32 articles Tag food

Strada – A Date Night Gem

It’s not often that Husband and I go out for dinner, just the two of us…in fact, I’m struggling to think of a single time it’s happened since Sausage was born, so when Strada asked if the two of us would like to come along for dinner, I got very excited! Our nearest Strada is at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock and it’s right next to the lake, so it was the perfect setting for a relaxed evening meal.

We were given the choice of where to sit and although it was the hottest day of the year so far, we chose to sit inside – the outside area was already filling up when we arrived a few minutes before 6pm and by the time we left it was absolutely heaving, whilst inside was almost empty, so we definitely chose well. We got situated and were brought our drinks plus a jug of water for the table, which was much appreciated in the heat.

I wasn’t drinking alcohol because a) I was driving and b) I’m on strong antibiotics for the hideous tooth situation so I opted for a San Pellegrino Limonata, which is basically the most refreshing thing on the planet. Husband had a glass of Primitivo, a full-bodied red (which I said smelled like Christmas in a glass!) and although it was on the pricey side, Husband was impressed enough to be looking it up on the internet on the way home to see where he could get a full bottle for me to try when I’m able again.

So, onto the food!

Because Strada is Italian, I wanted to go for things which I felt were quintessentially Italian, so for starter I opted for the bresaola while Husband went for the antipasti, both of which were incredible. The beef carpacchio part of my bresaola was so, so tender and flavourful and the combination of parmesan, rocket and balsamic reduction were to die for. Husband’s antipasti (which I may have sampled…!) was just perfect; little nibbles of different flavour and textures, cured meats combined with the freshest pesto and mozzarella – I almost wish I’d opted for the same.

Strada - Starters

For our mains, we both decided that we were in the mood for seafood after such a meat-based starter so Husband had the sea bass while I had the seafood risotto. I’m going to make a confession here; I’ve never actually tried sea bass before…until now. The fish was served with thyme roasted fennel and herby potatoes and was a perfect choice for a hot evening as it was light and summery but full of flavour. The bass was served ‘canoed’, which meant that it’s gutted but left on the head, so there were still a lot of bones in it, which made it a little bit of a faff to eat, but Husband didn’t mind; it’s just worth bearing in mind if you aren’t a fan of bones.

Strada - Mains

Seafood risotto is one of my favourite dishes and it’s not something I’ve ever been brave enough to cook myself so it’s always a treat when I have it in a restaurant, but it does mean I’m quite fussy about it. Strada’s seafood risotto was really top notch. The risotto itself was creamy and absolutely packed with tiger prawns, mussels and squid and had the slightest kick from a hint of chilli, a very welcome element to cut through the creaminess a little. The seafood was all very well cooked (I’m often a bit wary of squid as it can be rubbery, but this wasn’t rubbery in the slightest) and the fresh parmesan which was grated over the top at the table added a lovely edge to the overall flavour.

Strada - Dessert

Dessert was an absolute delight. I opted for the tiramisu because I’m a bit of a fan of anything coffee flavoured while Husband opted for the golden polenta cake. My tiramisu was exactly as you’d expect it to be; sweet and soft with a strong coffee flavour, the perfect end to the meal for me. Husband’s polenta cake was probably the exact opposite of my dessert in many ways; grainy and textured rather than soft and creamy, zesty and spiced opposite my rich and velvety, however we both agreed that it was one of the nicest desserts we’ve ever tasted, and promptly came home to find a recipe so that we can try making it at home!

In terms of the bill, by my calculations it would have come to £67.60, which included three courses each, Husband’s large glass of wine, my two soft drinks and a bowl of marinated olives for the table, which I really don’t think is too bad at all. There is also a “Classics” menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95 or three courses for £13.95 every single day between 12pm and 7pm, which means that you could effectively have a three course meal for two for under £30.

