Quesadilla: With refried beans, sweet potato and tomato salsa dip

Quesadilla: A Cracking Good Food Session

Quesadilla and Salad

Quesadilla and Salad

According to Wikipedia, a quesadilla is “a flour tortilla or a corn tortilla filled with a savory mixture containing cheese, other ingredients, and/or vegetables, cooked often on a griddle, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape”. Or as the Cracking Good Food Cooking Lead called it “fancy cheese toasties”.

Stuffed flat breads are available the world over, in various forms and flavours, so are a fairly good way to introduce people to new flavours and foods without it seeming too different from what they may be used to. In the UK, a ‘cheese toastie‘ is, in its’ purist form, two slices of bread with some cheese in between them and grilled until the bread has crisped up and the cheese all gooey inside. There are of course lots of variations to these fillings, my personal favourite being cheddar cheese, mushrooms and chilli flakes! Even thinking about it makes my mouth water…

Cracking Good Food is a community cooking network promoting cooking from scratch, and using sustainable and seasonal ingredients. So for this session we were showing older people how to use store cupboard ingredients and left overs to create tasty quesadilla in less than 30 minutes. I guess the significance of the session being for older people was that it was the main age group the client worked for. When chatting with some of the participants, some were nervous of cooking recipes that hadn’t been taught by their mother/grandmother. Whereas others were keen to try new recipes from different world cuisines. The ease of this dish means that it is open to anyone who wants to create their own tasty meal, especially those on a tight budget or wanting to reduce their food waste by using up bits of left overs in the fridge.

Quesadilla, Hot Salsa and Salad

Quesadilla, Hot Salsa and Salad

Using ready made large wheat flour tortillas, and created an easy version of ‘refried beans’, sweet potato filling and a hot tomato salsa. I’m going to share these recipes from memory as I forgot to pick up a recipe sheet!

The fillings and salsa dip use the same base flavour ingredients which helps bring synergy to the dish but also means there are fewer ingredients to buy for people living on a tight budget, as well as reducing the numbers of spices being left to go stale in the cupboard!

Refried Beans

Refried Beans

Refried Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black eyed beans (rinsed)
  • 1 can of pinto beans (rinsed)
  • 1 medium red onion (finely diced)
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large, deep sided, frying pan and fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned.
  • Add the cumin and all the beans, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add water if it is looking too dry.
  • Once ready, add salt and pepper and coriander and give a final stir through.
Hot Tomato Salsa

Hot Tomato Salsa

Hot Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (use chopped fresh tomatoes if preferred)
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 1 large sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 small handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  • In a medium saucepan heat the oil and slowly fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the sweet red peppers, tomatoes and spices. Simmer over a low heat until you get a smooth paste like texture, about 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with coriander before giving it a final stir through

Spiced Sweet Potato filling

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes (cubed)
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground smoked chipotle chili (or any chili powder)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  • In a large saucepan, boil the sweet potato until softened then drain the potatoes, saving some of the water for later. Roughly mash the sweet potato leaving some big chunks for added texture
  • In a medium saucepan heat the oil and slowly fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned, then add the spices
  • Add the mashed sweet potato to the spices onion and garlic and stir until thoroughly combined. Add some of the saved potato water to the mix so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Warm through but do not overcook.
Quesadilla

Quesadilla

I’m not going to go through the steps of how to put together a quesadilla as there have been some great people before me who have already published step by step guides, so please refer to them.

Quesadilla and Salad

Quesadilla and Salad

Going back to the ‘cheese toastie’ comparison, the only other ingredients you need are the bread and the cheese. So get your tortillas and some of your favourite cheese and start building your tasty quesadillas… and you don’t need to be over 55 to enjoy them! 😉

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Turkey Chilli with Crinkle-cut Potatoes

Turkey Chilli with Crinkle-cut Potatoes

Turkey Chilli with Crinkle-cut Potatoes

I was given a new kitchen gadget by my sister and wanted to try it straight away! It’s what I call a vegetable ‘crinkle cutter’ 🙂

Vegetable Crinkler

Vegetable Crinkler

It’s a really cool little gadget that makes your potatoes, or any other vegetables, all wavy. Apart from looking pretty it also serves a practical purpose. Think how pasta is shaped in different ways to maximise the amount of delicious sauce it can pick up. Well this does the same thing with vegetables!

