Chicken and Smoked Sausage Alfredo Pasta

It’s been quite a while my last post, and I thought it was about time I started blogging again.  I don’t think I could have chosen a better time than to post a new recipe!

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

1 smoked pork sausage

1 courgette (for those who live in the USA, you would call this a zucchini)

1 small(ish) unsweetened double cream (Elmlea is perfect.  Again, if you’re in the US, you may call this heavy, or whipping cream)

A couple of handfuls of cheese – I used 1 handful of white Cheddar, and 1 handful of red Cheddar

1 small pot of garlic paste, or if unavailable, 2 garlic cloves – crushed / chopped…  Whatever your preference

A good shaking of smoked paprika

Pasta – I used five handfuls of fusilli

Tablespoon of olive oil – for frying

Method

  • Dice your chicken breasts, slice your sausage, and ‘stick’ your courgette.

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  • Add your pasta to a pan, and cover with water.  Put on the heat, on the hob.

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  • Warm your wok / frying pan up, and add the oil just as the pan begins to smoke.
  • Add the chicken, and fry until fully cooked, stirring occasionally.

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  • When the chicken has cooked, add a decent shaking of your smoked paprika, and add your garlic paste / cloves.

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  • Stir thoroughly, and allow the paprika & garlic to be absorbed just a little.
  • Add the sliced smoked sausage and sticked courgette, and allow to fry – stirring occasionally – until the courgette has started to soften slightly.

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  • Pour in the cream, and stir thoroughly.

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  • Ignore the look of it now…  It’s gone from “pretty” to a mess in less than 5 seconds.
  • Add the cheese – about half a handful at a time – and use the ‘lift & stir’ technique.  (If you don’t know what this is, it’s simple.  Push your wooden spoon / spatula under the mixture, then lift – as if you’re folding the mixture – then stir around, until all the cheese has melted.)

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  • Turn down the heat completely, and sort out your pasta…  I usually drain off the pasta, pour boiling water over it, then redrain.  Add a small amount of butter (small – ha ha!!) and stir until the butter has melted.

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  • Turn off the heat to the cheese sauce & meat mix, and add the pasta directly to the pan.

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  • Give it a good stir, then turn out in to a fancy (if you have one) serving dish.

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  • Help yourself, and enjoy 🙂  I served this with a couple of garlic baguettes, straight from the oven.  Yummy.

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20 ways kids make Christmas magical

It’s easy for Christmas BC (Before Children) to feel more about our hangovers and expanding waistlines (not to mention our overdrafts) than any real festive spirit. Then you have a child and all that changes. Not since you were a nipper, anxiously listening out for Father Christmas in your PJs, have you felt so infused with joy and enchantment.

Here are 20 ways that Christmas becomes magical when you’re a parent …

1. It used to drive you bonkers that Christmas started pretty much in October (oh, yes it did…) but now you can’t wait for the shops to bust out the Christmas lights and to hear Noddy Holder’s dulcet tones. Ooh, and the advent calendars, and the ads and the Christmas lists…  How many times have you rewritten yours?

2. Nothing can prepare you for the heart-melting sweetness of watching your little one in their very first Christmas nativity or school play, whether they have a starring role or not (it’s Gning’s first Nativity on 7 December).  Don’t forget your tissues!

Children's nativity play

3. Kids make it OK to sport clashing decorations and an OTT Christmas tree.  In fact, the more of mash-up of colours and styles of baubles, the better.

4. It’s FINALLY acceptable to buy chocolate decorations again. Just remember to leave a few for the kids, eh?

5. Their Christmas list to Santa reads like a stock-taking sheet of ToysRUs and Smyths combined.  But it’s the ‘and I’ve been soooo good’ line that really makes you smile.

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6. Thank goodness this year you’ve got a good excuse for the misshapen mince pies.  All your toddler’s own work, yes?

7. You love channelling your inner-storyteller with stories of Father Christmas and seeing your children’s eyes widen with delight.

8. Creating your very own traditions is something you’ll share for a lifetime.  Maybe you write a Christmas poem together, or put on a little festive play for the grandparents?  Or leave one more present in the garden to be discovered – “Oh look!  Santa must have dropped it!”

9. Leaving a glass or milk (or something stronger) for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph, never loses it’s charm.  And neither does…

10. …drinking that something stronger on Christmas Eve, when the wee ones are safely asleep.