The thing I liked about Strada is that their menu isn’t ridiculously massive, but each dish they do, they seem to do VERY well. I also like the fact that they have dishes which are very traditionally Italian, but they also do dishes like burgers and plainer pizzas, so dining with a fussy eater needn’t be a worry. The one and only area where I would mark them down SLIGHTLY was the cost of drinks – Husband’s glass of wine was £8.15, which is a little steep in my opinion, but we often find the alcohol to be higher priced in chain restaurants, so I guess it’s to be expected. Other than this minor thing, we had a really lovely evening; the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, stopping by to offer their suggestions while we were perusing the menu, the setting was really pleasant and the food was enough to make Husband say “we’re definitely coming back here again!”.

Thanks to Strada for having us – we’ll be back soon!

Our First Wagamama Experience

WagamamaOne thing that we love to do as a family is eat out, especially at places we’ve never tried before, so when Wagamama offered us the chance to go along and try their menu, we were really excited. Despite the fact that we’re all Japanophiles, with a shared love of their food and culture, we’ve never been to Wagamama before so yesterday was a whole new experience for us.

As soon as we walked in, the thing which struck me was the actual style of dining; the tables were set up into long rows of benches, rather than isolated little islands in the dining area which is the usual English way. It was different in a “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” kinda way, but something which I really loved.

We’d checked out the menu online before visiting and the girls knew what they wanted, but Husband and I ummed and ahhed for a while because everything on the menu looked so tasty. We were given plenty of time to decide and Husband ordered a rather exotic looking juice in the meantime. (Kale, apple, lime and pear, in case you’re wondering and it just tasted so GREEN!).

In the end, the girls chose a mini chicken yaki soba and a mini chicken cha han, both of which were really tasty. One of the things I really liked was that each dish was made of super fresh ingredients and were bought out to us as soon as they were ready, meaning no-ones meal was left to sit under lights while we waited for the rest. I also loved the kids chopsticks that we were given which kind of slot together and made it loads easier for the girls to use.

Husband and I ended up opting for the shirodashi ramen (him) which was slow-cooked pork belly, marinated in bulgogi sauce in a noodle and reduced chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg while I went for the Wagamama ramen which was grilled chicken, barbecued pork, prawns, chikuwa and mussels in a miso, ginger and chicken noodle soup. topped with half a tea-stained egg, menma and spring onions.

I’m not going to lie; I think mine was genuinely one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. The noodles were tender and the broth was fairly simple but the pork belly was unbelievably tasty and the mussels were like little bombs of flavour throughout the dish. I’ve never had wakame before and actually thought it was squid while I was eating it, but it’s kind of like a Japanese equivalent of a crabstick, but formed around bamboo…apparently! Husband really enjoyed his too; his broth was spicier than mine with a really rich, warming flavour and the slow-cooked pork was, again, super tender and flavourful.

I think the thing that we liked the most about our Wagamama experience, although it’s hard to narrow down because it was a delight from beginning to end, was just the fact that it was something different. Don’t get me wrong, we love a burger and all of the “usual” choices in family-oriented restaurants, but it was SO nice to consider different flavours, textures and ingredients, especially for exposing the girls to new things. It was also a lot healthier than your average restaurant lunch; my Wagamama ramen totalled about 700 calories for the whole bowl, and given how full I was I thought that was pretty reasonable. In fact, we were all too stuffed for dessert but next time we go to Wagamama (and there WILL be a next time!), that banana katsu is MINE!

Our bill, for 2 adult mains, 2 kids meals, 1 adult fresh juice, 2 kids fresh apple juices (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this – it was the freshest apple juice I’ve ever tasted…it was literally like someone had crushed an apple into a glass) and a Coke Zero for me came to £37, which I have to say is really reasonable. I certainly don’t begrudge a lunch bill like that when it’s being spent on huge portions of fresh, super nutritious food which is cooked to order.

I think I could quite comfortably say that Wagamama is now a favourite eatery for all of us in the Mum’s the Word house and somewhere which will definitely be on our must-visit list for our next shopping trip. Thanks to Wagamama for having us and for converting us to their way of eating.