Jazzing up the potatoes, I made a spice mix using smoked paprika, cumin, salt, coriander and garlic powder then shook them all up in a freezer bag ready to be used when needed or used immediately. Freezing them in portions means that they can be easily taken out and baked straight in the oven with little fuss! Just coat them in oil to help crispen up. 

Spiced Crinkle-cut potatoes

Spiced Crinkle-cut potatoes

I decided to make a big batch of Turkey Chilli for a mid-week meal (and left overs for office lunches) and these potatoes went perfectly with them. Add some crisp nachos for extra crunch!

Turkey Chilli with Spiced Crinkle-cut Potatoes

Turkey Chilli with Spiced Crinkle-cut Potatoes and Nachos

Turkey Chilli with Melted Cheese and Jalepenos

Turkey Chilli with Melted Cheese and Jalapeños

Serve with a salad of avocados, tomatoes and cucumber… enjoy! 🙂

Mexican Night: Guacamole, Refried Beans, Salsa, Nachos and Buffalo Wings!

Mexican Night

Mexican Night: Nachos, Guacamole, and Salsa

April 2014 has flown by with little blogging activity from me. Apologies for my absence, however it was my birthday at the beginning of the month and the Easter bank holiday came and went, all in all it has been incredibly busy but so much fun! 🙂

I’ve not cooking a huge amount, and when I have I’ve been trying to take photos for the blog but not always with great success! So this meal was prepared for a night in with some friends to go with a few drinks…

One of the many birthday treats I had was to go to a ‘Latin American’ style restaurant where we started off with nachos and spicy chicken wings. This was my inspiration for this collection of nibbles, full of flavour and easy to eat with your fingers over a long evening of chatter with good company!

Let’s start with the Guacamole! I’ve never made it before, as it is only recently that I’ve eaten avocado. I’ve been informed that this was the ‘best guacamole ever tasted’, so a pretty good recipe!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/guacamole-recipe.html

Guacamole

This recipe can be found here. I think the secret ingredient is the ground cumin which gives it a nice depth of flavour. Make it ahead so the flavours have time to melt into each other!

Then there is the Salsa!

Salsa

Salsa

This salsa recipe calls for one jalapeño chilli which I didn’t have but I only had pickled jalapeños so substituted that instead. My partner reliably informs me that this is similar to Afghan ‘Salata’. Another recipes that transcends cultures!

Cheesy Nachos

Cheesy Nachos

This is a fairly straight forward recipe for grilled nachos; tortilla chips topped with sour cream, jalapeños, refried beans and plenty of cheese!

Now for the chicken wings. I went with this recipe for Baked Buffalo Wings, as it was pretty straightforward and promised a crispy spiced finish.

Buffalo Wings Preparation

Buffalo Wings Preparation

The key to this recipe is leaving the coated wings in the fridge for at least one hour to dry out. I roasted them in two separate trays to ensure they weren’t over crowded.

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings

Before baking, each piece is dunked into a an emulsion of butter and chilli sauce. Needless to say, they were delicious! Apologies for the terrible photo! 😦

 

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Soup

Cream of Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Soup

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Soup

When making Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Bake as a side dish for my ‘Toad in the Hole’ I looked at the big pile of left over cauliflower leaves, tough broccoli stalks and thought to myself- “what a waste, surely these can be used and not binned?!”

I don’t usually buy or eat cauliflower, so wasn’t sure if the leaves were edible. A quick internet search later I found that they are an excellent source of Vitamin C! Who knew?… So there are several idea for recipes, one being making cauliflower leaf ‘crisps’ similar to the fashionable ‘kale crisps’, another is to use it like cabbage leaves. I decided to make a soup from the left overs as it is currently grey and miserable outside, so comfort food is necessary!

