep it "syn" free.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blueberry Doughnut Muffins

When I go out for a cuppa with friends, I always veer towards something chocolatey or cinnamony to go with it. Chocolate muffin, thumbs up, cinnamon swirl, I'm in. I hardly ever choose a blueberry muffin, but I don't know why as they are completely delicious!

I made Blueberry doughnut muffins as the alternative option to lime and coconut cupcakes  (recipe here) for colleagues last week. The blueberry ones disappeared very quickly, with only one coming home with me! I made them with lots of fresh blueberries. I'm sure that means that you could eat them for breakfast... fruit, yes?

I would definitely make them again. The recipe is an easy adaptation of my strawberry duffin recipe.

Chocolate Orange Easter Nest Cake

Chocolate Orange Easter Nest Cake

When Easter's coming up, the thing that gets me in the Easter mood is definitely Cadbury's mini Eggs. They are the perfect treat. Crack the shell with your teeth and crunch the pieces and then let the chocolate  melt in your mouth- yum! I like them far more than Creme Eggs, which although nice, are sickly sweet and you have to eat the whole thing. I have vivid memories of my mum bringing home those little Cadbury Easter Nest cakes, that had vertical lines of buttercream inside and one Mini Egg on top and us eating them as an after-school treat.

With that in mind, I have been determined all week to make a big Easter Nest Cake with Mini Eggs, and I really wanted it to be chocolate orange. My search for orange curd took over a week and 5 supermarkets before my husband finally found some on an off-chance visit in the 6th supermarket! I know it's not too tricky to make citrus curd, but I had a really busy week on, plus a nasty cough developing, and time was of the essence!

This Chocolate Orange Easter Nest Cake recipe makes a really moist buttery sponge and it has a thick chocolate icing covering it. I put the orange curd through the middle with a thin layer of the chocolate icing,  but I think you could just use a thicker layer of the orange and leave the chocolate out. If you're not an orange fan, you'll need something to cut through the sweetness of the chocolate, some plain cream cheese icing might work. The icing is seriously glossy and chocolatey and looks very impressive when you spread it across the top.

It's a very easy cake to put together, so give it a try as an Easter treat if you have family coming round this year!

The Improving Cook- Chocolate Orange Easter Nest Cake

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lime and Coconut Cupcakes

if you love citrus and tropical flavours, you're going to want to make these Lime and Coconut Cupcakes. I am a big fan of citrus. I love it. Lemon, lime, orange, even grapefruit. I love those flavours. Sometimes, I might love them a bit TOO much! I remember making lemon chicken for my dad once when I was still at school, and him saying "Yes that was nice. Might be a bit strong on the lemon for some people!". Don't worry though, these Lime and Coconut Cupcakes aren't too crazy on the citrus front.

One of the great things about citrus flavours is how beautifully they go with other flavours: lemon and garlic, lime and coriander, orange and cardamom and so on. A hint of citrus makes something feel instantly tropical too, visions of sunloungers, sarongs and cocktails with umbrellas!

As we're currently in a seriously cold spell with rumours of snow at Easter (!), I could do with a tropical vision or two. With that in mind, I whipped up a batch of these lime and coconut cupcakes. It was parents' evening this week, so making them for the staff was a good enough excuse for me! One of my colleagues who tried one, said the flavours were "perfectly balanced", and as she's a supremo cake maker, I take that as a huge compliment! Hope you enjoy them too.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Creamy Slow Cooker Rice Pudding

When I haven't made anything desserty, my husband's go-to dessert is a tin of rice pudding. Now, he, like a lot of people, eats his rice pudding cold. In my opinion, this is madness! Why wouldn't you want it all warm and delicious, with some jam melting in the middle? Crazy! Hot or cold, tinned rice pudding is absolutely nothing on home-made rice pudding. It reminds me of school dinners where, if you could face getting through the dreaded skin, there was warm deliciousness waiting underneath. Mmmm!

I could never be bothered to stand over a saucepan stirring, so I never made it.... until I got a slow cooker. With the slow cooker, you only need to stir it three times, just three! Plus you can wander off and do other things in between. You should definitely give it a try. Double bonus- you can make a really big batch  and eat it over a few days.  

There is a slight health warning though! This recipe is absolutely full of full-fat dairy products, so if you're watching the calories, step away now. Go on, don't look! Alternatively, swap out some of the ingredients- swap double cream for something like Elmlea and swap full fat milk for skimmed, and you'll have cut down on at least some of the calories.

When you next need a big batch of comfort food, give this a whirl!

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding pinnable image

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

I was away for some of this week doing some pretty intense training. I was lucky enough to stay with a friend while I was doing it and we got talking about dessert. She makes home-made dessert for the weekends like most people, I guess. I was explaining that weekend only home-made dessert would not go down well in my house! My husband would think the world had ended! 

I grew up in a dessert family. We had all the usual traditional puddings: syrup sponge, crumble and so on. These days, my mum only really makes dessert when we are all visiting, as my dad claims he doesn't like "sweet things"... Funny how "sweet things" go missing on a regular basis when only he's around though... A case for Miss. Marple!

When I got back from training, I was glad to do some therapeutic baking! I added rhubarb to my usual apple crumble, and used less sugar to keep the sharp taste. I used Pink Lady eating apples for some natural sweetness, plus the sweetness of the crumble.

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