Friday, 27 June 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pinto Bean & Chorizo Stew

Although this recipe works best with pinto beans, you could substitute your favourite kind of beans (haricot, cannellini, kidney, etc) if you can't get hold of pinto beans. Tesco sometimes sells canned pinto beans, but we often buy a bag of dried beans and cook them in our slow cooker before freezing them in 2 cup portions. 

If you use beans that you've already prepared (either by slow cooking or soaking overnight) you'll probably want to reduce the cooking time so the beans don't disintegrate. Canned beans tend to be firmer and need more time to cook.

Adapted from AllRecipes.

Serves: 4-6
Prep. Time: 15 minutes
Cook. Time: 3-5 hours on High, 5-7 on Low

2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled into powder
3 (300g) cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or 6 cups of precooked pinto beans)
1 spicy chorizo sausage, chopped
1 (500g) carton of passata
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsps of cider vinegar
2 tbsps of pickled jalapeno peppers, including juice
2 tbsps of white sugar
2 tsps of smoked paprika
2 tsps of chilli flakes
1 tsp of cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 spring onions, chopped

1. Place all of the ingredients, except pepper and spring onion, in the slow cooker and mix until thoroughly combined. If the passata doesn't completely cover the ingredients, fill one of the pinto bean cans with water and add to the slow cooker. 
2. Cook on High for 5-7 hours or on Low for 9-10 hours.
3. About five minutes before serving, stir in the pepper and spring onions. 
4. Once the pepper and spring onions have started to soften (you still want them to have some crunch), serve on top of cous cous. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Taco Soup

We used our slow cooker a lot when we were students, but we've not had the opportunity to put it to such good use since moving to Edinburgh. A slow cooker is great for feeding a crowd or preparing freezer meals, but since we just have a tiny ice box in our current flat, we have limited space for freezing leftovers. Still, this is one of our favourite comfort meals to make in the slow cooker, and it's relatively easy to throw together, even if the ingredient list does look pretty extensive.

You can adjust this recipe to suit your taste--it works well as a vegetarian meal if you remove the mince and add more beans or corn, and if you find it difficult to get hold of pinto beans, haricot or cannellini make a good substitute. This isn't a very spicy meal, but you can skip the chillies and some of the spices if you really can't handle the heat.

Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking.

Serves: 4
Prep. Time: 15 minutes 
Cook Time: 3-5 hours on High, or 6-7 on Low

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 onions, chopped
3 bird's eye chillies, finely chopped
500g of minced beef
1/2 tsp of paprika
1 1/2 tsps of cumin, ground
1/4 tsp of chilli flakes
2 tsps of dried chives
1/4 tsp of dried oregano
1/4 tsp of dried dill
1 tsp of celery seed
1 tsp of dried parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 (410g) cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (300g) cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups of precooked pinto beans)
2 (400g) cans of chopped tomatoes
1 (326g) can of sweetcorn
1 can of cold water
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of lime juice

For Serving
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips
Fresh coriander

1. Preheat slow cooker. Fry the chopped garlic, onion and chillies in oil until they start to brown. Add the mince and cook until completely brown. 
2. Add mince mixture to slow cooker. Sprinkle all of the spices and herbs on top of the mince mixture, including salt and pepper.
3. Add the beans, tomatoes and corn to the slow cooker. Fill one of the tomato or kidney bean cans with cold tap water and add to mixture. Add balsamic vinegar and lime juice.
4. Stir contents of slow cooker until mixed through evenly and cook for 3-5 hours on High or 6-7 on Low.
5. Serve topped with grated mozzarella cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tortilla chips and fresh coriander.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean Soup with Avocado Sauce

I was planning to post the link to this recipe in one of our Recent Meal posts, only to realise that we deviate from the original recipe a fair bit. We love black beans, Mexican food and anything spicy--and this recipe is definitely spicy. If you find regular chillies a bit too hot, this probably isn't one for you, as it really isn't the same without the scotch bonnet. But unlike a lot of our recipes, this one is pretty quick to make. 