Family Lunch at TGI Fridays (review)

Last week we were invited along to TGI Fridays to sample their food and get involved with their summer kids challenge, where they can complete three activities for a free ice cream sundae, as well as being in with the chance to win a family holiday. As we’ve done in the past, we took my lovely MIL with us to give us her opinion on the food, so that you get a well rounded view from a two years old up to a…person who’s a bit older than two (it’s rude to divulge a lady’s age, after all!).

We planned our lunch around a trip to Ikea because the restaurant is right by our nearest store, but we were done with our shopping an hour earlier than planned. However, a quick call to the restaurant and they were more than happy to accommodate us earlier than our original booking, which was a lovely bit of positive customer service. As we were seated, the girls were presented with an activity pack and they also had someone making balloon animals, which delighted my two no end.

The Food

We took a little while to choose as there was so many tasty looking dishes on the menu. In the end, we all shared a starter of potato skins loaded with cheese and pulled pork, then for our mains both girls went for a hotdog and chips from the kids menu, MIL had a Classic American burger, Husband had the chicken and shrimp with with creamy mash and seasonal veg, and I had the FRIDAYS® RIBS in BBQ sauce with a skewer of spicy grilled shrimp.

We all really enjoyed the starter; the pulled pork was really tasty with the accompanying sour cream and one large serving was enough to allow us all to have a taste without ending up too full before our meals. The girls hotdog and chips were actually HUGE portions; there are two kids menus to choose from, one for smaller peeps and one for the bigger kids. The hotdogs came from the bigger menu and although we knew it would be way too much food for Burrito Baby, she had her heart set on having a hotdog. They were really tasty and well cooked, and both girls really enjoyed them.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit of a greedy so-and-so and often have eyes too big for my belly, and when we eat I often go for the biggest meal on the menu. I erred on the side of caution on this day and went for the half rack of ribs instead of the full rack and I’m SO glad that I did! Along with the fries, onion rings and prawn skewer it was MORE than enough food for me, even with my huge appetite. The ribs were incredibly tender and the meat melted away from the bones, while the accompanying fries were probably some of the best I’ve ever tasted, with perfect seasoning.

Husband, on the other hand, wasn’t massively impressed with his food. He said that his chicken was moist and well cooked but was a tiny portion and the shrimp were okay but the sauce was basically just sugar syrup. He did say that the mash was tasty but the veg wasn’t to his taste – his “seasonal” veg was basically pan fried broccoli and bell peppers, which seemed a slightly incongruous addition to the meal.

The real winner of the day was MIL; she chose the Classic American because she wanted something quite simple but she actually described it as “probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten”. She had the same well-seasoned fries as me and thoroughly enjoyed her meal. I’ll be honest, by the time we’d finished our starter and main we were all FAR too stuffed for afters so the girls didn’t manage to enter the challenge, but it’s a great idea for kids, especially to get them active after consuming a huge meal!

The Bill

One things which I felt was a slight downer was the cost of drinks; Husband had a pint of Samuel Adams and it was £5.28 per pint; obviously it was early in the day so we weren’t there for a boozy experience, but it would have seriously bumped the bill up of we’d both been out for an evening. As it stood, a shared starter, two kids meals, three adult meals, a pint and a half of Samuel Adams plus a Coke Zero for me and a mini milkshake for the girls and our bill came to £79 – definitely not the most expensive meal  but more than the average we’d usually spend on a casual lunch.

In terms of the actual service we received, I genuinely can’t fault it. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, our food order was taken and served promptly, our table cleared straight away and we didn’t have to do advanced semaphore to the waiting staff in order to signal for our bill! All in all, we had a great lunch, the food was mostly brilliant and everyone had a nice time. It’s probably a bit too expensive to be a regular place for us to visit, but it’s perfect for a treat or special occasion.

Thanks for having us, TGI Fridays!

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Okay, so you may have noticed that my 7-day slow cooker challenge didn’t exactly go to plan, in that I only managed to last for four days and my last three planned meals never quite made it onto my site. I think this happened for a couple of reasons – slow cooking, for me, is something I do to make my life more convenient, and forcing myself to use my slow cooker to a schedule just didn’t work. Also, one of the meals I planned was lasagne, and I’m not going to lie, I was really apprehensive about it. We LOVE lasagne in this house, but I always bake it the normal way, and attempting to slow cook it seemed a bit like fixing something which isn’t broken.

