Quick Recipe – Liven up that fruit

Here’s an idea for a simple, healthy, delicious breakfast that also makes a lovely dessert or snack for any time of the day. 

Fruity Granola Surprise

  1. Slice up your favourite fresh fruit into a bowl.  I usually like apples, but peaches are particularly delicious at the moment.  You could also try plums or grapes – anything you like as long as it’s fresh!
  2. Spoon over a fruity fromage frais (I like the little Petits Filou ones), or your favourite fruity yoghurt.
  3. Top with a few spoonfuls of granola or muesli (I like Sainsbury’s FreeFrom Sunflower Seed and Hazelnut Granola) to give it a nice crunch.

As an alternative, how about this slightly more indulgent variation from my daughter – instead of granola, crush some caramel flavour Snack a Jacks and mix with the fruit and fromage frais!

Enjoy!

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Courgette and Lemon Drizzle Cake

Faced with a growing pile of courgettes from my allotment, I was pleased to find this fantastic recipe on the BBC Good Food website.  Here’s a link to the original recipe Frosted courgette and lemon cake and below is my adapted version.   Of course I changed it to use gluten-free flour, but I also added some ground almonds and used traditional butter icing for the filling and topping rather than a cream cheese frosting.  I used lemon curd (my Mum’s home made one – I must get the recipe for that!) for the filling as suggested, but if you need to transport the cake anywhere, I would leave it out, as it makes the two layers slide apart.

One extra thing I added was a few teaspoons of  a milled seed and nut “super food” mix from Linwoods.  I thought this might make up for the loss of the whomeal flour from the original recipe.  It’s entirely optional, but I found it added a litte extra something.  I used the milled flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and gojo berries mix.  You can buy it in large bags, but I found a “Mini Variety” box in Holland and Barratt which has 7 sachets with five varieties so you can try all them out: Linwoods website and Mini variety packs info.

Don’t let the fact the cake contains courgettes put you off, think carrot cake – only green and even nicer!  I took some slices to work the next day and all agreed it was tasty and moist and even those who purported not to like courgettes loved it.

Courgette and Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients

  • 300g butter, plus extra for the tin (200g for the cake and 100g for the icing)
  • 3 unwaxed lemons
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 medium courgettes, coarsely grated (you’ll need 300g flesh)*
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds, plus extra to decorate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g self-raising gluten-free flour
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsps milled seeds and nuts (optional – see above)
  • 225g icing sugar (25g for the drizzle and 200g for the icing)
  • 4 tbsp lemon curd (optional)

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Zest 2 lemons, then squeeze their juice into a separate bowl. Put 200g of the butter and the caster sugar into a mixing bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. 
  2. Gradually mix in the eggs and 2-3 tbsp of the flour.  Add the courgettes, 1 tsp poppy seeds, vanilla and lemon zest and mix into a creamy batter. Stir in 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, the remaining flour, ground almonds, milled seeds (if using), baking powder and salt and mix well.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the tins, then bake for 25 mins or until risen, golden and springy in the middle.
  4. Make a drizzle by mixing another 1 tbsp of lemon juice with 25g icing sugar.
  5. When the cakes are ready, cool for 15 mins in their tins, then turn onto a cooling rack. Prick several times with a cocktail stick and spoon over the drizzle and cool completely. (Can be frozen at this stage for up to 1 month.)
  6. Put the remaing butter (100g) into a bowl and beat until soft.  Slowly stir in the remaining icing sugar (200g) and enough lemon juice to make soft creamy icing.  Grate in the final lemon’s zest and beat well.
  7. Put one cake onto a serving plate and spread with just under half the butter icing. Spread over the lemon curd, if using. Top with the second cake, spread the remaining butter icing over the top and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Courgette Lemon Drizzle Cake

*Courgettes can hold quite a lot of water, which can affect the finished texture of your cake. If your grated courgettes seem watery, place them into a clean cloth and wring out some of the liquid into a bowl. Then add the courgettes to the cake mixture as normal. The timing for cakes containing courgette can depend on the water content of your courgettes, so return the cake to the oven for another 10 mins if it needs it. Simply test with a skewer and make sure it comes out clean.

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I’m back!

Well, it’s been six whole months since my last post – so much for posting once a week!  Quite a lot’s happened in those six months and whilst not stopping me from writing a blog (and here come the excuses), they really pushed it down my list of priorities.  The main thing is, I got a new job, and whilst I love it, it’s full time in London, requiring a daily commute which is exhausting. Also, I was allocated an allotment in March (really a surprise as I was only on the waiting list 7-8 months and expected it to take years) which takes up a LOT of your time if you do it properly (which of course I do try to).  And my ankle, whilst healing still gives me some grief and actually just sitting at my computer for long periods can be quite stressful.