Adapted from Okie Dokie Artichokie.

Serves: 2
Prep. Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 red onion, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (preferably red)
2 teaspoons of cumin, ground
2 teaspoons of chilli flakes
2 teaspoons of ancho chilli powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups of cooked black beans
1 cup of vegetable stock

Avocado Sauce
1 avocado, ripe
1/2 cup of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup of single cream
A sprinkling of paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

To Serve
Feta cheese, crumbled
Lime wedges
Fresh coriander

1. In a medium saucepan, fry the onions, garlic, chilli, spices, salt and pepper until the red onion turns soft and translucent.
2. Add the black beans and stir to combine. After 30 seconds, add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Cook until the beans are hot.
3. While the soup is simmering, mash up avocado with a fork, and mix with cream, coriander, lime juice, paprika, salt and pepper. If you prefer a completely smooth sauce, you could make it in a food processor, but we prefer our sauce a little chunky.
4. Remove soup from the heat and blend with a hand-held blender until it has the desired texture. We prefer our soup to still have some chunks in it, but you can make it completely smooth if you prefer. If you don't have a hand-held blender, you could transfer the soup to a standing blender.
5. Top each bowl of soup with avocado sauce, crumbled feta cheese and fresh coriander, and serve with hot rolls and lime wedges. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Recent Meals #6

Breakfast Tacos with Spicy Green Onion and Cheddar Scrambled Eggs
Who Cooked It: Simon
What We Changed: We used less eggs, pickled jalapeno slices, more black beans, a whole avocado and instead of pico de gaillo we just used some leftover red onion and tomatoes that we had on hand.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? If you're comfortable with multi-tasking, this recipe is relatively easy--you just need to make sure you have the eggs, beans and tortillas ready at the same time.
Verdict: We loved this! We're big fans of black beans, avocado and eggs, so this was a perfect combination of flavours for us. Simon prefers savoury to sweet for breakfast, so it's always fun to discover a new recipe that both of us enjoy.

Ca Kho Tieu (Vietnamese Sweet and Spicy Fish)
Source: Rice and Wheat
Who Cooked It: Simon
What We Changed: We added garlic and carrots, used green chillies instead of red, and added more shallots.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? This isn't the easiest recipe out there, but it doesn't include a lot of ingredients, so it's worth a shot if it appeals to you. Follow the instructions in order and you can't go wrong.
Verdict: This is one of our favourite date night recipes, and I think this was the meal that made me realise how much I love shallots. If you need a new fish recipe and like Asian-style food, definitely give this a shot. We always make this with river cobbler, which is the cheapest white fish we can find, and it just happens to actually be Vietnamese!

Mexican Tortilla Pizza
Source: Honey, What's Cooking?
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We make our own salsa and refried beans, more tomato, pickled jalapeno rather than fresh, plain rather than whole-wheat tortillas, and extra mature cheddar rather than mexican blend.
What We Omitted: Onion and taco seasoning (although we added plenty of spices into our salsa and refried beans)
How Easy Is It? This isn't a complicated recipe (especially if you opt to use premade salsa and beans), as long as you have the patience to prepare each individual pizza. 
Verdict: This is one of our favourite comfort food meals, and if we haven't had time to do a grocery shop, we often have the ingredients on hand to just throw this together. It might not look fancy, but it had a great combination of textures and flavours. 

Puerto Rican Chicken
Source: This one is from Levi Roots' Caribbean Food Made Easy, but the recipe can also be found here.
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We used red sweet peppers rather than bell, and less olives. 
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? This one needs a while to cook, but once it's in the oven you don't have to do anything except add the olives for the final 15 minutes. 
Verdict: This is another of our favourite recipes, and it's a great way to use chicken thighs (which are typically a lot cheaper than breasts). Colourful and a wonderful blend of flavours!