Anyway, I had a little slow cooker break after failing but I’m back to using it again today and it’s a super simple, super tasty beef and broccoli recipe that I’m making today:slow cooker beef and broccoli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Broccoli
 
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A slow cooked beef recipe with a simple Asian-inspired sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 240ml/1 cup beef stock
  • 120ml/ ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup erythritol (substitute with brown sugar if you don't need a low sugar recipe)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 900g/2lb stewing beef
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 4 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the stock, soy sauce, erytritol/brown sugar, chopped garlic and sesame oil into the slow cooker pot and mix well
  2. Add the beef into the pot and mix well to coat
  3. Cook on LOW for 4 hours
  4. After 4 hours, mix the corn starch and water together and add to the pot, stirring well to thicken
  5. Add the chopped broccoli and stir
  6. Cook for a further 30 minutes on HIGH, or until broccoli is soft
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice or noodles, or a side of your choice.

This was such a simple recipe but has turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser with the family. It’s exactly the kind of ‘chuck it all in’ recipe which makes me love slow cooking, and offered so much flavour for such an easy-to-make dish. The sauce was salty and savoury, and thickened to almost a gravy consistency once the cornstarch was added, and cooking the broccoli in the sauce added an amazing layer of flavour. The best part of this meal is that, when you factor in a portion of rice, it came in at just 453 calories per portion, which is amazingly low!

Beef is probably my favourite meat for slow cooking as you can buy the really cheap cuts but end up with a tender, flavourful dish which is low calorie, high protein and doesn’t cost the earth – basically the Holy Grail of cooking for a family! Let me know if you make this yourself, I’d love to know if you were as pleased with the results as we were.

Busy Summer Vacation? Get Help With Slow Cooker Summer Recipes

Kids are out of school, and that surely means it’s a time for you to take a break of nine months of being a taxi driver for extracurricular activities or a school volunteer, right? Of course not. When summer break hits, you’re marching to a different rhythm—driving kids to and from summer camps, going on more daylong trips, or just scrambling to organize summer activity ideas to hold off kids from saying, “I’m bored!”
Basically, your kids may be getting a break from the summer, but your job has shifted to activities director—you are most likely just as busy as during the school year.
Good thing your slow cooker also doesn’t take a break either. This trusty appliance was most likely was your saving grace during the school year, cooking your family meal while you are gone all day and having it ready when you arrived home after work and picking up children. In the fall and winter months, a warm and hearty meal from the crock pot sure hit the spot after enduring brisk weather. Crockpots are great for cooking and keeping food warm on those winter days, but what about summer when a hot day calls for a cool drink or a crisp salad? Your slow cooker can cook up meals that are sure to hit the spot on summer months without you being stuck in the kitchen. Check out these crockpot tips to make summer cooking a little easier:
Barbeque
Summertime is all about cooking on the grill, but if you’re gone most of the day, firing up the grill for a quick meal may not always fit in your evening schedule. Luckily, there are many crockpot recipes that offer that summer barbeque taste without needing a grill. Many of these barbeque-like recipes simply involve marinating the meat in a sauce like mayonnaise, barbeque, or salad dressings.
For example, consider a recipe like Crock Pot Caesar Chicken: simply place four boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot, and set the crockpot on either high for three hours or low for six hours. After cooking the chicken for either three or six hours in the crockpot, drain the juices from the crockpot, keeping the chicken inside. Pour a bottle of Caesar salad dressing like Just Caesar from hampton creek on top of the chicken. Cover the crockpot and set it on high for 30 minutes. Top off with parmesan cheese and cut it up to serve with a salad or as a chicken salad.
The difference in Hampton Creek salad dressings and sauces is that they are made with minimal artificial additives and free of gluten, dairy, and soy. The company has other sauces like Just Mayo, an eggless mayonnaise, that you can use in other crockpot recipes that call for mayonnaise. Try replacing any crockpot recipe with a sauce or salad dressing from Hampton Creek.
Vegetables
Summer BBQ isn’t complete without a side of vegetables, especially corn on the cob. Corn is often boiled in a pot or cooked on the grill, but you can prepare corn on the cob ahead of time in a slow cooker so you have it ready when you get home.  One version of crockpot corn requires that you prep each ear of corn with garlic butter, pepper, salt, and wrap each ear with a slice of bacon. Place the ears of corn in a crockpot with chicken broth and minced jalapeno pepper. Cook on low for up to four hours.
Soup
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that you can’t eat soup. Soups are often thought of as hearty meals meant to warm you up after a cold day, but there are just as many soups that are light and flavorful, making it a perfect dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. It’s also a fun way to incorporate fresh vegetables from farmer’s markets, which most of the time are held during the warm months. A summer vegetable soup like a summer vegetable pesto soup makes use of summer vegetables like sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, and more, and tops it off with pesto. You can also add other vegetables like white beans for a different flavor.
Summer break from school doesn’t mean that parents also get a break, but summer crockpot recipes give you a break from the kitchen so you can spend your summer days doing what you want—going to the pool, attending the county fair, relaxing at the beach—without the worry of what you’re going to eat for dinner.