So in short, I feel like I’ve been running (or hobbling) round a never-ending treadmill for the last six months, living day to day, working all week and collapsing at the weekends (after doing all the housework and tending my plot of course.)  I’ve thrown myself whole-heartedly into my new job, all thoughts of starting up my own business are out the window and I still weigh more than ever, despite taking up an ambitious exercise routine and eating more lettuce than I ever thought possible.  I’ve got myself elected onto a Coeliac UK volunteers committee, and now I’ve got onions, courgettes and green beans coming out of my ears and no room in my freezer!  More on these subjects later, for but now, I’m back, and I’ve been BAKING!  Who knew there were so many things you could cook with courgettes!  Delicious glut busting recipes (and yes I mean glut) to follow very shortly….

And one final thing, thanks to Marie, who gave me the push I really needed to get back on here again – cheers Marie, this is for you!

Posted in Musings and Misc | 2 Comments

Eggy Chicken Escalopes

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for chicken that I’ve had for ages but never got around to trying out.  This morning, I took some chicken from the freezer to defrost for a casserole tonight, but then one by one, each family member announced they wouldn’t be home for dinner today (a not infrequent occurrence).  So, rather than make the casserole anyway, I decided to use the chicken to try something new from my collection of recipes that are just waiting to be tested.  This particular recipe comes on an old recipe card from Tesco entitled “Healthy Eating Chicken Escalopes” by Brian Turner. I’m not entirely sure it’s “healthy” as it’s fried, but the simple egg coating helps keep the chicken deliciously moist whilst cooking.

It was very easy to convert this recipe to be suitable for coeliacs, I simply used gluten-free flour instead of normal flour.  Serve with a crisp salad and grilled tomatoes and mushrooms or if you’re feeling a little more indulgent, it goes really well with chips (gluten-free ones of course!)

Eggy Chicken Escalopes

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 4 chicken escalopes or 2 large chicken breasts sliced in half
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2 tbs crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbs gluten-free flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Method

  1. Put the flour in a bowl and season with salt and pepper
  2. Coat the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess
  3. Whisk the eggs, crème fraîche and parsley together
  4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan
  5. Coat the chicken in the egg mixture and place directly into the hot oil
  6. Cook over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turning half way though, until golden brown and cooked through
  7. Drain on kitchen paper and serve at once

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Valentine’s Day Biscuits

Here’s a quick recipe for some pretty looking and delicious tasting Valentine’s Day biscuits.  They are of course gluten-free!

The biscuit recipe is a basic shortbread recipe taken originally from the book “Healthy Gluten-Free Eating” by Darina Allen which I’ve changed to suit Valentine’s Day.  I added vanilla essence instead of lemons, and increased the amount of flour slightly as I find every time I make this shortbread, it really is too soft to roll easily, even after chilling.  For the toppings I used Royal Icing (from Tate & Lyle) as I think it gives a much firmer set, but you could easily use simple water icing if you keep it quite thick.  I used coloured sugar sprinkles from Morrisons and Asda, both of which are gluten-free (ie they don’t have any gluten-containing ingredients). I also used Mini Mini Marshmallows from Dr Oetker and some plain red boiled sweets.  Basically anything you can find that’s sweet and pink or red and gluten-free will do!  I left my icing white, but you could always add a few drops of pink colouring. And a good tip for applying sprinkles and mini marshmallows – pour them onto a plate or saucer, ice the biscuit then turn it over and press into the topping – you get a much neater finish that way and less waste!

Valentine’s Day Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 175g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g rice flour, plus extra for dusting*
  • 75g ground almonds 
  • 100g icing sugar or royal icing sugar mix
  • Gluten-free sprinkles or sugar to decorate
  • Mini mini marshmallows (optional)
  • Red/pink boiled sweets, crushed

