The Crazy Kitchen: June 2015

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Friday, 26 June 2015

Mexican Jam Jar Salad

As anyone that reads this blog (or indeed knows me) knows that I'm always up for a challenge, especially when it comes to food. Bernard Matthews set me a challenge of creating a lunch recipe for their new campaign, but this wouldn't be just a regular sandwich, wrap or pitta, as it was to be a 'Breadless Lunch Challenge', without any kind of bread at all.

I don't often eat bread for lunch so I'm used to making something other than a sandwich, which is easy enough when working from home, but can be more of a challenge when going out for the day and taking a packed lunch or picnic.

Using a pack of Bernard Matthews sweet chilli turkey breast chunks I put together some layered salads in jam jars, which are then easily transported for eating out.

Mexican Jam Jar Salad

The kids loved these and ate one each as an after school snack - Hanna ate hers straight from the jar but the boys requested that theirs were warmed up and served in a bowl (obviously I didn't warm the lettuce up, and this was served alongside the warm salad). I haven't listed quantities here as it would depend on the size of your jar, so just layer up each ingredient to fill the jar.

Mexican Jam Jar Salad

cooked & cooled long grain rice
mixed beans in chilli sauce
Bernard Matthews sweet chilli turkey breast chunks
sweetcorn
grated cheese
shredded lettuce
  • layer the ingredients in the jar in the order above
  • place a lid on and keep in the fridge until needed
Mexican Jam Jar Salad Mexican Jam Jar Salad
IT'S SURPRISING HOW MUCH YOU CAN FIT IN A JAR



this recipe has been commissioned by Bernard Matthews

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns

I haven't made bread in ages, but the return of some warm weather gave me a good excuse, as it means I don't have to try and find a space in the airing cupboard (which doesn't get that warm anyway) to place the dough to prove.

I wanted to make buns, and as I've made a few flavours previously (toffee apple,  strawberry & lemon curd, sticky plum, cherry, cinnamon, and Nutella) I wanted to try something new this time, and opted for chocolate orange as I knew the kids would love them.

When it comes to bread making you need a little patience, so don't try and rush the process. Make sure you allow yourself enough time for proving twice, so starting in the morning is a good idea. It comes down to a little trial and error at first, and getting used to the feel of the dough, and knowing whether you need to add a little more water/milk or a little more flour. Different flours absorb water differently so measurements of liquid are not always exact, and you may need to add more or less than a recipe states because of this - like I said, it's trial and error at first.

I use my food mixer to mix the dough, but it's not necessary and can all be done by hand - I'm just lazy when it comes to kneading, plus having carpal tunnel & arthritis in my right hand doesn't help!

  Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns - makes 12-15

for the dough
500g white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
50g caster sugar
50g butter, melted
7g yeast
225ml milk (approx)

filling
25g butter, melted
zest of 2 oranges
150g good quality dark chocolate chips - I used Callebaut Belgian chocolate

chocolate orange glaze
50g butter, melted
juice of half an orange (2 tbsp)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp icing sugar

  • add the flour, salt, sugar, butter and yeast to the food mixer
  • with a dough hook attached and the motor running slowly, add almost all of the milk, adding more if it's looking a little dry
  • keep mixing until everything has been mixed together
  • speed the motor up a little until the dough is smooth and elastic
  • place dough in a lightly floured bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot until it's doubled in size (approx 2 hours)
  • turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a large rectangle
  • brush with melted butter and sprinkle with chocolate chips and grate the zest over it, evenly
  • roll the dough up tightly into a long sausage
  • using a sharp knife cut slices approx 1cm in width and place in a greased ovenproof dish or baking sheet - if you bake them closer together they will be softer and deeper, if you space them out they will spread out more, be firmer and larger - see pics of both options below
  • cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot again until approx double in size
  • Once proved for the second time, preheat the oven to 200C, remove the clingfilm and bake the buns for approx 15-20 minutes until lightly golden brown
  • leave to cool slightly before making the glaze by whisking all the ingredients together until smooth and then pouring over the buns

These are delicious when eaten slightly warm but are equally delicious if kept in the fridge and eaten cold, as the glaze firms up a little and the chocolate chips are hard

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns
LEAVE ENOUGH SPACE TO INCREASE IN SIZE

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns
AFTER THE SECOND PROVE

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns
THESE WERE BAKED WITH PLENTY OF SPACE AROUND (BEFORE GLAZING)

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns
THESE WERE BAKED CLOSER TOGETHER - A SOFTER TEXTURE AROUND THE EDGES

Sticky Chocolate Orange Buns
SOFT & GOOEY!