Cauliflower Leaves and Broccoli Stems

Cauliflower Leaves and Broccoli Stems

This soup is made of left overs, from the vegetables to the cream! I often have left over vegetables in the fridge that end up chopped, bagged, then frozen so it doesn’t go to waste. Currently in the fridge I have celery (another veg I don’t usually cook or eat so had plenty left from a previous recipe) and peeled cloves of garlic. The garlic was on offer for £1 for about 8 from market but we obviously couldn’t get through them fast enough so I spent an hour peeling them and stored them whole in a tub in the freezer. They are great for using in curries and stews! The cream to enrich the soup was left over from making Caramel Profiteroles for Mother’s Day as I had bought 2 tubs of cream, just in case, but luckily didn’t need the second one…

Cauliflower Broccoli Soup

Cauliflower Broccoli Soup

So here’s the recipe, no proper measurements I’m afraid as I was making it up as I went along…

Ingredients

  • Cauliflower leaves and stem from one head of cauliflower- roughly chopped
  • Broccoli stems and any other left overs bits
  • Handful of chopped celery
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Cream as much as you like
  • Cheese whichever you have in the fridge
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • In a saucepan sauté all the vegetables together for about 10 minutes until tender
  • Blitz in a blender until smooth
  • Return soup into the saucepan. Add cheese, cream and salt and pepper to taste

I decided to serve with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and a pumpkin seeds to add crunch. Not bad for using up vegetables that would have ended up in the bin or compost heap!

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Soup

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Soup

 

 

Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Bake

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Bake

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Bake

This Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese recipe was made to go along with the ‘Toad in the Hole’ and onion gravy, making an all round comfort eating dinner for a dreary British day! I’m not particularly good at cooking traditional ‘British’ foods, or a lover of them as I like lots of spice! However Good ingredients cooked well will always shine through, so I grabbed a couple of heads of broccoli and a cauliflower and got to work… I was attracted to this recipe as the broccoli is actually blended into the creamy cheese sauce, giving it a lovely vibrant colour and extra flavour. I also liked the idea of giving it a crispy top by using bread crumbs and almonds. (I decided to skip the breadcrumbs this time as the meal contained a lot of carbohydrate already!)

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese

The cheese sauce has a lovely green colour as there is a whole head of broccoli blitzed into it. The toasted almonds on top added a nice nutty taste and some much needed texture to the dish too! 🙂

I’m not a big fan of cauliflower as I find it quite watery and tasteless as a vegetable. However I think it works as a carrier of flavours, and have recently seen some great  recipes for cauliflower curries. As you can see, I’m still leaning towards foods with lots of spice! 😉

Vegetarian Moussaka

Vegetarian Moussaka

Vegetarian Moussaka

My sister recently passed on her panini grill when she was clearing up some kitchen worktop space, so I took it to clutter up my kitchen just that little bit more! After a couple of weeks of too many grilled cheese sandwiches, it suddenly occurred to me that I could probably use it to grill other things… So the experiments began…

Firstly I sprayed the grill plate with a little oil then cracked an egg on it, it worked a treat! The grill was so hot that it fried the egg in super quick time and with hardly any oil needed. Eggs, sunny side up with lots of black pepper. Winner!

Eggs fried on a panini grill

Eggs fried on a panini grill

Moving onto the next experiment, I spied a couple of aubergines and figured that I would give them a try too. Usually grilling aubergines requires a lot of oil. But with my handy spray bottle of cooking oil and my new multi-purpose grill, the sliced aubergine cooked in no time as it cooked from the top and bottom at the same time!

Grilled Aubergine on a panini grill

Grilled Aubergine on a Panini Grill

So whilst the aubergines were happily grilling away I cooked up the rest of the mousakka dish. As I am looking at reducing my animal protein intake I bought a bag of Quorn ‘Mince’. I’ve used Quorn products before when I was a vegetarian and don’t think it tastes too bad, especially when cooked with lots of strong flavours. I guess it’s a ‘flavour carrier’ like tofu/bean-curd!

The ‘mince’ was cooked up with chopped onions, tomatoes, courgette, peppers, mixed herbs and lots of garlic. I added some extra tomato paste and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Grilled Aubergine with Quorn Mince

Grilled Aubergine with Quorn Mince

To make the moussaka I layered up the filling and grilled aubergines alternately then topped the whole dish with a bechamel sauce and plenty of grated cheddar and black pepper.

Vegetarian Mousakka

Vegetarian Moussaka- cheesy cheesy goodness!

After inspiring such a lovely dish, the panini grill has earned it’s permanent place in the kitchen, next to the bread maker and food mixer. Now where do I move the kettle to?… 😉

Vegetarian Moussaka

Vegetarian Moussaka- melted cheesy goodness!

Mac’n’Cheese with Chicken and Garden Peas

Mac'N'Cheese with Chicken and Peas

Mac’N’Cheese with Chicken and Peas

It’s been a lazy Sunday afternoon of watching TV cooking programmes, which developed into a craving for Mac’N’Cheese! 