Easy Grilled Maple Dijon Salmon with Spicy Sweet Potato Chips and Salad
Source: How Sweet Eats
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We used a smaller amount of salmon, and I had to add in a little wholegrain mustard as we didn't have quite enough dijon.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Super easy, especially if you already have cooked bacon. Mix the ingredients together, spread on salmon and grill. I chose to make sweet potato chips as a side, but you could make a quicker side dish to save time. 
Verdict: I don't think we've ever found a How Sweet Eats salmon recipe that we don't like, and this one is no exception. Since we always have maple syrup and dijon mustard on hand, I imagine we'll make this again when we have leftover bacon that we need to use up. 

Bacon & Corn Griddle Pancakes
Source: Recipe Girl
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We used less bacon, regular onion, and extra mature cheddar.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Other than cooking the bacon beforehand, this isn't any more complicated than any other pancake recipe out there. 
Verdict: This is one of our favourite breakfast recipes, and the one that convinced us to always cook our pancakes in a griddle pan. Once you've tried it, there's no going back! The combination of bacon, sweetcorn and maple syrup is a great mesh of sweet and savoury flavours. 

Pesto Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Roasted Asparagus
Source: Damn Delicious
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We used fusilli rather than shell pasta, and mozzarella balls instead of cubes, and adjusted the amounts for serving two.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Super easy, especially if you use premade pesto and prechopped/balled mozzarella. You can cook the asparagus and pasta at the same time, then throw it all together while quickly frying the eggs.
Verdict: We'll definitely be doing this one again. It's always a pleasure to find a flavoursome recipe that's also quick to make. 

Sun-Dried Tomato Fish with Roasted Potatoes, Corn and Greens
Source: Bev Cooks
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We substituted a few things to make this recipe cheaper/easier: river cobbler for cod, new potatoes for pee-wee, tinned sweetcorn for fresh, and used chives for a garnish.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Probably not the easiest, since it involves a lot of multi-tasking to cook the fish, potatoes and vegetables at the same time. 
Verdict: We really liked this one. We have a tendency to cook the same fish recipes over and over (especially when it comes to white fish), so we'll probably be adding this to our rotation. We don't tend to eat a lot of potatoes, but we loved the ones in this recipe.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

31 Weeks

How far along? 31 weeks & 5 days
Total weight gain/loss: Some of my friends said that their weight gain pretty much doubled in the final trimester, and I think that's going to happen to me as I seem to have put on a total of 17lbs now! Which amounts to 8lbs in the last three weeks, I think? It definitely makes sense, given how rapidly my bump is growing. 
Maternity clothes? Still half and half, surprisingly enough. Anything long and elasticated still fits. I'm amazed that all of my nightdresses (satin, ranging between sizes 8-12) still fit. Those things stretch in a surprising manner. I'm determined not to buy any new maternity things unless I can wear them after the baby is born and nurse in them, since it came to my attention this week that most of my maternity tops and dresses are entirely impractical for breast-feeding.
Stretch marks? Still none! 
Sleep: I'm definitely needing more and more of it, but I'm sleeping pretty well. Simon said that I occasionally make weird noises in my sleep and wake him up, and apparently I snored last night. 
Best moment this week: I don't think anything particularly astounding happened this week. We're just chugging along, trying to prepare for the baby's arrival. 
Movement: My midwife told me that the baby's movements are meant to become less noticeable in the third trimester (more like rocking motions than kicks) but so far I'm still getting lots of kicks and punches! The baby is still small enough that it can reposition itself several times in one hour--sometimes its head will be right below my ribs, and then off to the side, and then down the bottom. Its also had hiccups a few times this week. 
Cravings/Aversions: I flip between craving salty and sweet snacks on a daily basis, and I've definitely been eating more chocolate than usual. In general, I'm just more hungry than usual, which I'm taking as a good sign. I've never had a massive appetite, but this baby needs the extra calories.
Gender guesses: We've still managed to keep it a secret from most people, which even we're surprised by! It's still fun hearing everyone's guesses. Word of advice: We both really like the colour purple, so if we buy something purple for the baby, it's really not an indication of its gender. It's just our favourite colour. 
Labor Signs: None, but I'm having Braxton Hicks more often, especially whenever I walk somewhere. It's not too annoying, thankfully. I didn't actually realise I'd been having them until the midwife described them (far better than any book or website I'd perused) at our first antenatal class, and I was like, "Oh, that's what Braxton Hicks feels like? I've been having those for weeks!" 
Belly Button in or out? Still in. Simon is convinced that it's about to pop, but it's held on pretty well so far.
What I miss: Being able to bend over without the baby kicking me in protest. It's not very patient of mummy's need to shave her legs, tie her shoelaces or pick up anything she's dropped on the floor.
What I am looking forward to: Getting our changing table! We've received a huge amount of baby clothes (especially since some friends have a five-month-old and gave us all the things their baby had grown out of) and I'm looking forward to being able to put everything away into drawers, rather than having a pile of bags in the corner of our study. I think we'll feel more ready once everything is organised. 
Weekly Wisdom: It's okay if you want to throttle everyone who says "Wow, you're huge!" In fact, you should probably just get a T-shirt made up that says, "Yes, I know I'm huge, you don't have to remind me."
Milestones: I don't think we've hit any particular milestones this week, but people have started commenting on my bump, which was a long time in coming. It genuinely took until 29 weeks before anyone who didn't already know I was expecting asked about my pregnancy. So far it's just been our upstairs neighbour (who very politely asked me if I was "with child") and one of the cashiers in Tesco, but it still seems like an achievement!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Recent Meals #5