Make Sure Your New Oven Has these Fantastic Features

On the hunt for a new oven? Most people only purchase a new oven when their old model has broken down beyond repair, meaning it’s probably years and years since you last dipped into the market. You’ve only got to look at pictures of ovens considered state-of-the-art going back in five, or ten, year intervals to see how rapidly the technology and range of features available is evolving. The best ovens today have the following features, so make sure you check for these before you make a decision.

Make Sure Your New Oven Has these Fantastic Features

Recipe programmes
Gone are the days when you had to fill your shelves with heavy cookbooks and go through them for inspiration every mealtime. The cookers at the top end of the market today are equipped with multimedia touchscreen cookbooks, which allow you to select from a range of recipes with just a few taps and swipes.

Cooking programmes
Some recipes on your new oven may even have their own cooking function, which will automatically adjust the heat, intensity and method of cooking inside the oven for you – meaning you simply need to prepare a dish and come back to one which is cooked to perfection.

Self-cleaning
Cleaning the oven has to be one of the grimmest and most arduous household chores there is. But go for a state-of-the-art oven and getting down on your hands and knees and scrubbing oven grime away for hours will become a thing of the past thanks to the aqualytic and pyrolytic cleaning systems many are equipped with. An aqualytic cleaning system uses steam to break down any accumulated grease and leave it easy to wipe away, while a pyrolytic cleaning system does the same by heating up the interior to around 490⁰c.

AMICA oven / cooker features  photo cookbook_zpshtbxhtoh.jpg

Energy-efficiency
Be sure to look for the energy-efficiency label when shopping for an oven. A quality oven will have an energy rating of A, A+ or A++, leaving you not only feeling great about doing your bit for the environment, but also with more money in your pocket through big savings on your energy bills.

Safety features
Looking for an oven with the best safety features should be a priority, particularly if you have young children. A good oven door should be double- or triple-glazed and have a cooling system making it safe to touch, as well as telescopic guides meaning you don’t have to reach into the oven to check on a dish. If you’re searching for an oven-hob combo, be sure to look for automatic ignition and burner safety valves, which prevent unwanted gas leakage.

If you’re wondering who could manufacture ovens with such a variety of time- and money-saving features, look no further than Amica, whose range of freestanding and integrated appliances provide intelligent solutions to everyday problems encountered at home and in the kitchen. With the time and money you’ll save after swapping your clunky, chunky old oven for one of the sleek, modern, intuitive and innovative models available on the market today, the only regret you’ll have is not making the switch sooner.


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Monday, 22 June 2015

A MASSIVE Thank You : #BritMumsLive

It would appear that I never managed to thank everyone properly on Friday night at the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging awards, where I just so happened to pick up the award for Best Food Blog. When Carol Smile popped the microphone under my nose and asked me what I thought of the award I blurted out something about having one more thing to dust, oh the shame, but a small insight into how my mind works after a couple of wines and very little to eat.

So, thank you so much for everyone that nominated and voted for me and my little blog, and to everyone that works so hard at Britmums to make the conference and awards happen. I never actually realised how many people read my blog, and follow the recipes, but I came across a few of those avid fans on Friday night & it blew me away!

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GET OFF THE STAGE JESSUP!

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WITH MY AWARD & STEPH

Now that I'm home and back to reality I'm wondering whether anything will change now that I'm an 'award winning food blogger'. It would be nice if some more recipe development work came along, and of course I totally deserve a luxury holiday, but for now I will carry on dusting my award!

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Once again, a massive THANK YOU!






Sunday, 21 June 2015

Is the Era of Fast Food Ending?

I'm not really a big fan of fast food, but at the same time I know there is a call for food in a hurry, but does it all have to be 'junk' food? Would we choose the junk food over something healthier if there were more options available to us? Looking at this infographic it would appear that many of us would.

Is the Era of Fast Food Ending?

Brought to you by euroclinix.co.uk

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake

Charlotte cakes are typically made using sponge fingers, with a mousse type creamy filling, topped with fresh fruit. When Bonne Maman sent me some of their Madeleine cakes and invited me to make my own version of their Charlotte Cake with Madeleine's around the edge, I thought I would make a tropical version, with lovely juicy chopped mango and pineapple on top.

To be honest, I didn't realise that Bonne Maman made anything more than jams and preserves, but they have a whole range of mini cakes, biscuits and tartlets, that look delicious.