There was left over roast chicken in the fridge so I decided to use it up to add some protein to the meal. I also didn’t have any ‘macaroni’ so used good old penne instead! This wasn’t a traditional Mac’N’Cheese recipe, but definitely hit the spot…

Mac'N'Cheese with Chicken and Peas

Mac’N’Cheese with Chicken and Peas

Ingredients

  • 500g penne pasta (or Macaroni if you want to be traditional!)
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 1 white onion (roughly chopped)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • 150g mature cheddar cheese
  • half a wheel of Camembert cheese
  • left over roast chicken (about 3 thighs roughly chopped)
  • 2 hand-fulls of frozen peas
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread (blitzed into breadcrumbs)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Boil pasta until al-dente
  • While pasta is cooking, sauté onion in the oil in casserole dish that can be put into the oven
  • When onions are softened, add butter, salt and pepper
  • Once the butter has melted stir in the flour and cook out for a couple of minutes
  • Add milk and simmer until slightly thickened
  • Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted
  • Add the chicken and cooked, drained pasta and peas. Mix it all up so everything is evenly distributed
  • Rip up the Camembert and dot it all over the top of the pasta
  • Spread the breadcrumbs on top and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the bread crumbs have gone crispy.
  • Serve with a side of vegetables to lighten up the meal a little. We had roasted carrots!
Mac'N'Cheese with Roasted Carrots

Mac’N’Cheese with Roasted Carrots

This calorie laden meal has been extremely satisfying but not something that will feature in the weekly meal plan as it is incredibly rich! I liked the blend of Cheddar and Camembert cheeses as they were very distinct from each other. The peas in the dish helped to lighten the meal a little and the roasted carrots brought some colour and additional texture that was lacking. I have to say that the breadcrumb topping wasn’t as crunchy as I would have liked so maybe would skip it altogether next time!

All in all, it took 30 minutes to cook. For the carrots, I basically washed them and cut into big batons then threw them in a roasting tin with a few smashed garlic cloves and some oil. They were roasting in the oven while I cooked the pasta so everything was ready at the same time. There is loads left over for lunch/dinner tomorrow too so maybe next time I’ll use less pasta!

Emergency Saturday Breakfast: Feta, Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Muffins

Feta, Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Muffins

Breakfast should be the most important meal of the day. My weekday breakfasts usually consists of a banana with a cup of tea at my desk while reading my emails, so I really look forward to my Saturday late-morning breakfasts!

In the UK, 7.2 tonnes of food is wasted each year. Love Food, Hate Waste estimates that this costs £12bn per year. Unimaginable in the developing world… So in my efforts to waste less food, and save money, I try to shop a couple of times a week and buy enough food for a few meals. However as life gets pretty busy, tiredness takes over and that trip to the supermarket on the way home from work is just far too much effort!

On a regular basis this results in my partner telling me on a Saturday morning that there is nothing for breakfast then looking at me expectantly. The last thing we both want to do is leave the house to pick up food from the local convenience store, so a quick rummage through cupboard stores and the fridge, coupled with a little imagination usually results in breakfast of some description. Today this was Feta, Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Muffins. As long as there is 1 egg, oil and flour then savoury muffins are easily made with any kind of filling. So this is when the fridge raiding comes in!

Finding a block of feta cheese, I took inspiration from this recipe for Sundried tomato, Feta and Herb Muffins and adapted the recipe for what ingredients I had. There was only a drop of milk left in the bottle, so I used natural yoghurt instead.  I used half a block of feta as there was no Cheddar. I also found a little sun-dried tomato pesto and put the rest of the jar in (about 3 tsp) so skipped the herbs.  I had to add some extra flour as the batter was quite runny. Luckily I could save the milk for my essential morning cup of tea.  20 minutes later, breakfast was ready!

The sun-dried tomato pesto gave the muffins a lovely colour and loads of extra flavour. I think the yoghurt added richness and helped to keep the muffins lovely and moist, so I will keep using yoghurt in place of milk from now on. I’ve made savoury muffins for many emergency Saturday breakfasts and these have been the tastiest by far!

Feta, Sun-dried tomato and Pesto Muffins

Feta, Sun-dried tomato and Pesto Muffins