University of Birmingham graduate with a passion for food & cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle

Twitter: @EatRainbowLove
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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Italian stuffed chicken breast with potato wedges

There isn't really much else to say that this photo doesn't already show - delicious Italian flavours, moist chicken breast, and soft flavoursome wedges with crisp skins. Mmmmm. Home-made potato wedges are far nicer than you could ever find in the freezer section at the supermarket, try for yourself! I served this with broccoli as well.

Serves 2
- 2 large chicken breasts
- buffalo mozzarella, sliced (about 3/4 of a ball)
- cherry tomatoes, sliced
- fresh basil, torn
- 1 onion, quartered
- olive oil
- 2 baking potatoes
- paprika
- salt
- dried mixed herbs

1. For the wedges, slice the potatoes into wedge shapes (half them, then half that, then half it again etc). In a deep sided baking tray, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, then rub the wedges in the oil and lace in the tray. Sprinkle generously with the salt, paprika and mixed herbs. Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes - an hour at 180 degrees.
2. For the stuffed chicken, slice the breasts lengthways without cutting them completely in half. Place the mozzarella, tomatoes and basil in each one and gently close. (At this stage you could use cocktail sticks or wrap with bacon/proscuitto to secure the filling in place.) Place on a baking tray with the onion, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle mixed herbs on top of the chicken. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes, covered with foil, and an extra 5 minutes uncovered.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Banana loaf cake

I had never tried banana cake until someone home-made it for a BBQ dessert last summer, and I absolutely loved it. I like bananas but don't usually like banana flavoured things, the exception being this cake of course. I used the recipe in Lisa Faulkner's cookbook, which worked really well. The good thing about it is that it requires very ripe bananas, so you don't have to waste those black bananas in your fruit bowl anymore! It's quite a dense cake but super moist and full of sweet flavour which is what I love most about it, and the end pieces taste particularly good, I don't really know why, it must be the change in texture? I grated some dark chocolate on top before baking, and next time I will probably put dark chocolate chips in to improve the texture and balance the sweetness with a more bitter taste - who doesn't love chocolate chunks in a cake!? If you like bananas, I would definitely recommend trying this recipe, don't be sceptical - it can be just as yummy as a victoria sponge or chocolate cake, it has lots of potential! I also always think of this as quite a British cake so would be the perfect treat to whip up for the jubilee weekend if you are having a party or spending time with family.

For a 1kg cake - serves 8-10 (I halved it)
- 125g butter or margarine, softened
- 75g soft brown sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 250g self-raising flour, sieved
- 2 heaped teaspoons honey
- dark chocolate, grated
(How cute is this egg box!? I'm sure they're just normal eggs - I don't think the fact that they're called 'baking eggs' changes anything, but they were really large eggs and the best value at around £1.20 for 6! I got them in Tesco)

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees. Grease a loaf tin.
2. Cream together the butter and the sugar until soft and fluffy. Whisk in the beaten eggs and the mashed banana until fully combined.
3. Fold in the flour, then stir in the honey.
4. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and grate the dark chocolate on top.
5. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until golden on top, and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
6. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wired rack and leave to cool. Serve on its own or with some crème fraiche, mm mm.
Enjoy :)

Sea bass with tomato and herb risotto

This risotto can be eaten on its own or goes perfectly well with white fish, like sea bass, or chicken. There was a huge shock horror of not having any normal or risotto rice, but only basmati!! However, I used the basmati and after a long cooking time in lots of stock, it did seem to work - although next time I will use a risotto rice. This is really simple, with the rice you only need a few tomatoes, some fresh herbs (I used parsley), chicken or vegetable stock, parmesan and a dash of cream or mascarpone. We pan-fried the fish so the skin was deliciously crispy, complimenting the soft, creamy risotto perfectly. I added pesto on top of the fish and in the risotto, but if you don't like pesto then it isn't a necessity. I served the risotto on a bed of spinach, and we had broccoli and green beans too, so apart from the dash of cream and bit of parmesan, this is a fairly low-sat-fat meal. The perfect meal if you want to impress!