Lemon & Lime Pound Cake

Who Cooked It: Rachel, although Simon helped with some of the zesting
What We Changed: We used very slightly less sugar (as we ran out), Sprite instead of 7-Up (cheaper) and instead of using water in the glaze, we used even more lemon and lime juice!
What We Omitted: We tried to dry the zest, but it didn't look very appetising, so we just used fresh zest.
How Easy Is It? This was my first attempt at using a bundt pan and it turned out really well. I'd definitely recommend using an electric mixer for this recipe (it doesn't have to be a stand-mixer--I have a little hand one), but as long as you have a mixer, the correct pan and the patience to zest a lot of fruit, you're good to go!
Verdict: This cake is really, really good. I made it for our Easter service at church and although there were leftovers (more for us!) everyone seemed to love it. It feels rather heavy when you're carrying it, but it doesn't taste dense at all. Highly recommended. We just need another excuse to make it...

Asian Chicken Noodle Broth
Source: This one is from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, but can also be found online here.
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We used mange tout instead of snow peas, a mixture of poppy and sesame seeds, more chilli (duh) and we happened to have green bird's eye chillies on hand, and added garlic. This recipe talks about "rice sticks" (which I don't think is the same wording as the recipe in the book) but we used rice noodles.
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Not super easy, since there's a lot of steps and you have to flip back and forth between different tasks. But it doesn't take a long time either, so if you're good at multi-tasking and want a quick recipe, this one is definitely for you.
Verdict: We eat a lot of Asian food, so this suited us perfectly. It has a great mixture of textures and flavours with all the different vegetables, nuts and seeds. If you like strong flavours, you'll like this. 

Thai Chicken Pizza
Source: How Sweet Eats at Tasty Kitchen
Who Cooked It: Both of us
What We Changed: We used more shallots and zucchini, and just cooked it on a pizza tray rather than a pizza stone.
What We Omitted: We didn't need the cornmeal with the pizza tray, and we skipped the basil. 
How Easy Is It? Pretty easy, especially if you already have cooked chicken on hand. It's basically just chopping up vegetables and sprinkling them on the pizza dough. You can even cheat and use premade dough! We make ours using this recipe, but with a hand-mixer rather than a stand-mixer, which really gives your arm a good workout. 
Verdict: We love this pizza. Whenever we have a pizza night, Simon always requests it, and no matter what we pair it with, this one always comes out as our favourite. 