This is such an easy dessert to make, with no baking involved at all, and it can be prepared in just a few minutes and kept in the fridge until you serve it to your deserving guests. The filling is a cross between a cheesecake and a mousse, and is an extremely light texture, which would make a perfect summer dessert for a bbq or garden party.

Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake
Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake

3-4 packs of Bonne Maman Madeleine sponges
2 fresh mango
1 pack of pineapple jelly (use jelly cubes not a powdered sachet)
100ml boiling water
600ml double cream
300g cream cheese
1/2 fresh pineapple
  • Line the base of a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin with approx 8 Madeleine sponges, trimming to size to fill any gaps
  • Lay strips of mango over the sponge
  • Cut the jelly into small pieces and pour the boiling water over
  • Whisk until the jelly has completely dissolved
  • In a stand mixer with a whisk attached whisk together the cream and cream cheese until smooth
  • With the motor running on a slow speed gradually pour in the jelly
  • When fully incorporated increase the speed and whisk until soft peaks form
  • Pour into the cake tin and place in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours to set
  • Place Madeleines around the edge (I trimmed the raised mounds off to allow them to sit flush)
  • Top with diced mango & pineapple

Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake Mango & Pineapple Charlotte Cake


This recipe has been commissioned by Bonne Maman


Monday, 15 June 2015

Running the Race For Life Pretty Muddy 5K with Brioche Pasquier

On a damp and drizzly morning on Saturday, myself and nine friends (and family members for support) got together bright and early, following a night of heavy rain, to travel to Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire for the Race for Life Pretty Muddy 5K.

After all that rain we knew it was going to be more than a little muddy, and nothing could prepare us for what lay in store for us.

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TEAM HIXON CHICKS

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PRE RACE POUTS IN THE DRIZZLE

Apparently Trentham is the most difficult Pretty Muddy course and I can understand why, as one of the hills was so steep and lots of runners were finding it necessary to take a break halfway up. We dug deep and ploughed on up to the top though and once there I wished that I'd taken my GoPro with me after all, as the views were amazing.

There were a few obstacles around the course that involved bouncing over inflatables, crawling through tunnels, stepping through tyres and climbing a rope net and back down the other side, which was a step too far for many, but we were so pleased that all of our team managed it, despite feeling sick waiting to climb.

On the [downhill] home stretch we were met with a giant inflatable pool with a few inches of thick mud at the bottom, which we had to crawl through. If we didn't crawl we were prodded by a man with a stick yelling 'get down you filthy ladies', who then threw shovel loads of mud and sprayed water with a hose. It was all good fun, and we soon reached the final obstacle that we'd all been waiting for - the giant inflatable slide with a bath of mud at the end.

All ten of us climbed the rope on one side and slid down together, which felt amazing, especially with our families watching on from the sidelines.
 photo hixon chicks 3_zpson2usu6a.jpg
ABOUT TO GET EVEN MUDDIER

 photo hixon chicks 4_zpsr0fvjq7e.jpg
WE DID IT!

Will we do it again? You bet we will, bring it on!!


Many thanks to everyone that has sponsored us, including Brioche Pasquier who also provided us with t-shirts and Brioche 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Celebrate Father's Day at Beefeater Grill with a Free Steak

It's Father's Day next Sunday, and if you're wondering where to take your Dad then Beefeater Grill has a great offer on. After 5pm on Sunday 21st June every Dad (accompanied by another adult eating from the main menu) can receive a free 6oz flat iron steak meal, or pay to upgrade to a larger steak.

Ahead of Father's Day we were invited to visit our local Beefeater Grill to try out the menu for ourselves. We decided to go Sunday lunchtime and reserved a table for 1pm. Unfortunately we were running late as some of the local roads were closed due to the Ironman passing through Staffordshire, but rang ahead to inform the restaurant. When we arrived we were shown to our table in a bright and airy restaurant, which had recently undergone a complete refurbishment.

Celebrate Father's Day at Beefeater Grill with a Free Steak
PLATES LIKE MY MUM USED TO HAVE

On a Sunday lunchtime you can choose from the main menu or the Sunday roast. I decided to try the 6oz Flat Iron to see what was in store for the Dads next week.

Celebrate Father's Day at Beefeater Grill with a Free Steak
MEDIUM STEAK COOKED TO PERFECTION


Jack had spaghetti bolognaise from the children's menu, Hanna had gammon, and the husband had ribs, which comes with a choice of fat or skinny chips, with spicy seasoning or without, and are unlimited so if you have a big appetite you can have an extra portion or two.

