Blossom on the trees, fresh green leaves making an appearance, pinks, purples, gorgeous yellows, warmer weather, longer days, lighter days ….
Well, that’s the theory. I’m still in hibernation – hesitant to switch off the heating, peering out my windows through the toxic smog which has descended upon London, jackets, scarves and gloves still at the ready and still craving warm, hearty food.
And let me tell you these curried lamb shanks are just what the doctor ordered. Slow cooked lamb in a spicy tomato based sauce until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. Served over a bowl of rice with a generous helping of naan bread on the side to mop up all that lovely sauce.
Well it’s taken me a while to get back into blogging again and I have done so on one condition – I had to join Slimming World.
You see, for every recipe on this blog, I make and test it three times. Now my hubby doesn’t eat desserts or cakes and I don’t want to be giving them to my kids every other day so ….. Well you guessed it. I was eating my fair share and giving the rest away to my hubby’s co-workers. Not the ideal way to live a healthy lifestyle.
So Slimming World it is for the foreseeable future and hopefully more healthy meals on the blog with the occasional treat (or two).
This recipe for a one pot chicken chilli is a delicious family dinner and so tasty. It is one of those meals that gets the juices flowing as it simmers away on the stove top. It is hard to resist and that comes from someone who had to resist while taking these photos.
I love using spices when I am watching the calories and one of my most pinned recipes is my chickpea and spinach curry so I thought this chicken chilli would be a good one to share with you.
I have stated that each portion is equivalent to 2 Syns and that is because I choose to use olive oil to fry the onions and peppers. I just find it easier than trying to use the low calorie spray. I do use it for browning the chicken though.
If you have more success with the Fry Light oil then you could leave out the olive oil and use the low cal spray and the chicken chilli would be completely Syn free.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
1. The reason the preparation time is so long on this recipe is because I use chicken thighs which tend to have quite a bit of fat on them. I take the time to trim this all off but if you wanted to save some time you could use chicken breasts which are much leaner. You would however compromise on the taste and tenderness of the meat.
2. I would try and get as much colour on the chicken in the browning process because chicken thighs can look a bit dull and grey if you leave this process out.
3. I have stated 300ml of chicken stock (I use 1 stock cube) but this will depend on the pan you use, if you use gas or electricity and how fast your simmer rate is. If the sauce looks too dry towards the end of cooking time – add more water. If there is too much liquid – take the lid off and simmer for a couple more minutes until you get the correct consistency.
4. How spicy do you like it? This is a difficult one to put down in a recipe because there are so many different varieties of chillies out there. I use a medium strength chilli but if you’re not sure then try with one less and add more the next time you make it.
You know those days when you fancy something sweet with your cup of tea but the cupboards are bare and you just can’t face a trip out to the shops.
Well I had one of those days yesterday.
I raided my cupboards and unearthed a selection of nuts and decided on making this simple and easy Almond Cake.
The kids were horrified when it came out the oven.
“It looks like bread” and “it hardly has any icing on it” were just a few of the complaints.
Of course they couldn’t resist just a little nibble and that was all it took to convince them that it was delicious. This almond cake is such a forgiving recipe and more often than not I have all the ingredients in my cupboard ready to go.
It is lovely and light and thanks to the Quark it is lower in fat than your average cake recipe.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
1. I use a fan assisted oven which I set to 160°C. All ovens vary so get to know your own oven and adjust the timings accordingly.
2. I have given the measurements for the loaf tin which I use. If you use a different size the cooking time will be different. Test your cake for doneness about 10 minutes before the stated time.
3. Use butter which is at room temperature so that it is easy to cream together with the sugar.
4. I have given the measurement for the almond extract which I use but every brand will be different. There is also a difference between almond extract and almond essence so my advice would be to add a few drops at a time and then taste. It is far easier to add more than to ruin the cake because you have added too much flavouring.
5. When adding the water to the icing sugar, do so in small increments to get just the right consistency. If the icing ends up too runny then add some more icing sugar to the mixture.
6. Add the nuts as soon as you have iced the cake so that they stick to the top of the cake.
7. This cake will start to dry out after about the second day so eat up quickly and enjoy
I am submitting this delicious recipe over to the lovely ladies at ….
So BritMums Live 2014, the UK’s biggest social media and bloggers conference has come and gone. I originally had no intention of going but I was lucky enough to be one of the 6 finalists in the BiBs awards and decided to treat myself to a couple of days of ‘me’ time in London. Sadly I didn’t go on to win the award but Lucy of Supergolden Bakes was a very well deserved winner. If you haven’t already come across her blog then go and have a look – it’s gorgeous. Thanks again to everybody who took the time to vote more me. It was a very special experience.
