Desk lunch: Bulgur wheat with tenderstem broccoli and feta cheese

After a few months spent exploring all the lunch options around my new office, I have finally gone back to making my own lunches to bring in to work.

I’ve been making quite a few soups  [and baking my own bread which I love] and stews  [pretty sure I’ve already declared my love for the slow-cooker] and then at least one day a week I try to make a nice pasta/rice salad with whatever is left in the fridge really.

This time around I chose bulgur wheat which I was not very familiar with but I had it in the cupboard so I gave it a go. The result was really good and filling and it kept me going until dinner time without the need of a mid-afternoon snack [unheard of!]

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Ingredients :
– 1 cup of bulgur wheat
– 1.5 cups of tenderstem broccoli
– 1.5 cups of feta cheese
– 2 tbsp of green pesto
– 2 tbsp of olive oil

Put the bulgur wheat into a bowl and pour boiling water over it until it fully covers it and it’s 1 inch over the wheat. Cover with a lid and leave it on the side for about 20/25 mins.

In the meantime boil some water and put 1/25 tbsp of sea salt into the water. Chop the broccoli in 3-4 cm chunks and boil them for 3 minutes then drain.

When the bulgur wheat is ready, fluff it up with a fork and stir in 2 tbsp of pesto to add a bit more flavour. Then add the drained broccoli and finally crumble the feta cheese into the bowl.

Mix well and add olive oil bit by bit to make sure your salad is nicely [and lightly] coated.

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I had this salad cold straight from the office fridge but it would have been equally  yummy if I had heated it up.

Enjoy!

Healthy but yummy dessert

My husband and I love a good sweet treat at the end of a meal [who doesn’t?!]. It’s a habit that mainly started when we gave up smoking a few years ago and having a little dessert became a replacement for the cigarette. Definitely healthier but our waistline didn’t certainly benefit from it!

However it got a bit out of control lately and, with the added excuse of work-related stress, we just binged on chocolate and cake at any given occasion. Pretty much every night of the week.

This. had. to. stop.

For the past couple of weeks we have just been buying tubs of [fat-free] vanilla yogurt in an attempt to reduce calories whilst still enjoying a sweet treat. We pour it in pretty vintage tea cups and choose different toppings every time, to keep it fun.

It is yummy, healthy [depends on the topping though!] and it doesn’t break the bank!

 

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Here’s one I made earlier…Sugar sprinkles for hubby and chopped hazelnuts for me. Both topped with honey

A week of [homemade] desk lunches

Since I got back to work from maternity, I’ve made this promise to myself that I would try and bring more packed lunches to work rather than spending £6-7 every day for a ready-made meal.

It’s quite hard work [especially to remember to put the lunch in my bag before leaving the house!] but, once I got into that mindset, I enjoyed preparing my lunches the night before, even if that meant losing 10-15 minutes of my oh-so-needed rest once the little one is in bed.

I’ve recently fall in love with mason jar salads, where you stack all the ingredients starting from the dressing at the bottom and generally the greens or more perishable foods at the top. As I walk quite a distance every morning, I can’t possibly carry a heavy glass jar in my bag so I settled for a much lighter plastic jar. The result is the same but visually it looks far less cool than a layered salad in glass jar 🙂

So here’s what I made last week:

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Starting from the top layer..

* Fresh spinach
* Steamed baby potatoes
* Avocado chunks
* Grated courgette [zucchini]
* Grated carrot
* Balsamic vinegar

 

 

 

1432891069022Now you understand what I meant when I said that my layered salads didn’t look very cool in a plastic jar!
That day I was so hungry that I didn’t even take a photo of the salad in the plate.

* Fresh spinach
* Sunflower seeds
* Mozzarella chunks
* Sweetcorn
* Plum tomatoes
* Mayo [3 tsp] and balsamic vinegar [1tsp]

 

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This time I didn’t stack the ingredients in the jar but just brought them to work separately

* Avocado
*Plum tomatoes
* Goats cheese
* Seeded pitta bread

 

 

 

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* Fresh spinach
* Grated cheddar
* Cherry tomatoes
* Pearl barley
* Pesto dressing [made with 3 tsp of green           pesto and 1 tsp of rapeseed oil]

 

 

 

 

1432891200215This was definitely my favourite lunch last week.