Celebrate Father's Day at Beefeater Grill with a Free Steak
RIBS WITH SPICY FRIES, GAMMON AND KIDS SPAGHETTI BOLOGNAISE

Of course, no meal is complete without a dessert, and  I shared a Lemon Posset with the husband, Hanna ate a Rocky Road Sundae and Jack had a Chocolate Challenge.

Celebrate Father's Day at Beefeater Grill with a Free Steak
ROCKY ROAD SUNDAE, CHOCOLATE CHALLENGE, LEMON POSSET

We're off to a bbq next Sunday, but if you're not sure where to take your Dad then definitely check out Beefeater Grill.

Celebrate Father's Day at Beefeater Grill with a Free Steak



I received vouchers towards the cost of our meal

Friday, 12 June 2015

Quarter Pound Mediterranean Burgers with Mango salsa

We've had some glorious summer-like weather over the past few days, so I've been taking advantage of this and have been cooking outside as much as possible - until the bbq gas ran out on me in the week,  just as I'd popped some chicken breasts on!

Thankfully I'd managed to cook these juicy burgers a couple of days previously. Everyone loved them and they can be prepared easily in advance and stored in the fridge until needed.

Quarter Pound Mediterranean Burgers with Mango salsa


Quarter Pound Mediterranean Burgers with Mango salsa - makes 10 burgers

1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, peeled & chopped
drizzle of olive oil (I used chilli oil)
handful green olives in garlic & herbs*
750g pork mince
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • add the peppers & onion to an ovenproof dish
  • drizzle the olive oil over & stir to coat
  • cover with foil and roast in a preheated 200C oven for around 45 minutes, until softened, leave to cool
  • finely chop the peppers, onion and olives together until it's the consistency of a lumpy paste
  • mix this paste into the pork mince & add the paprika
  • mix together until well combined
  • divide mixture into 10 and form into burgers
  • place in the fridge to firm up and cook under a grill or on a bbq

Mango Salsa

1 mango, chopped
handful of sweetcorn
juice of half a lemon
fresh coriander, chopped
  • mix everything together
   Quarter Pound Mediterranean Burgers with Mango salsaQuarter Pound Mediterranean Burgers with Mango salsa


* For the burgers I used garlic & basil olives from The Real Olive Company, which I also used on a cheese, bacon, tomato & olive tart

Cheese, bacon, tomato & olive tart, with Garlic & Basil olives from The Real Olive Company

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Minion Sweetcorn Fritters - #greengiantminions

Everywhere you look there are little yellow mole type characters wearing goggles and blue overalls, better known as Minions. Later this month (26th June to be precise) the new Minions movie is coming to cinemas, and Green Giant Sweetcorn have teamed up with Universal to celebrate the launch.

 photo green giant minions_zpsfh7oimts.jpg

I've been invited to create a fun Minions themed snack recipe that kids will love, and I definitely think they will love these tasty Minion fritters. Fear not, as no Minion has been harmed in the making of these fritters, as they're packed so full of juicy Green Giant sweetcorn that there's no room for any pesky banana eating creatures.

These fritters can be eaten warm or cold, and taken on picnics - and if you have a fussy eating Minion fan then they could be a great way to get some extra veggies in their diet. I achieved the great yellow colour by using a pinch of turmeric, so no need for any artificial colourings.

Minion Sweetcorn Fritters

Minion Fritters - makes 6-8

165g can drained Green Giant sweetcorn
75g buttermilk
50g plain flour
pinch of garlic granules
pinch of turmeric (to give them the great yellow colour)
olive oil
black & green olives
  • Mix the sweetcorn, buttermilk, flour, garlic & turmeric together until well combined
  • Heat a little olive oil in a pan
  • Spoon some of the batter into the pan, ensuring it's as round as you can make it
  • Add some rings of green olive & strips of black olive for the goggles
  • Cook for a few minutes over a low heat before carefully flipping over and cooking the other side (making sure that the olives don't move out of place) - cooking over a low heat will ensure that they cook through without browning too much & ruining the great yellow colour
  • Serve warm or cold with a little ketchup or sweet chilli sauce on the side for dipping.
Minion Sweetcorn Fritters Minion Sweetcorn Fritters Minion Sweetcorn Fritters



I received payment to cover the cost of ingredients

Thursday, 4 June 2015

#MixUpYourMenu Family Meal Ideas

Earlier in the week I was involved in a #MixUpYourMenu Twitter party hosted by Britmums, and sponsored by Birds Eye. During the party we shared recipes and meal ideas for quick and easy family meals using some of the favourite Birds Eye products, including wholegrain fishfingers, chicken chargrills, burgers and frozen peas.