Serves 2
- dollop of butter/margarine
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 100g risotto rice
- 3/4 chicken or vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 250ml water
- handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
- large handful of parsley, finely chopped
- drizzle of olive oil
- 2 sea bass fillets
- handful of parmesan, grated
- dash of single cream or mascarpone or crème fraiche
- few teaspoons of green pesto
- handful of ready washed fresh spinach leaves

1. Fry the onions and garlic in the butter until softened. Stir in the rice (it should start to look translucent). Add the stock mixture and cook for around 20 mins, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is soft - you may need to add more water as you go along - keep stirring and testing the rice.
2. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the fish for a few minutes on each side, until the skin is crisp, and the fish is cooked through (cut open to check)
3. Add the cherry tomatoes and parsley to the risotto and stir until combined (you can do this before all the water is absorbed). Add the parmesan, some cream and pesto, and season to taste. Make sure all the liquids are reduced.
4. Place the risotto on a bed of spinach leaves and top with the sea bass. Garnish with some pesto, parmesan, fresh parsley, and a few cherry tomatoes!

Enjoy :)

Tomato and basil bruschetta

A delicious taste of Italy! Tomato and basil are the perfect match, and even better with a dash of balsamic vinegar, basil (green) pesto and a sprinkling of parmesan. These are a crowd-pleasing starter or side dish accompanying any Italian-style food, particularly a pasta dish. So easy to put together but such impressive flavours. Bruschetta is so versatile - you can top it with anything: garlic butter, caramelised onion and goats cheese, mozzarella and sun dried tomato, herby mushrooms etc etc. I served this with carbonara - the recipe is here!
Serves 2
- 1/2 baguette, sliced into eight (I used wholemeal)
- few dollops of green pesto
- large handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced or quartered
- few leaves of fresh basil, torn
- dash of balsamic vinegar
- small handful of parmesan, grated

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees. Place the tomatoes and fresh basil in a bowl and stir in some balsamic vinegar (the smell is amazing!)
2. Spread green pesto on each slice of bread, and place on a baking tray.
3. Spoon the tomato and basil mixture on each slice, grate some parmesan on top, if desired, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the bread is crisp and hot to touch.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The best carbonara

I love anything pasta, hence why a lot of my posts are pasta dishes - and when cream, parmesan, bacon and garlic are involved, how could anyone say no? I have two similar posts - fettucine alfredo here and baked spaghetti carbonara here. I didn't use egg in this carbonara recipe, because the cottage cheese has a similar texture of coating the pasta. I wouldn't usually use onion in carbonara (I don't know why, it just seems weird?) but it was perfectly fine; I guess because it's chopped so fine you barely notice of it - it isn't particularly needed but it does add extra flavour. I have also started using fresh garlic cloves (as opposed to ready-ground) and I'm so glad because the flavour and aroma is sooo much nicer, I would definitely recommend! If you don't like mushrooms then don't add them, and likewise with the bacon if you are vegetarian. Such a simple but impressive meal to whip together, and I like to think it's healthier than a standard carbonara, since I used a little bit of single cream and the majority of low fat cottage cheese (which is so high in protein). I served this with tomato and basil bruschetta mmmm,

Serves 2
- 200g spaghetti
- large dollop of butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves,  crushed (less if you aren't a garlic fan)
- 4-5 rashers of smoked bacon, cubed
- 150g mushrooms
- 250g cottage cheese
- 100ml single cream
- handful of parmesan, grated
- ground pepper

1. Soften the onion and garlic in a pan with the melted butter for a few minutes. Add the bacon and fry until cooked through and beginning to crisp.
2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in salted water according to packet instructions (around 10-12 mins)
3. Add the mushrooms to the garlic and onion and cook until softened, then add the cottage cheese. Stir until the cottage cheese has completely melted. It will look watery a this stage, especially with the mushrooms, but don't worry, it will thicken up as you keep cooking!
4. Add the cream and keep stirring until it has reduced and thickened to your liking, add some pepper to taste.
5. Drain the spaghetti, return to the pan, stir through the sauce, and serve.
Enjoy :)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta pasta salad

Mmmmm. This is actually a picture I took in 2010! I ate this at a picnic outside Windsor castle. It is a re-creation of my favourite MandS pasta salad because, let's face it, it is probably a lot cheaper to make from scratch... It has all my favourite Italian flavours in it; I particularly love the red pesto as I don't usually have this often. A perfect lunch for this amazing sunny, hot weather we're having in England, and can easily be prepared the night before.