* Rocket
* Basmati rice
* Sunflower seeds
* Grated courgette [zucchini]
* Green olives
* Sweetcorn
* 3 tsp of creme fraiche and 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar

 

Hope I gave you a little inspiration for your next desk lunches 🙂

What do you normally eat at work?

The busy mum’s recipe corner: Fusilli with smoked salmon and peas

There are a few things I miss from my child -free days..a chilled apple cider on a warm summer evening (still breastfeeding and I don’t feel comfortable having alcohol even if I time it well!), impromptu day trips, wearing dresses (again, breastfeeding and all), spending rainy weekends tucked in bed streaming back to back episodes of my favourite TV shows ..but cooking is what I’ve been missing the most (beside sleeping of course!)

When I was still pregnant and started my maternity leave I spent an entire day batch cooking with my mum and then freezing everything. I remember bringing a chair into the kitchen and just cooking whilst sitting down as the last few weeks of pregnancy gave me the worst backache ever. Our freezer was packed with beef casseroles, chicken and leek pies, lots of bolognese sauce, chilli con carne and so on..We could feed the whole neighbourhood!

After Frances was born, my mum was with us for a few weeks so she did all the cooking. When she left we started going through our frozen goodies, which eventually ran out a few weeks ago.

While before all I had to do was taking food out of the freezer and heat it up, now it’s definitely more complicated to find the time to cook from scratch and also to come up with new recipes every day but I’m enjoying it so much.

I’d normally cook just before dinner time obviously but considering that Frances’ bedtime routine is right in the middle of that I’m now cooking in the late afternoon whilst she happily plays in her activity centre (I think exersaucer is the correct term but I don’t like it!)

Anyway, enough talking about me! I just wanted to share a very quick and easy (and yummy) recipe I cooked the other night.

Ingredients:

– 1 pack of smoked salmon
– 2 cups of frozen peas
– 2 tbsp of creme fraiche
– pasta (I used wholemeal Fusilli but you can use pretty much any type)

I simply shredded the smoked salmon and stir fried it in a pan with a little bit of rapeseed oil. It only took a couple of minutes for the salmon to become all pink so after that I added the frozen peas, salt (not much as the salmon was quite salty anyway) and covered with a lid for about 7/8 minutes. Once the peas were nice and soft I added the creme fraiche and turned the heat off.

After draining the pasta I just threw it in the pan with the salmon and the peas and gave it a good stir. The smokiness of the salmon really added a lot of flavour and the peas complemented it quite well 🙂

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Recipe corner: Asparagus and beetroot tart (+ an alternative with courgettes)

I’m conscious that I haven’t posted any recipes in quite a while but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! I just haven’t had much time to post about my culinary experiments.

One of those experiments was an asparagus and betroot tart, a quick and yummy all in one meal, that I cooked last week.

Ingredients:

1 clove of garlic

2 red onions

250g of asparagus

2 beetroots

2 spoonfuls of greek yogurt

250g of ricotta

1 roll of puff pastry

First of all I set the oven to 180 C degrees.

I slightly fried the garlic in a tablespoon of rapeseed oil and then added the sliced red onions. After 5 minutes I added the asparagus, both spears and stems, cut into about 3cm pieces. In went the chopped beetroots as well and I turned the heat down, covering the pan with a lid. I added some salt and pepper and let it cook for 15 minutes.

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Once the asparagus softened a little I took the pan off the heat and put the veggies into a metal bowl to cool down for 15 minutes otherwise the heat would have made the ricotta too liquid.

When the veggies cooled down a bit, I put in the ricotta cheese in the bowl as well as a couple of spoonfuls of greek yogurt to make the mixture slightly smoother.

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I then transferred the mixture into the middle of a squared oven proof dish that I’d previously lined with a roll of puff pastry (minus a small rectangle of pastry which I kept aside to make a few strips for decoration)

I smoothed the mixture on top of the pastry and lied four strips across. I then folded in the sides and put the dish in the oven. After 35 minutes the puff pastry was nice and golden and the mixture had hardened a little at the top, whilst still being soft in the middle.