The event itself was full of positive energy and was packed with energetic and passionate speakers, leaving me feeling completely reenergised about my blog and about life in general. I love blogging but the one area I find the most difficult is building my social media presence. I am just not comfortable with the whole numbers game and find it hard to chase followers purely for the purpose of stats. It was therefore such a delight to listen to the lovely Jaume Marin from the Costa Brava Tourism talk about building relationships between their brand and travel bloggers. As a brand they believe not in the number of followers that you have but more in how you interact with your followers. This just makes perfect sense to me and I applaud their passion and common sense attitude to working and promoting their brand as well as the bloggers they work with. I left that session wishing I was a travel blogger
So what did I get out of my two days at BritMums Live apart from loads of good advice and meeting the lovely Lucy and Elizabeth? The answer is simply a renewed confidence in myself and a desire to be more creative with my time. It is not just about being a wife and a good Mum – it is about doing something for yourself, something that you love and that makes you happy.
And on that note I leave you with an all time classic dessert of a simple but delicious Strawberry and Chocolate Meringue. Perfect for summer entertaining.
Driving home from school the other day, my 5 year old daughter asked me what I’d been up to that day. “I went into London,” was my response. That caught her attention. “Cool, did you go to the Aquarium?” “Uh, no, nothing that exciting,” I told her. “Oh, so did you just go and take some photos then?” “Well no it wasn’t even that exciting,” I said. “I went to listen to some people talk about chicken.” “What! Why would you do that?” I could have just ended the conversation at that point but I thought I would tell her anyway. “Well, they were explaining how to cook chicken properly so that people don’t get sick or worse, even die.” “Well that was a waste of time then because you’ve never killed anyone – have you?” And no I haven’t ever killed anyone or even given them food poisoning but I did find the talk very interesting and I did learn more about the correct way to handle chicken when preparing to cook it.
There is going to be a lot of information in the media this week about this very subject. It is after all, Food Safety Week and the emphasis is on making the public aware of Campylobacter which happens to be the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. I’d never heard of it before but there are more cases of Campylobacter poisoning that Salmonella and E.coli put together. The symptoms of Campylobacter poisoning are abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting but what can be really nasty is the possibility of reactive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Of course not everybody will suffer to the same degree but I personally don’t want to ever be responsible for putting someone in that position.
Now I’m not one to be overly fussy about germs. Our house is clean but not sterile. We are generally a healthy family and I can say this because we have lived in our current house for 6 years and neither my husband nor my two children have ever had to visit our local doctor. I have always been aware of the risks of raw chicken and I think I do take more care when handling chicken than with any other raw meat. I have never been one to wash chicken before cooking it but I do know of people who do. We have had many debates about why you should and shouldn’t with each one of us as passionate about our reasons as the other. It would seem that at least 44% of people surveyed said they do wash chicken and their reasons vary from removing any bacteria to removing the slimy stuff or just because their Mother used to do it. The FSA and local authorities are now campaigning to raise awareness about the dangers of washing your chicken. One of the main ways to get and spread campylobacter is through cross-contamination and by washing your raw chicken you can actually spread the bacteria by splashing it onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment. As the talk progressed I was feeling very pleased with myself and gave myself a pat on the back for not ever having washed my chicken. After listening to both the FSA and a doctor from the Institute of Infection and Global Health we had a demonstration from Sue Ashworth who is a trained home economist. After Sue had cut open the packaging and removed the chicken she threw the packaging straight into the bin and made the comment that “of course you don’t want to rinse the packaging.” That was me brought down from my pedestal – I always rinse my packaging before binning it. I found myself sitting up straighter and paying more attention after that.
So what can we, as home cooks do to reduce the risk of cross-contamination?
1. When buying chicken, make sure the packaging is not damaged and the meat is sealed adequately.
2. Make sure your chicken is not put in with any fresh produce when packing your bags at the supermarket – just in case it does leak.
3. Keep the chicken as cold as possible on the way home from the supermarket.
4. Place it in the fridge as soon as you get home and preferably in the coldest part of the fridge which is the bottom shelf.
5. Try to leave the chicken in the original packaging and always place it in a separate container – again just in case it does leak.
6. If the chicken is frozen, give yourself ample time to defrost it in the fridge – not on your countertop.
7. Before preparing your chicken, fill your sink with hot soapy water. By doing this it means you don’t have to touch your taps to wash your hands.
8. Cut your packaging and remove your chicken either into your baking dish or on to your chopping board.
9. Throw any packaging straight in the bin.
10. Wash any utensils and your hands in the hot soapy water as you go.
11. If you test your chicken with a skewer and the chicken is not yet cooked, make sure you wash the skewer before using it again. This applies to a basting brush as well.
12. Follow the instructions for cooking times given on the packaging. There should be no pink meat visible and all juices should run clear when tested with a skewer or knife.
Remember – thorough cooking will kill any bacteria.
So there you have it. Most of us will instinctively follow good food hygiene but there may be just one or two things that we can improve on to help our families enjoy the food that we give them and above all to stay healthy.
Here is a quick recipe for barbecued chicken drumsticks – a perfect summer snack and an opener for another whole debate about barbecues and food safety :-)