Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Total 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots

Look at this lovely parcel of goodies that arrived for me a couple of weeks ago!

Last year I really enjoyed sampling and reviewing a selection of Total Greek Yoghurt so when they contacted me again to see if I would like to try out their new range of 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots I was more than willing to give them a try.

So, as you can see, I was sent a great selection of different flavours, all neatly parcelled up in a little cool bag (which will come in very handy for our summer picnics!). The split pots are available in four flavours - Honey, Blueberry, Strawberry and Tropical Fruits and combine Total's natural, fat-free Greek yoghurt with a side portion of honey or fruit compote. These yoghurts are higher in protein than other varieties and contain fewer than 130 calories, except for the honey which has 167 calories.

These definitely get the thumbs up from me. I found the fruit compotes to be very sweet, especially the strawberry and blueberry, however in contrast the yoghurt, which has no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, is very tart and, when mixed with the fruit or honey, creates a perfect balance.

Overall I preferred the tropical fruits and honey to the strawberry and blueberry (I've always preferred these two fruits in their natural state), although they were all really nice. The portions are very generous and they definitely kept the hunger pangs away for quite a while. The only small "issue" I had with the honey pots is that the honey was solid when I came to eat them, presumably from being kept in the fridge. I didn't mind too much as I love honey like this, however some people might get frustrated at having to dig the honey out!

If you're interested in giving these a try you can find them in most Waitrose stores for 79p per pot (usual price 1.09)

Thanks to Total for sending me these samples to try.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Meal Planning Mondays (21st March 2011)

Last week I came across a great idea posted by Mrs M of At Home with Mrs M - Meal Planning Mondays! Each week she will be posting her meal plans for the week and has invited other likeminded bloggers to the same.

I'm a great believer in meal planning for two reasons. Firstly I hate waste so pretty much everything I buy has to be bought with a use for it in mind. Secondly, after a busy day I don't want to be spending time trying to decide what to cook. Not that I don't have days when I'm out of ideas of course - that's why I keep oven chips in the freezer and a few jars or pasta sauce in the cupboard.

So how do I decide each week's menu? Hard to say really as it can vary quite a lot. Sometimes I'll grab a big armful of recipe books or my file of pages ripped out of food magazines and choose a few new recipes to try out. Or I might revisit some tried and tested ones. Other weeks I might rely on leftovers from the freezer. And of course a lot of the time it's a mix of all three!

So this weeks menu looks like this...

Monday - Go-to tomato sauce and pasta (garlic oil, pancetta and tinned tomatoes)
Tuesday - Steak & Ale Pie from local producer, Woodwards Farm, with mash & veg
Wednesday - Goats Cheese-topped ratatouille (from the freezer) with garlic bread
Thursday - Chilli Mince with rice & veg
Friday - Tomato & Thyme Cod with Potato Cakes & veg
Saturday - Lasagne

So what are your plans for the week? If you fancy blogging about it too go and check out Mrs M's blog and add your post to the bottom of hers.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Chocolate Key Lime Pie

This is recipe has gone straight into top ten favourite dinner party desserts, ticking every box along the way - it's super easy to make, you can prepare it the night before, oh and it tastes fantastic too!

I chose to make this recipe as part of this month's We Should Cocoa challenge. Each month, participants have to make a recipe that includes chocolate and another pre-selected ingredient.

This month's challenge is being hosted by Chele of The Chocolate Teapot and the extra ingredient is lime which was a fantastic choice. I love cooking with limes and immediately thought of two chocolate lime recipes that I'd come across recently in Nigella's Kitchen book. I ummed and ahhed for ages but eventually settled on this one and I am so glad I did (the runner up was Chocolate Lime Cake with Margherita Cream). It really is so straightforward to make (I think it took about 30 minutes tops) and I absolutely loved the lime/chocolate combination. A 5 star recipe for sure.

Chocolate Key Lime Pie
(adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

300g/10 1/2 oz digestive biscuits
1 x 15ml tablespoon cocoa powder
50g/1 3/4 oz soft unsalted butter
50g/1 3/4 oz dark chocolate chips
1 x 397g can condensed milk, preferably chilled
4 limes to give approx 2 x 15ml tablespoons finely grated lime zest and 175ml juice
300ml double cream
1 square best quality dark chocolate

1 x 23cm x 5cm deep fluted tart tin with loose base

1) Put the biscuits, cocoa powder, butter and chocolate chips into a food processor and process to a dark, damp sandy consistency. Tip into the tart tin and press on to the base and up the sides. Place in the fridge to chill.

2) Pour the condensed milk into a bowl (and if you're using a tin be VERY careful when you lick the lid - which you will). Zest the limes into another bowl and reserve for decoration later. Add the juice of the limes to the condensed milk, whisking to mix.

