Leek and butternut squash soup

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Adpated from Delia Smith’s Leek and Butternut Squash Soup

I eat a lot of soup.  Most days this is what I have for lunch and there a few reasons for this.  Firstly, if you make a big batch of soup it’ll last you 3 days (assuming you don’t mind eating the same thing several days in a row).  When you’re pressed for time there is great value in this, and if you vary the toppings and/or accompaniments (bread, breadsticks, cheese shavings, garlic croutons, chives, yogurt swirls, chilli oil, olive tapenade… the list is pretty much as endless as you want it to be), then you are almost eating a different soup every day.  Secondly, I’m feeding a pre-schooler and you can get all sorts of veggies in them via soup.  Not that C has a problem with vegetables in their original format, but there’s limits to how much she will eat and you know, every little helps.  Lastly, you can do a lot more damage to your calorie intake eating a cheese sandwich every day, so soup is often a more sensible option, especially if you also bake as much as I do.  This soup has a delicate flavour and the almond milk gives it a comforting texture akin to a cream of soup.

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Banana butterscotch fudge muffins

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Adapted from Nigella’s Banana Butterscotch Muffins

We’re all about banana at the moment.  This is the third recipe in a row containing this most useful of ingredients but it’s just how things have shaken out recently.  After torturing my guinea pigs (hello long-suffering friends!) with all sorts of trial bakes in a variety of sorry states I owed them something good.  Step in the banana muffin.  I usually do these with a chocolate chip (and you can certainly substitute those if you’d rather) but I thought I’d go a slightly different direction with these.  Pottering around the internet I found that Nigella has a recipe, but her butterscotch morsels are, I think, those found in the US which have the consistency of white chocolate chips.  (I’ve seen peanut butter morsels too – am very jealous).  I thought briefly about using a chopped Caramac bar, as I figure this is the most likely UK equivalent.  But further online delving suggests the Caramac is laced with gluten.  Delicious!  Not.  So I went to the ‘ole faithful’ that is Waitrose.  Here you have a choice of butterscotch pieces, which are hard, not soft, and bubble up crazily creating molten hot streaks of sweet crunch in the muffin, or fudge chunks, all soft and melty.  Neither are quite like the butterscotch pieces originally used in all likelihood, but both will create a very satisfying muffin.  You could try mixing the two in one muffin, or splitting the batch and doing half and half.  Any way you decide to go you will not be disappointed.  Please note though that both the butterscotch pieces and fudge chunks I’ve used contain condensed milk, and so this recipe is not dairy-free.  Since the proportion of lactose in the final portions is likely to be very small I’ve gone with it.  Also, both are made using glucose from wheat syrup, which Coeliac UK states is suitable for those avoiding gluten but will not be for those with a wheat allergy.

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Mediterranean potato bake with prosciutto wrapped cod

Mediterranean bake with parma ham wrapped fish

This is one of those ‘bung in what you’ve got’ recipes that was good enough to keep and write down.  It is probably out there on the interweb in some form, but in my head it came from a desire to use up some of a packet of prosciutto, a couple of fish fillets and some new potatoes.  I imagined the ham wrapped fish nestling on a spicy potato stew, somewhat like patatas bravas.  Hence I’m going with the word ‘Mediterranean’ in the title.  Poor thing doesn’t know where it’s really from…  You can, of course, use any firm white fish that comes thick enough to wrap with the prosciutto.  Whatever is fresh, ethically sourced and a good price on the day you buy.  This is also another good way to use up leftover boiled new potatoes.  I rarely boil half a bag, as I figure if I cook them all in one go I’m saving energy and getting C and myself that much closer to a finished meal.  Another thing I’d say is that although black olives look prettier in the finished dish (you can’t see the green ones in the photo above now, can you?) you should put in either what you have or what you prefer.  I’m ALL about fat, green olives.  So that is often what is knocking around in my fridge.  The choice is yours though.  This is super quick to knock up and makes a nice change from the grilled fish, new potato, steamed veg combo I seem to make 90% of the time!

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Potato and egg bake, with sausage (soysage) and avocado

Baked breakfast hash with avocado

One of the things I love most about leftovers is how it opens up a world of cuisine fusion possibilities.  Nothing too radical, but the putting together of things in a less than traditional way that is tasty and has some links back to a classic.  So here are the things I needed to use up today (it was also a Monday and I do try to be meatless first thing in a week, so if I don’t manage it again I know I started it in the right vein!): cold roasted potatoes, soysages, eggs, cavolo nero, avocado.  The things that popped into my head were – breakfast hash (potato, eggs, soysages) and huevos rancheros (eggs, cavolo nero, avocado).  Why not a combination of the two?  A sort of spicy and tomatoey potato bake, with the cavolo nero in there and a egg baked in, topped with crispy soysage crumb, and slices of avocado.  It sounded pretty good in my head, and I have to say it was delicious.  I’d say no need for tortilla because of the potato (although if you’ve got some, dipping in the egg is lush), unless you’ve only got a little cooked potato and you want to bulk out the carbs.  You could easily have this for breakfast if you wanted.  We had it for dinner because it is substantial enough, and who doesn’t like having breakfast at dinnertime?