Mum’s the Word 7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge (linky)

So, as you’ll know if you’ve read this blog in the last 6 months, I’ve become a bit of a slow cooker addict. Husband bought me one just before Christmas (insisting it WASN’T a Christmas gift because he ISN’T a misogynist and wouldn’t buy me appliances as a Christmas gift, not that it matters because I LOVE my slow cooker and it’s one of the best gifts he’s ever given me!) and I’ve been on a bit of a culinary adventure ever since. It’s allowed me to be so much more organised, helps us to eat better and for less money and, most importantly, has encouraged me to think outside the box a little when it comes to our meals.

On a good week, I use the slow cooker three times, on a bad week not at all and just lately I feel like I’ve neglected it altogether so I wanted to kick-start my love for slow cooking with something big. I’ve decided to do a whole week of slow-cooker meals, using it to make dinner every single night for a week, trying something we’ve never had each day. I’ve done a meal plan and done a shop for all of the ingredients (I had a voucher for £18 off of a £60 shop at Sainsbury’s, so it’s worked out to be outrageously cheap!). The shopping didn’t arrive ’til 2pm and my Dad was here visiting with us, so I didn’t have time to get a meal on today, but I’ll be starting tomorrow and I plan to blog each meal with the recipe every single day, giving you an idea of how easy each meal was to prepare.

It got me thinking that, if I were to set this as a challenge to others who could also share their recipes each day in a special linky, then we’d end up with a HUGE repository of slow cooker recipes that everyone could enjoy – so who’s with me?! It’s simple. Make a plan for 7 days worth of slow cooker meals and blog along with me each day. You don’t HAVE to start tomorrow, you can start at any time you like, just make it a whole week of slow cooker dinners and come back here with your 7 links! And, because I’m slow-cooker mad, I’ve even made you a little badge for your posts, which you can grab below, and it will guide all of your readers over to the linky to enjoy all of the recipes.

I’d love it so much if you can get involved. I’ll be back tomorrow with the first of my slow cooker recipes, and I’m still trying to source some GOAT meat for one of them, a meat I’ve never cooked nor have the girls and I eaten before so this really is an exercise in pushing boundaries and testing our palates. Come back tomorrow to see what’s first!

Mum's the Word 7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge

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Travellers Joy Hungry Horse Review

Yesterday, we were invited along to our local Hungry Horse (the Traveller’s Joy in Rayleigh) to take a look at the new menu and have a family meal. We took my mother in law with us again, just like last year, so that we could see how it suited three generations of the family, and I have to say, it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Parking upon our arrival was a tricky affair as the car park was absolutely stuffed, although the fact that the place was so busy on a Tuesday afternoon is probably because it’s half term and it’s a very family-friendly venue, so the parking situation, whilst a bit annoying, was by no means their fault.