* use plain flour if you don’t have to worry about being gluten-free

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.  Line several baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in the vanilla essence.
  3. Add the rice flour and ground almonds and mix until combined.
  4. Knead lightly until the dough is smooth. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour, which will make the dough firmer and easier to handle.
  5. Roll out the dough on a rice-floured work surface to a thickness of 5mm. Alternatively, roll out the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper.
  6. Cut out biscuits using various sizes of heart shapes if you have them and transfer carefully to the baking sheets.
  7. To make the “stained glass” biscuits, cut out a large heart shape, then use a smaller cutter to remove the centre.  Transfer the biscuits to the baking sheets then fill the centre with some crushed sweets, being careful to avoid overspills.
  8. Bake, in batches if necessary, for 10-15 minutes until golden.
  9. Sprinkle a few with caster sugar while still warm, leave the rest plain for icing.
  10. Leave the biscuits to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
  11. Make some royal icing as directed on the packet (or make your own if you know how), or simply add a few drops of water to some icing sugar to make a thick paste (we are using it as glue!)
  12. Decorate your biscuits using the icing to stick the sprinkles and marshmallows.  Double up some biscuits if you wish for extra indulgence (see photos.)

I hope you enjoy these simple but yummy biscuits.  I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment to let me know how you get on or you have any questions.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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A weighty problem

I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to eat pretty much what I like without having to worry too much about putting on weight.  I’ve never been a fitness fanatic, but I’ve always done something like dancing, gardening, walking etc to keep me active.  When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease last year, the dietitian told me it was normal for people with CD to put on some weight once they started on a gluten-free diet.  The reason for this is that once the gut starts to heal, it begins to process food properly thereby absorbing more of the nutrients (and calories) rather than it passing straight through.  Well, I took this with a pinch of salt and pretty much carried on as usual, although obviously replacing normal foods with gluten-free foods where necessary.

The first change I noticed was that my “chest” grew (I’m not kidding) by two cup sizes!  “So”, I thought, “this is not so bad after all!”  However events conspired against me, and 10 months later – I’ve never weighed so much in my whole life.  These “events” consist of 1) not being able to think about ANYTHING but food since being told I could no longer eat a large proportion of it, 2) being made redundant after 20+ years (very stressful), and 3) breaking my ankle, effectively putting paid to any exercise whatsoever for the last two and a half months.  Also there is the fact that most “free from” foods are quite awful, so I began to bake more and cook more from scratch.  And the cakes and biscuits and meals I was cooking were delicious and very moorish.  And of course on top of that is one thing they don’t tell you and that is that your appetite comes back!  I didn’t even realise I’d lost mine until I found I was finishing every meal with relish, whereas previously I used to leave half on a regular basis

So it’s come to this, I can’t fit into most of my clothes, I feel miserable when I look in the mirror, so I’m going to have to go on a DIET!  Well, I’ve tried diets before, but never very seriously or successfully.  I always remember many, many years ago when I first started working, I was tiny, I couldn’t even eat a whole bag of crisps at once.  For some reason I don’t recall, I decided to go on a diet.  I remember feeling starved and giving in and eating a WHOLE bag of crisps, in one go, for the very first time. That put me off dieting for a long time.

I’m not one for fad diets and I do try to eat quite sensibly, although I am a bit too partial to cake and biscuits with my tea!   However, recently I came across a fairly new diet idea (it was in the Reader’s Digest as it happens) and it’s called the Alternate Day or Famine and Feast diet.  The theory is that you diet only every other day and that makes it easier to bear, because you know that the next day you can eat normally.  It’s meant to echo the caveman days when we might not eat for several days, then catch or find some food and feast for a few days.  You can find more details here if you are interested (Feast or Famine).  There is plenty of discussion about it on the Internet, some in favour, some not, you need to make up your own mind.  In slightly more detail, you need to limit yourself to just 500 calories or less every other day for two weeks to kick-start the “skinny gene”, then after that you can be a little more relaxed.  I’m currently on my third “down” day and it is HARD.  The first two down days, I thought I was eating very lightly, but when I totted up the calories, it came to about 7oo the first day and nearly 800 on the next.   Today I’m already up to 500 and I’ve only had breakfast and lunch!  Hmm, it’s harder than I thought but I’m going to stick with it, because I need to do something and I think I might be able to get the hang of it if I persist. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Counting calories is actually quite hard but whilst trying to find a list of calories, I found a lovely little website called FoodFocus.co.uk.  It has a huge database of UK foods (which makes a nice change) and you can add them to your diary to keep a track of what you’re eating.  There are even some gluten-free foods listed, but any that aren’t can easily be added manually using the information from the packet.  It also allows you to track your intake of fat, protein etc as well as weight, exercise which is really handy.