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Chicken, mango, avocado and quinoa salad

Chicken, mango and avocado quinoa salad

Adapted from Climbing Grier Mountain’s foodie fridays: grilled chicken, mango, and avocado quinoa salad

Time for some therapy.  Me, not you (unless you’re up for that sort of thing).  I’m settled on the couch, so I hope you’re sitting in an uncomfortable looking chair.  I’ve been pondering why it is that I’m frequently eating meals with at least one ingredient on the cusp of perishing.  On the one hand I could argue that by getting a veg box I am always running the risk of not being able to eat up all the contents in time.  Were I to live next door to a farm shop I could pop in daily for fresh ingredients, and I wouldn’t be hoping to make a pile of veggies last a whole week without any of them disintegrating into mush.  But this is not entirely true.  If I’m honest the problem is me and my shopping habits.  When I go to a store I go with a list and I don’t go very often.  I buy what’s on it.  But I often put things on that list for a planned future meal that never materializes because other things got in the way.  I often find I’m changing my meal plan because we’re not hungry enough for the dinner I had planned or we’ve got back too late for me to make the thing I had in mind.  Friends joke that if the zombie apocalypse comes mine is the house we should barricade ourselves in, as we won’t need to venture out for food any time soon.  I know that it has irked me in the past to not be able to make something exactly because I don’t have the right ingredients, but I’m not like that so much now.  Unless I’m actually craving something a specific way I’m now more willing to fiddle around with a recipe and not freak out.  I think I need to be more strict with myself on shopping trips, to not pop things in the trolley just because they might be useful in something.  I’m probably about evens on feeling chuffed I found the thing I suddenly need in the fridge because I bought it on a whim, and eating something odd because I’ve suddenly got a sausage, a pineapple and a open carton of passata to use up!  Which leads me to this recipe.  Mangos were on sale, so I had one of those and the thing was borderline self-juicing when I finally used it.  And I had half an avocado.  That’s another part of the problem.  I am but one, and C is still tiny, so I’m often using half of this and half of that because I would be the size of a house if I cooked for even two adults and then ate most of it myself.  Combined with leftover chicken from a weekend roast this recipe was using up three things that needed to go, and luckily it was gorgeous!  As the original recipe said – summer in a bowl.  You wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some of that, would you!  I didn’t have the parsley called for in the original, and I’m not a big fan anyway, so I subbed in a bit less mint, which worked wonderfully.  You should use whatever you prefer.

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Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

Adapted from Frugal Feeding’s Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

It’s raining so it’s time for comforting soup!  I might have mentioned before I’ve got friends doing WeightWatchers and some seem to regularly eat zero point soup.  The basic concept being that most vegetables (though not all apparently) are worth zero points and therefore these can be included in the diet without having to count them against the day’s allocation of points.  This is within reason obviously – I’m sure if you ate a mountain of anything, including broccoli, you could still put on weight.  But anyway, the idea is to cook a soup without fat and plain starches, like potatoes, rice or pasta which incur points.  If you like broccoli soup, and normally sweat onions in butter or oil, then I still think you’re going to be surprised how good this tastes without them.  I was inspired by the beautiful soup made over on Frugal Feeding, and that did come with a caveat about the large chunk of butter included!  This soup still looks, tastes and feels creamy, which I think is the magic properties of cauliflower when cooked and blended.  You get a more vibrant colour if your broccoli is fresh and green, but this is an excellent way to use up anything that has got a bit bendy in the fridge.  I’ve included an optional sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy garnish if you are so inclined, what with all three vegetables having a natural affinity with cheese.  Still vegan then, still with no added fat, still zero WW ProPoints per serving and super quick to make as well!

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Chunky guacamole

Chunky guacamole

I was tempted to call this store-cupboard guacamole or cheat’s guacamole because it is the one I make most often and it bears only a passing resemblance to the real McCoy.  It also takes about five seconds to make.  Yeah I sometimes get the proper ingredients, and faff about de-seeding and peeling big tomatoes.  If I’ve planned to make it as part of a larger meal then I might well, but I often find myself with a very ripe avocado and I need to use it up fast.  Perhaps I should have just called this chunky avocado and tomato spread!  I can usually shoehorn guacamole, or whatever it really is, into what we’re having for dinner.  This recipe is for you if you’re the sort of cook I used to be, before having C. I remember once having a meltdown because I didn’t have feta cheese and I needed it for the salad I was making.  Not a shouty, cursing, having a cry meltdown.  Just a panicked, I don’t know what to do instead, everything is ruined meltdown.  Chuckle.  I can’t imagine losing it over a salad any more, but then life has changed somewhat since I would consider that a big deal.  Now you’d get any cheese I’ve got in your salad and I’d brazen out any suggestion it wasn’t supposed to be like that, and believe you should be grateful to be seeing any sort of cheese at all!  It may not be authentic but you can make a delicious guacamole type dip with just a handful of ingredients and only five minutes.  Embrace what you’ve got to hand and make it anyway, however improper it might be!  You may recall I’m not keen on raw onion, so this has none but feel free to add some if you love it.  I also believe guacamole should be creamy and not spicy.  Salsa spicy, guacamole creamy.  Again, if you want some pep, chop a chilli nice and fine and whack it in there.  Now I love garlic, and I would usually go with the premise that you can never have too much.  Of course raw garlic can be a bit potent and in my many years of cooking, and when I was less wise, I ruined otherwise perfectly serviceable guacamoles by being heavy-handed.  A small clove people, is all you need.  Trust me.

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