We were seated promptly and had our drinks order taken and were left to make our choices from the menu. Unfortunately, our server failed to tell us that the restaurant had no mashed potato, beef chilli or pulled pork, which was slightly annoying as two of our choices were meals which involved these items so we had to quickly scan the menu again to amend our choices, which I hate doing.

Our food arrived promptly and was hot and well-presented when it arrived; I ordered The Triple Rib Stacker, Husband had a Full Monty Mixed Grill, MIL ordered the Hand-Battered Fish & Chips and Sausage had the Cheese & Tomato Pizza served with a jacket potato and baked beans (BB had fallen asleep on the way there and slept almost the whole way through the meal and so missed out on our little treat). As was to be expected from previous visits to a Hungry Horse, all of the portions were huge but the quality of the meals was very varied.

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My ribs were absolutely delicious – the meat fell off of the bones and the sauce was beautiful. The coleslaw was really fresh-tasting and crunchy and the chips were cooked perfectly. I wasn’t a huge fan of the beans, but that’s just personal preference. If I had one minor complaint it was that my mini corn cob wasn’t served with a skewer or fork in the end to hold it with, so I felt rather self-conscious eating it with my hands in a restaurant.

MIL loved her fish and chips – I tasted her cod and it was really well cooked with a lovely crisp batter which wasn’t too thick. The little pot of tartare sauce was tasty and her peas tasted fresh. I was actually super impressed; MIL usually has a fairly moderate appetite and doesn’t like to feel too ful but she really soldiered through this massive portion and ate way more than I thought she would, which I think is a testament to how much she enjoyed it!

Husband’s mixed grill, on the other hand, was not such a positive experience. The piece of rump steak, which he ordered medium rare, was on the cremated side of well done and was really not a good quality piece of meat. On a couple of occasions, he looked rather green around the gills after taking a forkful and realising it consisted mainly of fat and gristle, and on one occasion actually excused himself to go to the bathroom to spit the meat into a hanky. The gammon was nice and well-cooked, as were the sausages, although the chicken breast was incredibly dry and the tomato looked as though it had been chucked on a grill for about 2 seconds and was basically raw and cold.

Sausage’s meal obviously came from the kids menu and although the choice is massive, I wasn’t hugely impressed with the quality of her meal. The pizza was (I’m pretty sure) a Chicago Town microwave pizza but it looked rather over-cooked and her jacket potato and beans looked more than a little bit sorry for themselves. I mean, I’m glad that there are kids options which don’t only come in nugget form and accompanied by chips but the overall quality wasn’t great. Having said that, Sausage demolished it, so perhaps my adult standards aren’t matched up to what a kid expects or finds appetising?

Not to be deterred by Husband’s bad experience, us ladies ordered dessert, with MIL going for the Jam Doughnut Pudding with Custard and the girls and I sharing The Ultimate BIG Candymania. MIL really enjoyed her pudding, which was warm and hearty and would have been perfect for a cold winter afternoon. The girls and I gave it our best but didn’t even come close to finishing our sundae, which probably would have comfortably served about 8 people but it was very tasty and the perfect thing to have as a treat.

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All in all, I’d say that our experience this time was mostly positive, however I was really disappointed with the quality of Husband’s meal. The young ladies who were serving us were really attentive and polite, although forgetting to tell us about the items which were off the menu hampered us a little in the beginning. We’d go back to the Traveller’s Joy Hungry Horse again given the value of the meals; our food would have cost £44.94, not including drinks, which is great value for three adults and a child, in my opinion, but I think Husband would be avoiding the steak next time around. Thanks to the Travellers Joy for having us and providing us with the meal for the purposes of this review.