So there you have it, not the worst side-effect of coeliac disease but certainly an insidious and somewhat irritating one.  I guess this means yes, coeliacs can eat cake – but just not too often 🙂

Note: I am in no way affiliated to any of the links mentioned in this article, they are simply links to websites and articles I found interesting.  FoodFocus.co.uk is in no way connected to the diets mentioned above.

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Are you missing Kellogg’s Squares?

Before I was diagnosed with coeliac disease I used to love Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Squares. 

But of course, these, like all other Kellogg’s products are now strictly off-limits due to the high amount of barley malt flavouring in them.

So imagine my joy at discovering that Adriana Rabinovich of Gluten-Free Cooking for Kids has a recipe for making a treat very similar to these delicious crispy, yet chewy, marshmallow bars.  I made some of these recently and they are fantastic. I think I only had a couple of pieces, my family snaffled the rest! Be aware though it does make quite a lot, so make sure to use a BIG saucepan or just make half the first time. I’ve copied the recipe below and added a few bits of my own (hope you don’t mind Adi 🙂 )

If you prefer something a little sweeter, you can reduce or even miss out the salt.  Also, I found one of these new silicone spatulas to be ideal for smoothing the top as the mixture stuck to a metal or wooden spoon, but not to the spatula.

Marshmallow Crispie Squares

Ingredients

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 285g marshmallows
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 215g gluten-free rice crispy cereal

Method

  1. Butter a large square tin and line with greaseproof or baking paper. 
  2. Measure out the rice crispies, this will give you an idea of the size of saucepan you will need to use.
  3. Place the butter in the saucepan over medium heat.  Melt the butter until foamy.  The foam will eventually clear (be patient) and you will see the clear, golden liquid underneath. 
  4. Using a wooden spoon stir to make sure the butter isn’t burning.  It will go a lovely nutty golden brown colour – but do keep your eye on it as it can catch and burn very quickly after this point. 
  5. When the butter is a nutty golden brown, add the marshmallows and salt and take the pan off the heat.  The residual heat in the pan should melt the marshmallows gently.  Stir a little to help the process, but if this isn’t happening, then place it back on the heat until the marshmallows are completely melted.  Stir until smooth. 
  6. Add the rice crispies to the marshmallow butter mixture and stir through to coat evenly.  Using a spatula, place the mixture into the tin and press down firmly until it’s even and fills all the corners. 
  7. Chill in the fridge for about 2 hours.  When cold cut into squares or bars and watch them disappear. 

         
         

If you liked this recipe, be sure to take a look at Adriana’s book “The Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids” which has loads of kid-friendly recipes.  And of course, big kids will love them too!

(Adriana wanted me to be sure to mention here that she first saw the recipe on a lovely website called www.smittenkitchen.com)

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War on Waste recipes

I can’t be the only one who is always ending up with food that’s just about to go out of date, or there’s only a bit left, maybe enough for one or two, but not the whole family?  Thought so.  Well, I hate throwing food away so I quite regularly cook on the fly depending on what’s in the cupboard/fridge/freezer and I thought I’d share some these ideas with you.  I’m not saying they all look pretty or taste fantastic, but they are all edible and gluten-free as well as helping out on the war on waste.  By the way if you haven’t seen it, here’s a great website dedicated to helping people stop wasting food:

http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

One thing to remember with these “recipes” is to always taste the food before serving it to other people!  Another thing is that these are not hard and fast recipes, adjust according to what you have available and what you like.

So here’s one to get us started.  I had two DS Sweet Breakfast rolls (these taste just like a sweet brioche if you’ve never had them!), a load of mushrooms, some marscapone cheese and a few sundried tomatoes to use up.  Many years ago, I had a starter at a dinner and dance that I’ve always remembered as being delicious and unusual.  It was like a mushroom strogonoff on a toasted brioche. So that’s what I’ve tried to recreate and I think it’s great as a starter, breakfast or brunch.

This recipe serves only one, so multiply it up for more people.  I had two rolls, but think maybe that was a little greedy, up to you:

Creamy Mushrooms on Toasted Breakfast Roll

1 knob of butter
1 tsp ready chopped shallots
4-5 medium mushrooms
2-3 sundried tomatoes
1-2 tbs marscapone cheese
1-2 tbs milk
Pinch of mixed herbs
Shake of paprika
Salt and pepper
2 DS Breakfast Rolls

  1. Slice the sundried tomatoes into small pieces.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the shallots and tomato pieces.
  3. Slice the mushrooms thinly and add them to the saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat until the mushrooms are softened.
  4. Add the marscapone cheese and stir until melted.  If it’s too thick, add some milk until it’s nice and creamy.
  5. Add the herbs, paprika and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Meanwhile, slice the rolls in half and grill or toast lightly
  7. Arrange the rolls on a plate and top with the mushrooms.

