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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup

The weather recently has definitely been more spring like. Coats have been ditched and more time is being spent outdoors. Then, all of a sudden, a frost hits again and we feel that we're back in the depths of winter. What better way to warm yourself up on a chilly day than with a bowl of soup. This butternut squash and tomato soup is extremely simple to make, has few ingredients, yet tastes as good as a good quality cream of tomato, and is a lot healthier too.

The husband wasn't feeling too good so I served him a bowl with a cheese toastie, sprinkled with a few bacon flavour bread bites, from this month's Degustabox.

Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup

Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 stock cube    
400g can of chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
  • Add the butternut squash to a large pan
  • Cover with water & add the stock cube
  • Bring to the boil and simmer until the squash is softened
  • Add the tomatoes and bring back to the boil
  • Remove from the heat and blend to a puree with a hand blender, adding more water if necessary
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

The soup is completely free on Weight Watchers filling & healthy plan (minus the cheese toastie and bread bites).

Butternut Squash & Tomato SoupBrioche Pasquier Bread Bites

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

Easter is almost upon us, which means that Cadbury Creme Eggs will be disappearing off the shelves for another year (well, until Christmas at least), so whilst I had the opportunity to get my hands on some I decided to make a cheesecake, which I've been meaning to do for ages.

This isn't your traditional no bake cheesecake with a biscuit base, as it's a cross between a cheesecake and a cake - you get the best of both worlds. There are two layers of moist chocolate cake sandwiching a creamy vanilla cheesecake layer, packed full of Creme Egg pieces, and topped with a milk chocolate ganache. It's not for the fainthearted or diet conscious among us, as it contains a full 7 Creme Eggs, plus a bag of mini eggs.

Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

for the cake layers
3 tbsp cocoa powder
75ml boiling water
200g butter, melted
200g caster sugar
3 medium eggs (approx 200g weight in shells)
200g self raising flour

cheesecake layer
300g full fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300ml double cream
4 Cadbury Creme Eggs, chopped

ganache layer
100ml double cream
200g good quality milk chocolate chips (I used Callebaut Belgian chocolate)

to decorate
3 Cadbury Creme Eggs, halved
90g bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs
  • Whisk the cocoa powder and boiling water together until smooth
  • Whisk into the melted butter, and then whisk in the sugar and eggs
  • Fold in the flour until fully combined
  • Grease the base and sides of a deep sided, loose bottomed 20cm cake tin, and line the base with baking paper
  • Pour the batter into the tin
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for around 45 minutes, until springy to the touch
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out of the tin & cooling fully on a wire rack
  • Once the cake is completely cool slice the top off & discard (eat) and slice the remaining cake around the middle, into 2 equal slices
  • Make the cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together
  • Whisk the cream in, a third at a time, until it's thick enough to hold it's shape (but not stiff)
  • Stir in the chopped Creme Eggs
  • Place the bottom off the cake into the 20cm tin and spread the filling over it
  • Place the top slice on top and refrigerate overnight
  • Turn the cheesecake cake upside down out of the tin onto a plate or cake stand, so that the base is now the top
  • Make the ganache by bringing the cream to the boil and then pouring onto the chocolate chips
  • Leave for a minute before whisking until smooth
  • Pour over the cake and allow to drip down the sides
  • Decorate with Creme Egg halves and Mini Eggs
Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

Creme Eggs - how do you eat yours?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bolognaise and Chips in the Tefal Actifry Family Express XL

I've been using my Tefal Actifry for a few months now, and I have to say that it's one of the most used small kitchen appliances that I've ever owned. We regularly enjoy eating healthy chips, wedges or roast potatoes that have been made completely fuss-free. It's so easy to use that the kids can use it too, and when I take Jack for his swimming lesson I ask one of the older children to set an alarm for 5.45pm as a reminder to turn it on so that we have chips ready for when we get home.

Up until now we've only had the 1kg machine, which I do have a tendency to overload to make sure there is enough to go around the hungry brood. Recently Ideal World got in touch to ask if I would like to try out one of the Tefal Actifry Family Express XL machines, as part of their 6th birthday celebrations.

Tefal Actifry Family Express XL Tefal Actifry Family Express XL Tefal Actifry Family Express XL

This machine is ideal for our family; with it's 1.5kg capacity I can cook more than enough chips for all of us without overloading it. For a midweek dinner I decided to try something that I haven't tried in the Actifry before, but something we love eating - bolognaise. The advantage of making it in the Actifry is that you can add all the ingredients at the beginning, set the timer for 25 minutes and just leave it, without the need to keep stirring.

As far as I can see, Tefal have made a few improvements to this model that differ from the 1kg Actifry that I had previously :
  • the bowl no longer has a hole in the middle and is instead raised up in the centre, which means there is no risk of leakage into the base of the fryer if it's used without the paddle
  • the paddle has just one button to release it easily from the bowl, whereas previously it was necessary to hold it on both sides, which could be a little fiddly, especially when hot 
  • the lid has a large transparent viewing window making it easier to view the food cooking without needing to open the lid
  • the Express Technology means that chips take around 5-10 minutes less than previously - which makes all the difference when you have hungry kids!
  • Once the programmed time has ended, cooking stops, unlike the older model that keeps cooking - if you don't hear the alarm your food may overcook
Beef Bolognaise in the Tefal Actifry - serves 4/5

1 tbsp olive oil
500g lean beef mince
100g onions, chopped
100g peppers, sliced
100g mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • Add all the ingredients to the Actifry
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes and turn it on
Tefal actifry bolognaise Tefal actifry bolognaise

The dish isn't as saucy as it would be if you cooked it in a pan, but it's no less delicious ,and is great served with freshly cooked pasta.

I also cooked a batch of chips (using just one spoon of Olive oil for the whole pan) in the new Actifry in just 30 minutes, and doused them in plenty of salt and vinegar, just for research purposes of course.

Tefal actifry healthy chips

These dishes are also suitable for Weight Watchers filling & healthy, if you use 5% fat beef mince, and take the olive oil from your daily allowance.

The Tefal Actifry Express XL is available from Ideal World TV
Their  ‘Great Easter Giveaway’ launches on the 2nd April

Monday, 23 March 2015

Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results

Just over 6 months ago I was challenged to do a spot of gardening, which isn't one of my strong points. I planted up some pots for the front garden with bulbs and plants sent to me by Plant Me Now.

This is how they looked back in September...

 photo plantmenowplanted_zps89bdd66d.jpg

It's been a long winter, and the weather is still quite cold compared to last March, and not all of the bulbs have flowered yet. As the front of the house doesn't get much sun I brought the pots into the back garden where there's a lot more, got rid of some of the dead foliage and tidied the post up a little.

before the pots were spruced up :

 photo plantmenow1_zpseur4clb2.jpg

after (perhaps a little too much green still?). As I've said before, I'm not great when it comes to gardening and I may have filled the pots with a few too many bulbs, but they have definitely brightened up the garden this spring.

Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results

Hopefully we'll manage to grow a few vegetables and some summer bedding plants this year without much effort too!

I'm working together with Plant Me Now on this blogger challenge


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