Here are the meal ideas that we came up with, which the family loved.

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PESTO PEA PASTA

The pesto pea pasta was a dish that I made for my myself after a bootcamp session, by quickly throwing together some freshly cooked pasta, spoonful of green pesto and a handful of frozen peas which had been soaking in boiling water for a minute or two to defrost them.

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FISHFINGER WAFFLE BUTTY

I made these one lunchtime during half term when the eldest had his girlfriend over (I was showing off my cooking skills!). They are simply two wholegrain fishfingers sandwiched between two potato waffles. The kids like them dripping in tomato ketchup, but I would prefer tartare sauce.


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CHICKEN CHARGRILL NAAN BREAD PIZZAS

These pizzas were possibly one of the favourite meals I cooked during our week of mixing up our menu. I picked up some plain naan breads on special offer and topped them with a little tomato puree, grated cheese and a sliced up chicken chargrill, and then popped them in the oven until the cheese was melted and bubbling up.

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MONSTER BURGER

I think these have to be the favourite meal of the week. I barbecued some Birds Eye beefburgers whilst the waffles and Reggae Reggae chicken chargrills were baking in the oven, and then I stacked one of each in a soft white roll. I'm in love with the Reggae Reggae chargrills at the moment, especially as I picked up a few boxes for half price.

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FISHFINGER WRAPS WITH MINTED PEA MAYO

Fishfinger wraps are a very very posh version of a fishfinger sandwich, and is the usual way we eat our fishfingers here. I mixed things up a bit from the usual way of serving with ketchup & mayo, and whizzed up a few [defrosted] frozen peas, some fresh mint and mayonnaise to make this tasty minted pea mayo, which was met with different reactions by various members of the family - a bit like marmite.

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CHICKEN PESTO PASTA 

Another pesto pasta, but this time I added baby plum tomatoes and a sliced up chicken chargrill.

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PERI PERI CHICKEN WITH MEDITERRANEAN RICE

I love the Birds Eye Rice Fusions, as they're conveniently portioned packets of flavoured rice which is ready from the microwave in just a few minutes. I added a sliced peri peri chicken chargrill to a portion of mediterranean vegetable rice for a fuss free dinner, which I served with salad.

 photo beefburger fajitas2_zps64b3zv3q.jpgBEEF[BURGER] FAJITAS

These are a twist on regular beef fajitas as they're made with strips of beefburgers instead of strips of beef. For these I sliced the frozen burgers into strips (with a very sharp knife) and fried them. I drained the fat, removed the burgers and then fried the peppers and onions with fajita seasoning before adding the burger strips back in, and served in a flour tortilla with grated cheese and sour cream. It's also a great way to use any leftover bbq burgers.


How would you mix up your menu?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Better with BRITA - Healthy Green Mojito Smoothie

Smoothies seem to be all the rage at the moment, especially as it's a great way to get your 5 a day without having to spend hours chopping, cooking and chewing. You just throw your favourite ingredients into a blender, whizz it up and there you have your smoothie ready to drink. If you have a fussy eater it's definitely a way to get the fruits and vegetables they dislike into their diets without them knowing - just make sure that you include plenty of the ones they do like, to disguise them.

Everyone has their favourite smoothies, and personally I like a green one, because I find that if I have too much fruit in one hit it makes me tired rather than giving me energy. I love the taste of mint, lime and ginger together so it makes sense to use these in my smoothie, and as I've been growing pea shoots for salads I thought I would throw a few of those in there too, but this can be substituted with baby spinach or kale.

Healthy Green Mojito Smoothie

Healthy Green Mojito Smoothie - serves 2

2cm piece of ginger, peeled
fistful of pea shoots
fistful of fresh mint
2 handfuls of roughly chopped cucumber
juice of 1 lime
2 slices of melon
150ml ice cold BRITA filtered water*

  • add all the ingredients to a powerful blender (I use a Nutribullet) and blend until smooth
  • enjoy!
*use BRITA filtered water to ensure that you receive the full flavour from your ingredients, and it's not tainted with limescale and impurities

Healthy Green Mojito Smoothie Healthy Green Mojito Smoothie Healthy Green Mojito SmoothieHealthy Green Mojito Smoothie





I am being compensated to work with BRITA on their Better with BRITA campaign

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