Alternatives/options:

I used ready chopped shallots from a jar (from Morrisons and I think you can get them in M&S too), but you can use a fresh shallot, or bit of onion or leek or even spring onion.  If you don’t have marscapone cheese, use cream or creme fraiche.  If you fancy it cheesy, shake in a little parmesan if you have it.  No DS rolls?  Use whatever gluten-free bread/rolls you do have!

I’ve love to know if you like these recipes.  Are you a nervous cook – does this help or make it worse?  Would you prefer fail-safe recipes?  Please comment – I’d love to hear from you.

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Luscious Gluten-Free Apple Cake

This is definitely one of my favourite recipes.  It’s based on a recipe I found in delicious. magazine where it’s called Dorset Apple Cake. It converts really well to gluten-free and, as it’s so moist, I like to call it my Luscious Apple Cake.  The recipe calls for cooking apples, but if you don’t have them, eating apples are fine.  I also made it once using plums.  I guess you could use all sorts of fruit, pears, peaches, whatever you have handy.  But in any case, the best bit is definitely the crunchy demerara sugar on the top.

I think this cake is best served warm straight from the oven with cream or ice cream.  It’s just as nice cold the next day, or you can easily warm a slice for 15-20 seconds in the microwave.

For those who don’t like or can’t eat nuts, just leave the ground almonds out. Also the original recipe says to drain the apple pieces, I never do, I just put it all in, maybe it helps to counteract the dryness of the gluten-free flour and keep the cake moist.  I don’t think it makes it too lemony. I also like to add a teaspoon or so of mixed spice to lift the flavour.

Something else to note, I’ve made this cake loads of times and I’ve never noticed until now it says to dredge with caster sugar when you remove it from the oven.  Personally I think the demerara sugar is quite enough!

Ingredients

  • 225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 450g Bramley apples
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g caster sugar, plus extra for dredging
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225g gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease a deep 23-24cm springform cake tin and line with baking paper. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1cm pieces, and toss with the lemon juice.
  2. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a little flour with each addition to keep the mixture smooth.
  3. Sift the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold in with the ground almonds and mixed spice. Stir the apple pieces into the mixture.
  4. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, lightly level the top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well-risen, brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to look a little too brown, cover with a sheet of baking paper after about 45 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Dredge heavily with the extra caster sugar.
  6. Cut the cake into generous wedges and serve warm with a spoonful of clotted cream, if you like.
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May contain Wheat!

I was sorting through some files on my PC this morning and came across this photo and thought I really ought to share it, mainly for those who may be looking at my blog who haven’t experienced what it means to live gluten-free.

In the first week after my diagnosis last year, I went through all my kitchen cupboards and my freezer and took out everything I was no longer allowed to eat.  It was quite heartbreaking at the time, so much so, I decided to record it:

As you can see, it’s not just bread, biscuits, cakes and pasta.  It includes almost all processed foods such as packet sauce mixes, cereals, crackers, stock cubes, frozen turkey burgers, fish fingers, soup, vinegar, soy sauce, oats and probably worst of all, Maltesers!

I fed most of this now poisonous food to the rest of my family over the next few weeks, I gave some away to relatives and friends, and even threw some away.

OK, there are alternatives, but most of them don’t taste the same, and it makes shopping a minefield.  Take chips for example, McCains Crinkle Oven Chips, they are fine, but McCains Homefries Crinkle Oven Chips – nope, contains wheat – as I pointed out to my other half when he proudly brought them home from Tesco last week. Fair play he did try,  and pointed out that the ingredients list said “rice flour”, but as I pointed out, it also said “wheat flour”, and said “Contains – wheat” in the Allergies box!  So now we’ve a huge bag of chips neither my daughter or I can eat in the freezer.  Ho hum.

So, I now cook most meals from scratch using fresh ingredients, and we’re probably much healthier for it, so it’s not all bad. I know there are many worse things in the world than having to live on a gluten-free diet, so I don’t like to moan too much, but I just thought I’d share this, for me, life-changing photograph.

And I do wonder just how many people don’t realise they are eating so much hidden wheat every day without knowing it?

Next time,  a proper cake recipe – promise!!

Posted in Coeliac Disease, Musings and Misc | Tagged , , | 8 Comments