Serves 2
- 180g pasta shapes (e.g. fusilli)
- generous amount of red pesto (the sun-dried tomato flavour)
- handful of spinach, torn
- feta, cut into cubes
- sun-dried tomatoes, sliced 
- salt & pepper
- fresh basil, torn (optional)

I haven't given specific quantities because I didn't really measure them - just add as much as you like. E.g. if you like a lot of sauce then add more pesto, or if you find sun-dried tomatoes too rich then only add a few etc.

1. Cook the pasta in salted water according to packet instructions. Drain, and leave to cool.
2. Stir in the pesto until the pasta is coated, then add all the other ingredients and mix together. Season to taste and refrigerate in a tupperware until needed!

Enjoy :)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Chicken and mushroom puff pastry pie

I had been craving a pie for ages; pastry is such a weakness for me, and puff pastry is definitely the most satisfying! I decided to make this creamy, comfort food chicken pie after coming across the recipe in Lisa Faulkner's cookbook (check here for info on her book). However, I altered it in a few ways - her recipe is for pot pies (small individual ones) and I made one large one, I lined the dish with puff pastry so it has a pastry base and topping rather than just topping, I used parsley instead of tarragon, and I didn't use any fennel. It was absolutely delicious, I recommend to anyone who likes pies. I had never made a pastry pie before, and it was exceptionally easy considering you can buy ready-rolled puff pastry! My boyfriend and I both loved it, although it is very rich - I guess this is one of the reasons why in the original recipe it just has a pastry topping rather than the filling being completely encased. I served the pie with creamy, parsley mash (I didn't take a picture of this but will write the recipe down below) and green beans. Mmmm, re-living the amazing taste of the mushrooms and parsley - I cannot wait to make this again!

Serves 4
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium chicken breasts, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 300g mushrooms, quartered
- 100ml double cream
- 270ml chicken stock
- bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- puff pastry (1 or 2 sheets if just covering top, but 4-6 if lining the dish as well)
- 1 egg, beaten

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat the butter and oil in a deep frying pan and fry the chicken until browned. Put aside and return the pan to the heat, adding the garlic and onion, cooking until softened.
2. Add the mushrooms (adding a bit more oil if necessary) and cook until reduced down and softened.
3. Pour in the double cream and prepared stock, and reduce for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Add the cooked chicken, and parsley.
4. Meanwhile, oil a deep baking dish and line it with puff pastry (only one layer thick). You may need to cut different shapes for it to fit round the sides. Pour the chicken and mushroom mixture into the pastry-lined dish.
5. Top with the remaining pastry and brush with the beaten egg - this helps it crisp up, and gives it that gorgeous golden brown colour. If you want you can save some pastry and make shapes to stick on top, my boyfriend made the star! Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until hot in the middle and the pastry is crisp and golden.

For parsley mash
- mashing potatoes
- salt
- margarine
- double cream
- fresh parsley, chopped

1. Simply cook the potatoes in a pan of salted water according to packet instructions (20-30 mins)
2. Drain and return to the pan, adding a dollop of margarine and some cream. Mash until smooth - season to taste and add more cream if necessary. Add the parsley and stir through... delicious!

Enjoy :)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Low fat blueberry muffins

So the one's I baked were incredibly low fat since I forgot to put margarine in... As you can imagine I was extremely annoyed remembering I didn't put any in when they were 5 minutes away from being done in the oven! I tried one straight from the oven (always best when they're warm) and it was still delicious, soft on the inside, crisp on top and a lovely fruity flavour along with warm cinnamon flavours - mmm! However, they were stuck to the paper cases which I presume may not have been so bad if there was more fat in there (from the marg). I also think they would be more moist with marg in as well, so of course, don't be silly like me and forget to put it in! What I particularly love about these is the golden colour from the sprinkling of sugar and spices before baking in the oven.

Makes 6 muffins
- 115g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice (or just cinnamon)
- 55g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tbsp low-fat margarine
- 75ml (5 tbsp) low-fat natural yogurt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 40g fresh blueberries

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees. Place 6 muffin cases in a muffin tin.
2. Sift the flour, bicarb of soda, salt and half the mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Add 6 tbsp of the sugar and mix together well.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, margarine, yogurt and vanilla extract. Stir in the blueberries then pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Gently stir until combined.
4. Divide the mixture into the muffin cases (about 2/3 full). Sprinkle over the remaining sugar and some mixed spice over the muffins.
5. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Best eaten warm!