Recipe – Special Spring Greens with Mediterranean Chicken and Rice (650cal)

special greensIt’s not often that I do anything special, in culinary terms. I mean, sure, I can cook and I do alright for Husband and the girls, but we often have quite samey food and my repertoire isn’t what you’d call massive or adventurous. However, last night, we had a dinner that was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten on ages, a little bit different to what we usually eat and came in at just over 600 calories per plate for a really filling meal, which I think adds up to a massive win! It was also really warm and comforting and uses seasonal veg. Spring greens are PACKED with calcium, so this is a great recipe for anyone with dairy issues who struggle to get enough of this essential mineral. (Also, bear in mind that while my culinary skill may be improving, my food photography skills and presentation are NOT!). Believe me, it may not look much but it is so tasty and super healthy.

Mediterranean Chicken with Special Spring Greens and Rice

Recipe - Special Spring Greens with Mediterranean Chicken and Rice (650cal)
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 4 cups white rice
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes with basil and onions
  • 200g thick-cut bacon, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 hot red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 500g spring greens - stems and inner ribs trimmed, leaves cut into ribbons
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170° fan (190° electric/Gas Mark 5)
  2. Place the chicken breasts in an over-proof dish and season with salt and pepper
  3. Cover the chicken with the chopped tomatoes and basil and cover with a lid or tin foil
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes
  5. Put your rice into a large saucepan and cover with cold water
  6. Put the rice on the hob and bring to the boil, then leave to cook for around 12 minutes.
  7. In a large frying pan or wok, fry the bacon or lardons until they start to turn golden
  8. Add the shallot, chilli and mustard seeds and fry for another 3 minutes, until softened
  9. Add the greens into the pan and turn to toss in the bacon and shallots - there will probably look like an enormous quantity of leaves, but keep turning using tongs or a spatula and your hand
  10. Keep the mixture over the heat until it's all wilted down and mixed in - this will probably take about 5 minutes
  11. Once it's all cooked down, add the white wine vinegar and stir through, just before serving.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 654 Fat: 17 Carbohydrates: 70 Sugar: 10 Sodium: 1,009 Protein: 52

Original spring greens recipe found here

Ultimate Autumn Comfort Foods

I always thought of myself as a summer baby. I was born in June, I adore the sunshine and am never happier than when I can be outside with the sun on my face. However, I don’t know if it’s an age thing, but these days, autumn seems to be my favourite season. I love the changes which are happening all around us and there’s something about the changing seasons which seems to spark my creativity each year.

The combined factors of being surrounded by nature in our new, rural cottage and having a lovely wood-burning stove in our lounge has made all thoughts turn to those warming comfort foods which I look forward to every time the weather gets cooler, and although we’re enjoying some unseasonably good weather, I’m still going down the ‘hearty’ route with our dinners.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some recipes from my favourite bloggers who’ve written about the foods which are perfect for when you want to snuggle down and fill your tummy with something wholesome and substantial.

SOUPS

If you like a bit of heat, this spicy tomato soup from Blue Bear Wood looks absolutely delish – I think I’d have to indulge in a huge chunk of buttered crusty bread for dipping.

Spicy-Roast-Tomato-Soup

I’ve never actually attempted to make French Onion Soup, even though I’ve always thought it looked like something I’d really enjoy, and this recipe from Keeper of the Kitchen has given me even more of a want to give it a go.

French Onion Soup

Veggie Options

Despite being a firmly confirmed meat-lover, I do occasionally make a veggie dinner as I think it’s good for us to have a few days meat-free, so this meat-free pie alternative with yummy veggie sides from The Brick Castle would be perfect.

Dinner

Another recipe from Blue Bear Wood is this vegetarian Bolognese. It’s such a great way to get veg into the kids without them making a fuss because, let’s face it, everyone loves a good Spag Bol!

Vegetarian-Bolognaise-Sauce

Hotpots, Stews and Other Mains

Daisies and Pie has shared this wonderful recipe for a Lancashire Hotpot, which is something that I’ve never actually attempted to cook before, although I’m not quite sure why as it looks like something that my family would absolutely love.

lancashire-hotpot-recipe

We’re huge fans of chicken casserole here in the Mum’s the Word house, although I do usually cheat and use a packet mix of seasoning, so this comforting chicken casserole from Munchies and Munchkins  has inspired me to do it without the use of a sachet next time!