11. Nothing beats that amazing feeling of satisfaction on Christmas Eve when everything is wrapped and ready for the next day.  Savour the scene – because the next day it’s carnage!  Hope your recycling bins are empty…

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12. Not to encourage your inner bah, humbug, but it’s a great time of year to dodge any tedious social engagements: honestly, babysitters are so unreliable…

13. Family films are no longer an indulgence, they’re mandatory.  From the Muppet’s Christmas Carol to Home Alone, it’s the perfect season to snuggle up on the sofa.

14. Talking of which, make your brood hot chocolate with marshmallows. And have one yourself.

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15. Place your bets on what time Christmas Day officially starts.  And yes, it feels magical even though it’s 5am.

16. As you watch them open their pressies, you remember the fizzy feeling of thrill and excitement you had as a child.  And seeing the joy your children bring to their grandparents is priceless.

17. Eating together as a family is something to take time over and savour.  Who cares if the potatoes are a tiny bit burnt, or the sprouts a bit hard?  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.

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18. Snow is what dreams are made of when you’re five.  And snow at Christmas…  Cue delirious children and giggling parents!

19. The pleasure of tumbling back into a warm and cosy house after a good old stomp outside brings the colour to everyone’s cheeks.

20. Knowing at the close of Christmas day that the hard work is over for another year – and despite the odd flurry of tears and tantrums – they’ve had a pretty wonderful day.  Well done, you.  Only 365 days to go…

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Easy Peasy Oven Omelettes – Makes 12

I have fallen in to a bit of a trap.  I love having eggs in the house…  They always come in handy for last minute dinner ideas, or for baking; but for the past few months, whenever I buy eggs, I seem to forget about them.  Then, when I fancy one for brekkie (for example), I notice the date on them.  Well, being heavily pregnant, I daren’t eat an egg that’s out of date.

Anyway, the point I am getting to is to provide you with a really easy recipe and method to create these amazing little omelettes that you bake in the oven!  They’re fab for breakfast; lunch, served with a salad (or veg); or a side for your evening meal.  They’re great to eat hot or cold, so also great to pop in a lunch box for school / work.

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Easy Peasy Oven Omelettes

I had my little chef (my 3 year old little man) do this all by himself…  Well, apart from the oven and presentation parts.  And just look how great the omelettes turned out!  Absolutely delicious, and really light & fluffy too.

Ingredients

5 medium sized eggs

Good splash of milk

Salt & Pepper

Tinned Garden Peas (optional)

Cheese (use your favourite…  I used Red Leicester)

Method

1.  Preheat your oven to 210C (190C for fan assisted ovens).

2.  Grease a 12-piece cupcake tin with butter.

3.  Crack the eggs in to a mixing bowl, add the milk, and salt & pepper to taste.

4.  Using a hand whisk, or fork, mix the eggy liquid together until it all combines together nicely.

5.  Using some form of spoon (I gave my llittle chef a 1/4 cup measuring spoon to do this), scoop out the mixture in to the buttered cupcake tins.  Do not fill to the top…  Ensure you only fill to approx 3/4 of the way up the sides.

6.  Grate your cheese (if required), and add a pinch to each cupcake section.

7.  (OPTIONAL)  Add a pinch of the peas to each cupcake section…  My little chef added approximately 7 or 8 peas to each.

8.  Pop the tray in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

9.  When done, and when you remove the tray from the oven, you will notice that the omelettes will sink.  Don’t worry about this at all…  Use two forks, or a fork and a spoon to remove each mini omelette from the tin, and present any way you choose.

10.  Enjoy, and share the recipe!

How to cook a Christmas Ham – Repost

We have decided that we are going to my parents house for Christmas this year, however I have opted to cook the meats.  This year, we have decided on a large ham joint, and a topside of beef.

As this post has been so popular in the past few days, I thought it only right to “repost” it, of a sort, and share how I make it.

My mum has bought a rather lean, 2.7kg (6lb) gammon joint.  I don’t bother to soak my ham before cooking.  The boiling part draws out the majority of the salt, so that’s all I need.  Here’s how to cook it:

Ingredients:

Gammon joint (size is up to you, but please follow the cooking schedule carefully)

5 tb sp Honey

1 tb sp Brown Sugar

Paprika

Black Cracked Peppercorns

3 sticks of celery (optional)

1l Apple Juice / Coca-Cola* / Cherry Coca-Cola* / Irn Bru

Water

Method:

1.  Place your ham ‘standing on one end’ in a large boiling pan.  Chuck in the celery sticks (if you wish).

2.  Pour 1l Apple Juice (or Coca-Cola or Cherry Coca-Cola) over the ham, and top up with water.  Make sure that the ham is fully covered.  This will be the first time I am using apple juice to boil the meat in…  Normally, it is recommended to use Cider, but I think as I am expecting, and we have a 3 year old, we’re substituting the alcoholic part for something as equally yummy.