Enjoy :)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Chicken, bacon and leek risotto

It still amazes me how creamy and filling a risotto is when it has no creamy ingredients in it what so ever! (apart from some parmesan) It's so clever how by cooking rice this way you get an amazing, rich texture that isn't even too unhealthy. I never used to be that keen on risotto but I am slowly changing my mind... They are so much easier to make than I assumed as well; this dish will definitely impress!

Serves 2
- dash of olive oil
- knob of butter
- 1 1/2 chicken breasts, sliced
- 4 rashers bacon, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- 200g rice
- 450ml boiling water with chicken stock cube
- parmesan, grated, for garnish
1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan and cook the chicken breasts until browned (well, white).
2. Add the bacon and leeks and cook until the leeks are soft and the bacon has turned lighter in colour.
3. Add the rice and stir through, coating in the ingredients and adding more butter if necessary. The grains of rice should start to fry and go translucent (try not to let them stick to the pan though, keep stirring!)
4. Prepare the stock in a jug and pour into the saucepan and stir. Cover and simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the water is absorbed and the rice if soft to bite (try some).
5. Serve and top with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan, mm

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pineapple and spinach smoothie

I know it doesn't sound or look particularly appetising (hence the snazzy bit of pineapple on the side trying to improve it...) but don't turn your nose up at it until you try it! It honestly does taste pretty good, although you have to like the texture of smoothies to enjoy this. I usually opt for really sweet, berry smoothies, and although this does contain berries, it isn't as sweet as I usually prefer. Having said that, I will definitely make this again as I love the tang the pineapple gives, and I love knowing how nutritious it is - perfect if you're having a detox day. It sounds weird, but you really can taste all the ingredients individually, yet they taste delicious together. I got the idea of putting pineapple and spinach together from Jordan's workout DVD, believe it or not - her nutritionist makes a juice with those 2 main ingredients, alongside tons of other fruit & veg.
Ingredients (makes 1 large glass)
- 2-3 heaped tbsp natural yogurt
- 80g frozen strawberries & blueberries (or any berries)
- 2 rings fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
- big handful of spinach
- few splashes of water (depending on how thick/runny you want it)

Put the yogurt into the blender first with the berries and blend. Add the pineapple, spinach and water and blend until smooth. Taste and add more of anything if necessary.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Shepherd's pie

This is a really good shepherd's pie recipe - it has the usual comfort food textures and richness, as well as being packed with tons of flavour from the fresh rosemary. A potato pie like this is a brilliant way to get some veggies in as well without it being daunting (I know that it's always not great to have a pile of veg on the side of your plate, it can be the last thing you want to eat). As a student, when I'm at uni and have less time and space, I tend to buy the Collman's or Schwartz (or Tesco or Sainsbury's equivalents) dried packet mixes where you just add water (as well as the mince, veg, potato etc) - these are also great too for flavour; I will be doing a post soon on a sausage casserole I made using one of these, as well as a post more focussed on meals to cook as a student - a sort of week dinner plan. A typical recipe will make about 3 or 4 good-sized portions so it's great to freeze portions and have them in a few days or weeks, or even months! Having said that about the packet mixes, you cannot beat a hearty home-made shepherd's pie so if you've got the time, I would highly recommend this for a family treat.

Serves 4-6 (I halved this)
- oil, for frying
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 700-750g lamb mince (you can use beef if you prefer - technically this would make it a cottage pie)
- 2 large squidges of tomato puree
- 3-4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 200ml of lamb or beef stock
- splash of red wine (optional)
- salt & pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 250g frozen peas
- 1kg mashing potatoes, cut into chunks
- knob of butter
- splash of milk
- large handful of grated cheddar and breadcrumbs, for sprinkling

1. Heat the oil and add the onions, cooking until soft. Add the balsamic and cook until evaporated. Add the carrots and rosemary and stir together. Add the mince, breaking up with a wooden spoon and cook until browned.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.
3. Add the tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, stock, salt & pepper, and the bay leaf, and simmer. Add the peas.
4. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large an of salted water for around 20 minutes, or until soft.
5. Drain them, and return to the an, adding the butter and milk, mashing until smooth.Season according to taste.
6. Tip the meat mixture into a large casserole dish and dollop on the mash, spreading it and forking to make a pattern. Sprinkle on the cheese and the breadcrumbs for a crunchy texture - perfect with the smooth mash.
7. Cook the pie for 20-30 minutes , or until golden on top and hot all the way through.

Enjoy :)