Chicken Casserole

Chilli is another family favourite, and I shared a recipe that one of my mothers-in-law gave me last year HERE, but this slow-cooker version from Jibber Jabber UK would be perfect for us at the moment as I could put it on before the long commute to collect Sausage from school and have a warming meal ready for us when we get home.

Chilli

Nellie PomPoms has also written a post full of comfort food ideas, from cheese on toast to a simple but super tasty Aubergine bake (which my Husband would LOVE!).

Sweet Treats

Once the dinner is done, there’s nothing nicer than following it up with a sweet treat. As much as I love a summery fruit salad, winter is a great excuse for richer, thicker puddings which fill you up and make you feel like you’re getting a huge cuddle!

Fab Food 4 All has shared a Nutella Brioche Pudding, which is something that would be ANIHILLATED by my family in seconds as we’re huge fans of brioche and often eat the for breakfast or a supper treat with hot chocolate.

Nutella Brioche Pudding

Apple crumble is one of my favourite desserts ever and these Bramley Apple Crumble Slices from The Crazy Kitchen would be perfect to eat by the fire – preferably accompanied by a dollop of hot custard! Apple Crumble Slices

 Baileys. Chocolate. Sponge. Does is get any better or more comforting than that? I think not, which is why I’ve decided to finish with this Luxurious Baileys Triple Chocolate Trifle from A Mummy Too. Just looking at it is making my mouth water!

Baileys-Triple-Chocolate-Trifle

Breville Halo+ – My Hero

When we moved house, back in March, one of the things which appealed to us was that the landlord was leaving the appliances in-situ, meaning we wouldn’t need to buy a cooker or dishwasher, and could sell our old washing machine and fridge freezer, giving us more money towards our move. Somewhat typically though, the dishwasher and cooker have both died since we moved in, leaving us with the expense of replacing them so soon after shelling out thousands to move. The dishwasher was easy to replace and we picked one up in a good deal from Appliances Online, but the cooker has been trickier to deal with.

The one which broke down (and when I say “broke down”, I mean condemned by the gas board and disconnected for leaking gas) is a 90cm range cooker which means we have to buy another 90cm range to fill the gap in the units. This means that it’s twice the price and when we leave, we’ll be stuck with an expensive cooker which probably won’t fit into another kitchen. The oven part still works, but the hob and grill are completely kaput and the thought of feeding two kids with no hob was a scary one.

In steps my hero; The Halo+ Health Fryer.

Breville Halo+ Health Fryer

Breville sent us one of these to review absolutely ages ago, and beyond using it to make chips and melt the cheese for cheese on toast, we hadn’t used it that much. However, since the hob died, I’ve used it to make the meat and sauce for lasagne, cook curries, stir-fries, grill steaks and chops, cook bacon, fajitas, even S’mores! The Halo+ is SO much more versatile than I gave it credit for and it’s stepped up and done the job of both a grill and a hob at a time when I would have been truly stuck without it.

One thing I love about cooking in the Halo is that, because it’s a sealed unit, when you cook things like chunks of chicken for Enchiladas, the chicken stays nice and moist. The direct heat from the element inside cooks things speedily and the fact that the inside rotates constantly, moving the food around means that everything cooks evenly and I never have to stand a stir things for ages.

The non-stick bowl inside the Halo+ means that I barely ever use oil when I’m cooking in it, other than the small amount needed for chips, so everything we’ve been making has been just that extra bit healthier, too.

At some point, we’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy ourselves a new cooker, which will be nice but the expense a little eye-watering, especially as we have Sausage’s birthday and the school holidays coming up, but in the meantime, our Breville Halo+ Health Fryer has done us proud. It is SO much more than a gadget for making chips and we would have been genuinely stuck without it, these past couple of months. If you’re thinking of buying one for yourself, please don’t hesitate. If you’re brave and experiment with new things, it can change the way you cook. Even when we do shell out for a new cooker, I’ll continue to use the Halo+ for lots of the things I use it for now. It’s my little kitchen hero!