I left it to cool down for 10/15 minutes and then wolfed it down 🙂
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A couple of weeks ago I’d also made another one but with courgettes this time. Same preparation, same yummy result 🙂

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Recipe corner: Healthy chicken and veggies stir-fry

It was another one of those ‘cook whatever is left in the fridge/freezer’ nights..This is what I found:

– Two chicken breasts
– Pack of cherry tomatoes
– One big red onion
– One clove of garlic- Two handfuls of new potatoes
– A handful of green
– Half bag of rocket

..So I decided to make a nice stir fry! The preparation was fairly quick and easy. First of all I turned the oven on at 170 C degrees and put the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray with some rapeseed oil, salt and pepper. When the oven reached the temperature I just put them in and set the timer to 20 minutes.

In the meantime I took two frying pans – In one I put oil, garlic and the chicken breasts cut in chunks . In the other one I put oil, red onion cut into thin strips and 5 minutes later I added the new potatoes cut in halves +salt and pepper. Once the potatoes were almost cooked I also added a handful of green beans.

When the oven timer went off 20 minutes later, I took the tomatoes out and left them aside to cool down a little. By then the chicken was nicely cooked and so were the veggies in the other pan. I transferred the chicken into the pan with potatoes, onions and green beans and stirred for a good few minutes so that the chicken would absorb the yummy juices.

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I’d normally cook a stir-fry with cous cous or rice but this time I wanted to make something less carb-centric so I decided that the rocket would be at the bottom of my dish rather than adding it to the pan. So I split the rocket onto two plates and then dished out the chicken stir-fry on it. As the final touch I added the cherry tomatoes on top and pressed them a little so that the juices would run into the stir-fry. I have to say that it was really yummy and also quite healthy!

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Recipe corner: Chicken and leek pie (and 4 veg)

On Saturday, while my husband was painting the living room, I was pondering whether to go out or just stay in and do some baking/cooking. Considering that we’d been away for 3 weekends in a row, I opted for staying in and alternate cooking with just lying in bed and feel the baby kicks, my new favourite pastime.

After failing miserably in my attempt to make banana bread (it just didn’t cook in the middle despite being in the oven for 1hour 20mins?!), I decided to make a chicken and leek pie for dinner..not the usual huge pot which my husband and I always end up eating in one sitting but this time I decided to go for a much smaller portion and cook veggies on the side, to give it a much healthier spin after a couple of weeks of heavy cake eating.

As I didn’t want to spend most of the evening cooking I prepped as much as I could in the afternoon (before going back to bed!). So I started with the pie itself, here’s how I made the filling:

1 clove of garlic
2 large chicken breasts, cut in small chunks3 leeks
2 tbsp of wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp of creme fraiche
1tsp of cornflour
Approx 300 ml of chicken broth
1 sheet of puff pastry

I splashed a bit of rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and added the garlic. Once the garlic started to fry a little I added the chicken and kept stirring. After 5/7 minutes I added the leeks + salt&pepper, covered with a lid and turned the heat down. Once the leeks got softer and the chicken was cooked throughout, I added the chicken broth, just enough to cover the chicken and leeks. When it got to the boiling point I added the mustard and creme fraiche and gave it a good stir. As the sauce was quite liquid I put a teaspoon of cornflour in a small bowl, added just a splash of water to make some sort of paste and then added it to the sauce to thicken it up.

I put the filling into two small oven proof dishes and left them on the kitchen counter to cool down. In the meantime I took 4 handfuls of new potatoes, scrubbed them well and then cut them into halves or quarters, depending on the size. I heated some rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and then threw in the potatoes. I added a pinch of rock salt, ground pepper and some dried rosemary and turned the heat down. Covered the pan and left the potatoes to cook for 20/25 minutes whilst stirring regularly to avoid them to stick to the bottom of the pan (I add to add a little bit more oil towards the end). When the potatoes were nicely browned and golden I just turned the heat off and left them to cool down on the counter together with the pies 🙂

Around dinner time I just added a disc of puff pastry on top of both pies and put them in the oven at 180 C degrees for 25 minutes until the top was nice and golden. I put the rest of the filling into another dish and covered it with the rest of the puff pastry – It cooked in the oven at the same time as the other two small pies and once it cooled down I just put it in the freezer for future use!

When the pies were nearly done I started re-heating the potatoes and boiled some asparagus and tender stem broccoli for 6/7 minutes as well. As I was really hungry (is it time to eat for two yet?!) I also drained two small tins of sweetcorn and poured them into a small sauce pan together with two spring onions, salt and black pepper.

It may sound like it was a lot of work but the fact that I prepped in the afternoon gave me enough time to rest in between!

Here’s what our dinner looked like:

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