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto Pizza
Source: Handle the Heat
Who Cooked It: Both of us
What We Changed: We substituted goat's cheese for feta as we already had some in the fridge, used more prosciutto, and added some tomatoes that needed to be used up. 
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Even easier than the other pizza, since you don't have to cook the meat beforehand. 
Verdict: This one was really good, even if the Thai pizza is still our favourite. The flavours went well together, and the tomatoes were a good addition. 

Macaroni & Cauliflower Cheese Bake
Source: This is another one from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, which can also be found here.
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We played around with the quantities in this recipe--a whole cauliflower, slightly less pasta, slightly more crème fraiche, slightly less cheese. 
What We Omitted: Nothing
How Easy Is It? Pretty easy. We've found that we don't actually have a bowl large enough to sit on top of the pan we cook the pasta and cauliflower in, so we just had a separate saucepan of hot water which we cooked the sauce over. In theory, this recipe sounds like it saves space on the hob, but not for us. It's still easy to make, even if it's not as practical as it sounds. 
Verdict: This isn't as flavoursome or exciting as some recipes we've made, but it's a nice, quick recipe. And who doesn't like cauliflower and macaroni cheese? It goes well with a green salad and some garlic bread, and we always have plenty leftover for lunch the next day. 

Chicken Mole, Veg & Rice
Source: This one is from The Slow Cook Book, and you should be able to view the recipe if you click on page 250 here.
Who Cooked It: Simon
What We Changed: This is a meal we had sitting in our freezer for a while, so I can't completely remember what we changed. I know we used chicken rather than turkey, and I imagine that we used fresh chillies rather than chilli powder, and we probably added larger quantities of spices. 
What We Omitted: Nothing that I can recall
How Easy Is It? Unlike some slow cooker recipes, you need to cook this one partially on the stove before transferring it to the slow cooker, so it's not as simple as it might appear. 
Verdict: We pulled this out the freezer on an evening when we were supposed to be going out, but I was too tired. Fortunately, it reheated well, and we had some veggies in the fridge to serve with it. Previously we've served this with different salsas and it's worked well. This is a rich, flavoursome meal, even if it's not one of our favourite Mexican dishes. 

BBQ Beef Beet Burgers with Avocado Feta Cheese Smash
Source: Running to the Kitchen
Who Cooked It: Rachel, although Simon helped towards the end
What We Changed: We substituted a combination of dried rosemary, thyme and oregano for Herbes de Provence, ground up some linseed in our pestle and mortar instead of using ready-ground flaxseed, and used feta rather than goat's cheese as we already had some in the fridge.
What We Omitted: Lettuce. It seemed a waste to buy a whole lettuce just to top a couple of burgers. 
How Easy Is It? You can buy pre-grated beetroot, which will definitely make the preparation time quicker. Otherwise, this is a pretty easy recipe--mix the ingredients together, make into patties and fry the burgers. The avocado topping is super easy to prepare as well.
Verdict: We always love trying new burger recipes, and this one was a hit! We served it with onion rings (from the freezer) and extra BBQ sauce. Definitely one to make again. 

Blackened Chicken & Strawberry Salad
Source: Cherry on My Sundae
Who Cooked It: Rachel
What We Changed: We reduced the quantities a little as we were just cooking this for the two of us. Next time I'll probably half the quantity of the vinaigrette that I make as we had tons left over. 
What We Omitted: Onion powder
How Easy Is It? The vinaigrette takes a while to prepare, but the rest of the recipe is super easy!
Verdict: We served this with couscous mixed with more cranberries, some raisins and extra lemon juice, and it worked really well! Even if it took a while to make the vinaigrette, it was worth the time as the whole meal was super tasty. We don't make salads very often, but I think we'll have this one again sometime. Also, if you do make extra sauce, you can totally serve the leftovers over ice-cream ;)