3.  Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil.

4.  Once the meat has started to boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and follow the instructions for how long you need to set your timer for…

Weight Boiling Time
450g (1 lb) Allow 45 minutes
450g – 1.5 kg (1-3 lb) Allow 1 – 1 1/2 hours
1.2 – 2.7 kg (3-6 lb) Allow 30 minutes per 450g (1 lb)
2.7 – 4.5 kg (6-10 lb) Allow 3 – 3 1/2 hours
4.5 – 6.3 kg (10-14 lb) Allow 3 1/2 – 3 3/4 hours
6.3 – 8.1 kg (14-18 lb) Allow 3 3/4 – 4 1/4 hours
8.1 – 9.5 kg (18-21 lb) Allow 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 hours

Because my ham is a 2.7kg weight, I’m leaving mine for 3 hours.

5.  When your timer beeps, switch off the heat and remove the meat from the liquid (pour the liquid away – I know…  Such a waste).  It’s at this point that you need to set your oven to 190C /170C fan /gas 5.

6.  Pat dry the meat using some kitchen towels, and allow to cool slightly.  You don’t want to burn your fingers on the next part!

7.  Using a very sharp knife, remove the skin…  If your meat has a lot of fat, remove the majority, leaving a thin layer (approx 1/2cm).

8.  Place the ham into a aluminium / tin foil lined roasting tin and score the fat in a criss-cross, all over the top and sides.

9.  Now we need to mix the basting paste.  In a bowl, or jug, add the honey, brown sugar, 2 tsp Paprika powder and some black cracked pepper (to taste) and mix it all together with a fork.

10.  Using a basting brush or spoon, cover the mixture over the ham, ensuring to ‘get in the criss-crosses’.  Any left over honey mixture will not be used, so get rid of this.

11.  When the oven is preheated, place the ham (UNCOVERED!) in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes.

12.  Allow the ham to cool before carving…

If you’re like me, it’s best to leave it to cool completely.  I’m actually in the process of cooking my ham now (it’s in the pot, and the topside of beef is in the oven) for Christmas dinner tomorrow.  Yum yum…

Serve with whatever you like…  Potatoes, veg…  On a piece of bread…  On it’s own…  Oh my…  I’m drooling at the thought, and the smell.  Well, my house smells all Christmassy!

Merry Christmas everyone x

Pound Cafe – Huyton Village

It’s been a while since I posted here, so why not start again with a review?  🙂

The Pound Cafe in Huyton Village, Merseyside, is attached to the Pound Bakery.  As it says on the tin, everything is £1 (or under)!

Whilst walking through the village, my son and I were on our way back to the car when he said “I want dinner…”.  I was only going to nip in to the bakery, but I thought, ‘why not.  It’s the same price, and we get to have a little sit down too’.

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On entering the Pound Cafe, it was clean, bright, and there were plenty of seats, tables and booths available.  That’s not to say that the place was empty…  There were about 30 or so people in there, all with full cups and half empty plates in front of them.  They all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I approached an empty booth (in bright green!), and sat my 2 year old down with his new inflatable “Spongebob” toy.  I told him to stay there, to mind the table, and I would go and order for us.

I went to the fridge area first, and picked up a can of 7up.  It was warm.  I checked the other cans and bottles in the refrigeration unit, and they were all the same.  I dread to think what the sandwiches and cakes were like in there…  I let this go though, as temperatures outside were 26C.  Incredibly warm.

The lady behind the counter greeted me with a “what can I get you?”.  No smile, no eye contact, just a gruff voice.

I ordered a child’s sausage roll, chips and beans for William, and a jumbo sausage roll for myself.  I then paid the £2.80 for my order, and I was handed a number sign to place on the table, so the cafe assistant knew where to bring our food to.  The sign was bright orange, with a black laminated piece of paper attached, with a large ’27’ in white.  The sign stand was dirty and greasy.  It looked like they hadn’t bothered to give it a wipe in months.

Wanting to get back, I just grabbed the top of the sign, and returned to my waiting boy.

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20 minutes passed, and I actually asked William (out loud), “how long does it take to put a couple of sausage rolls on a plate?”

A further 10 minutes, and we finally had our plates put down in front of us.

My jumbo sausage roll was delicious.  The pastry was flaky, and the sausage meat was well cooked.  All together, I would certainly give it a 10 out of 10.