3) Pour in the double cream and whisk together - in a freestanding mixed or with a hand-held one - until thick, then spoon the mixture into the chilled biscuit crust and use the back of the spoon to finish off the top in a swirly fashion.

4) Chill the pie in the fridge for 4 hours (if the condensed milk was chilled), until firm or, ideally, covered overnight. When you are ready to serve, unmould the pie from the tart tin, but leave it on the base.

5) Grate the chocolate to give a light dusting to the top of the pie then sprinkle with the lime zest. Serve immediately, as it will become soft if kept out of the fridge for too long.

Serves 6-8

The pie can be made 1 day in advance. When chilled and firm, tent with foil (try not to touch the surface of the pie with the foil as it will leave marks) and store in the fridge. Store the zest in a bowl, tightly covered with clingfilm. Decorate with zest just before serving. The pie with keep for a total of 2-3 days in the fridge.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Pasta with Pancetta, Parsley and Peppers

For some reason I was expecting this dish to be fairly plain and understated in the flavour department but that turned out to be emphatically not the case. Nigella, as always, sums it up perfectly...

"This may be an off-the-cuff standby but it really sings for our supper. The salt of the bacon, whichever way you cut it, is balanced fruitily by the sweet softness of the charred peppers. Against the fire of the chilli, there is the bright freshness of lemon...."

I really enjoyed this and, as suggested above, it uses ingredients that I keep in my store cupboard or fridge most of the time so it's perfect for those evenings when you're lacking in inspiration. (If parsley isn't something you always have to hand then not to worry - this dish will work just as well without it).

Pasta with Pancetta, Parsley and Peppers
(adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

1 teaspoon garlic oil
1 x 140g packet pancetta cubes or 1 x 200g packet smoked lardons (or approx 150g streaky bacon, snipped)
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 x 15ml tablespoons cold water
190g (drained weight) chargrilled or flame-roasted peppers, from a jar
20g (supermarket bunch) parsley, chopped
250g spaghetti
salt and pepper to taste

1) Put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta

2) Heat the oil in a medium-sized heavy-based pan (one you can toss the cooked pasta into later). Fry the pancetta cubes or lardons (or bacon) until they start to crisp, then add the dried chilli, grated lemon zest and juice, and 2 tablespoons of water.

3) Let this mixture bubble for a minute. Scissor the drained peppers (still in their colander) into bite-sized pieces, then add these to the pan with half the chopped parsley.

4) Salt the pasta water once it is boiling and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Fish out a small cupful of pasta water just before you drain it. When the pasta is cooked, drain loosely and tip into the waiting pan of sauce.

5) Toss everything together well, and add more pasta water if you need it, then season and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Serves 2, generously

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Blue Cheese Macaroni Gratin

This recipe for Blue Cheese Macaroni Gratin comes from Jo Pratt's In the Mood for Entertaining. I love Macaroni Cheese, both the traditional version and varieties with a bit of twist. This definitely falls into the latter category with the inclusion of blue cheese, wine, roasted peppers and spinach.

In her recipe notes Jo describes this dish as not being too stodgy or rich. Hmm.....I'm not sure you can say that about any dish that includes pasta (and plenty of it), cheese and cream. Not that I'm complaining mind - if you're looking for a hearty, warming dinner then this definitely ticks all the right boxes. It provides the comforting carb-richness of your usual macaroni cheese but with an extra hit of flavour from the blue cheese and pepper and a bit of balancing greenery from the spinach. For me it didn't quite beat the 5 star fabulousness of Delia's Souffled Macaroni Cheese but I still enjoyed it very much and will definitely make it again.

Blue Cheese Macaroni Gratin
(adapted from In the Mood for Entertaining by Jo Pratt)

250g macaroni
20g butter
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
1 sprig of thyme
20g plain flour
200ml white wine
125ml single cream
150g blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, Gorgonzola, Danish Blue or Stilton
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), cut into strips
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
olive oil, for drizzling

1) Start by cooking the macaroni until tender. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the spring onions and sprig of thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spring onions are softened. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring most of the time so the flour doesn't burn.

2) Gradually pour in the white wine, stirring continuously. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove the sprig of thyme.

3) Thinly slice half the blue cheese and keep to one side. Crumble, break or chop the rest and stir into the sauce. Season with a small pinch of salt and a good twist of black pepper. Cook until the cheese has melted.

4) Drain the macaroni well and mix into the sauce. Finally, stir in the red pepper and spinach leaves. Spoon the mixture into two individual shallow gratin dishes or one larger one to share. Lay the sliced blue cheese on top, add a twist of black pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over the surface.

5) Heat the grill to the highest setting. Place the dish or dishes on a baking sheet and grill for about 5 minutes until the top is lightly golden and bubbling. Serve straight away just as it is or with a nice green salad.

This dish can be made ahead of time. Just place the dish/dishes in the fridge and when you're ready to eat, bake in the oven (180c/fan 160c/gas mark 4) for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Serves 2