My sons, however, did not look as appetising.  He had a plate with a cut-off (not even half) a jumbo sausage roll (the menu stated it would be a full, ‘standard’ sausage roll), a big spoonful of baked beans (that looked like plastic), and the chips were anemic and hard.  That wasn’t the worst part, to be honest.  I wasn’t bothered about the chips, as William had said that he wanted the sausage roll and beans.  Now, if you were a server in a cafe / restaurant, would you serve a child’s meal on a hot plate?  No?  Neither would I.  These, however, did.  The plate was so hot that even I couldn’t touch it.

Back to the food…  William had one fork full of beans, and responded with “I don’t like them.  They’re cold.”  I tasted them, and I agreed.  He then had a bite of the sausage roll…  Soggy pastry, and cold meat.  Work that out.  Hot plate, cold food.

I didn’t bother saying anything.  Even if I did try to speak up, the staff seemed as if they weren’t bothered.  One particular woman who worked there, was busy standing outside (near enough in the doorway!!), smoking a cigarette, and talking to a customer.  She shouted back in to the shop, to a customer, “be with you in a minute, love”.

Overall results:

Jumbo sausage roll – 10/10

Childs’ sausage roll dinner – 0/10

Can of 7up – 9/10 (not the cans’ fault that the fridge didn’t work, although still lost a point for being warm)

I think that I will be sticking to the bakery in the future.

My Christmas Ham

It’s my turn to host Christmas dinner for my parents this year.  Last year we went to theirs, so it’s only fair.

I’ve bought a very yummy looking 2.7kg (6lb) gammon joint.  Boy am I looking forward to it!  I don’t soak my ham before cooking.  The boiling part draws out the majority of the salt, so that’s all I need.  Here’s how to cook it:

Ingredients:

Gammon joint (size is up to you, but please follow the cooking schedule carefully)

5 tb sp Honey

1 tb sp Brown Sugar

Paprika

Black Cracked Peppercorns

1 and a 1/2 Onions (red or white – I used red because it’s a Christmas colour!)

1l Coca-Cola* (or Cherry Coca-Cola*)

Water

Method:

1.  Place your ham ‘standing on one end’ in a large boiling pan.

2.  Dice 1 onion and place it in the pan.

3.  Pour 1l of Coca-Cola (or Cherry Coca-Cola) over the ham, and top up with water.  Make sure that the ham is covered.

4.  Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil.

5.  Once the meat has started to boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and follow the instructions for how long you need to set your timer for…

Weight Boiling Time
450g (1 lb) Allow 45 minutes
450g – 1.5 kg (1-3 lb) Allow 1 – 1 1/2 hours
1.2 – 2.7 kg (3-6 lb) Allow 30 minutes per 450g (1 lb)
2.7 – 4.5 kg (6-10 lb) Allow 3 – 3 1/2 hours
4.5 – 6.3 kg (10-14 lb) Allow 3 1/2 – 3 3/4 hours
6.3 – 8.1 kg (14-18 lb) Allow 3 3/4 – 4 1/4 hours
8.1 – 9.5 kg (18-21 lb) Allow 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 hours

Because my ham is a 2.7kg weight, I’m leaving mine for 3 hours.

6.  When your timer beeps, switch off the heat and remove the meat from the liquid (pour the liquid away – I know…  Such a waste).  It’s at this point that you need to set your oven to 190C /170C fan /gas 5.

7.  Pat dry the meat using some kitchen towels.

8.  Using a very sharp knife, remove the skin…  If your meat has a lot of fat, remove the majority, leaving a thin layer (approx 1/2cm).

9.  Place the ham into a aluminium / tin foil lined roasting tin and score the fat in a criss-cross, all over the top and sides.

10.  Now we need to mix the basting paste.  In a bowl, or jug, add the honey, brown sugar, 2 tsp Paprika powder and some black cracked pepper (to taste) and mix it all together with a fork.

11.  Using a basting brush or spoon, cover the mixture over the ham, ensuring to ‘get in the criss-crosses’.  Any left over honey mixture will not be used, so get rid of this.

12.  Chop up 1/2 onion and add to the roasting tin.

13.  When the oven is preheated, place the ham (UNCOVERED!) in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes.

14.  Allow the ham to cool before carving…

If you’re like me, it’s best to leave it to cool completely.  I’m actually in the process of cooking my ham now (it’s in the pot) for Christmas dinner tomorrow.  Yum yum…

Serve with whatever you like…  Potatoes, veg…  On a piece of bread…  On it’s own…  Oh my…  I’m drooling at the thought, and the smell.  Well, my house smells all Christmassy!

Merry Christmas everyone x

 

*It is very important that you use ‘real’ Coca-Cola or Cherry Coca-Cola.  I have used the cheap alternatives in the past, and my ham never turns out as good.

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