Breakfast Berry Muffins

I don’t know about you but I really struggle to find time to eat breakfast before I leave for work in the morning. Then when I do get to work the only options available in the canteen involve sausage, bacon and/or has browns – great at the weekends but not so great on a daily basis!

Luckily, I found a couple of recipes for breakfast muffins which seemed (1) easily manageable for a novice baker like me, (2) low fat and low calorie, and (3) perfect for grabbing on my way out the door in the mornings.

After perusing a couple of different recipes I decided to just experiment a little with the ingredients I had available – rather than going out and buying lots of expensive seeds or toppings. Once you have the base muffin recipe it’s quite easy to do this, so why not try your own fruit/nut combinations.

This made 15 small muffins (because I was conscious of calories with this batch) but if your not too worried and want to make 12 bigger size muffins, just make sure to cook for a bit longer.

The chilling stage is pretty important, as it gives the oats time to soak up some of the moisture and lots of the flavour…without this your muffin mix will end up quite thin and may not rise as well.

I use fresh berries in this recipe, because it’s what I had to hand. If you prefer to use frozen berries just make sure you allow for this in the baking time.

Admittedly, these are not as sweet as your traditional muffins but actually I prefer a more savoury start to the day anyway. The fresh berries keep the mixture nice and moist, meaning they should keep for a few days in an air tight container. Otherwise they are freezable – although I haven’t tried this myself yet!

Ingredients
– 2 eggs
– 150ml low fat natural yoghurt
– 50ml oil (don’t bother using the fancy stuff here)
– 100g smooth apple sauce
– 1 mashed banana
– 3tbsp runny honey
– 1tsp vanilla extract
– 200g wholemeal flour
– 50g rolled oats
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 1/2 bicarbonate of sofa
– 2tsp cinnamon
– 120g fresh raspberries

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4 and line your muffin tin with muffin cases;
2. Mix the eggs, yogurt, oil, apple sauce, banana, honey and vanilla in a bowl;
3. Tip all other ingredients into a second bowl and mix together;
4. Add wet ingredients to the dry, and mix gently until just combined;
5. Divide mixture between muffin cases and top with a sprinkling of extra oats;
6. Bake for around 25mins until well risen and golden on top. A clean skewer inserted in should come out clean;
7. Leave to cool, and then enjoy!

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Annie’s Burger Shack, Nottingham

If you ask anyone where the best burger in Nottingham is, 99% of the time you will get told ‘go to Annie’s’ (and the other 1% are just wrong).

Hailing from Rhode Island originally, Annie brings the taste of America to the rainy streets of Nottingham. Originally based within a local pub, her reputation grew to the point that she had to eventually expand into her own venue – and am I glad she did!

The first thing you notice when you walk into the ‘new Annie’s’ is vast bar, with its wide range of beers on tap. Annie admits she is a bit of a beer fan herself, so you are always guaranteed a good selection of both locally brewed beers (such as Blue Monkey) and wider-ranging breweries. If you’re not sure what to go for, just ask the bar staff who always seem happy to make suggestions. For those of you who prefer a glass of wine over a pint, make sure you try Annie’s very own selection – she has a white, red and rose. Not only do they taste good but they come with her very own personalised labels.

One of the biggest problems at Annie’s (according to Trip Advisor) is that the constant levels of demand can lead to long delays and poor service. Luckily, we saw none of that when we visited last Friday – although this may have been due to the fact we went quite early in the evening before the rush. Our waiter was friendly and enthusiastic, and managed to put up with our constant indecisions over the menu without losing his smile. Making reservations can be a bit of an issue, but they are supposed to be updating their website to combat this.

Having spent about 30minutes agonising over the menu (seriously, there are a lot of great burger options on there!) I finally settled on the monthly special ‘The Hoisin’. This is burger topped with a Chinese pancake, grilled duck breast strips and a hoisin/orange sauce, on a bed of crispy seaweed and finished with homemade candied citrus peels and curly spring onion. It’s not cheap at £12.90, but it is definitely worth it if you are after a bit of a treat.

As you can see from the picture below, presentation is another strong point. Believe it or not but there is actually a burger under that pancake! The burger was cooked a perfect medium rare (if you don’t like your burger pink make sure to tell them when you order) and the duck was crispy. I had worried that the sauce may be too sweet, but the citrus peel gave it a really tantalising freshness that I wasn’t expecting. Just make sure you have plenty of napkins as the sauce WILL go everywhere when you try to eat it – a knife and fork is not cheating when your dignity is at stake!

Sadly, this burger will only be there until the end of January but there are plenty of other interesting combinations to entice you in. Personal favourites include ‘The Elvis’ (peanut butter and jam), ‘The Deathray’ (hot chilli sauce topped with a whole scotch bonnet) and ‘The Delta’ (Mississippi burger sauce, jalapenos and onion rings).

Annie’s have just celebrated their one year anniversary in the new venue, and to celebrate they are running a ‘suggest a burger’ competition. So if you have the perfect burger combination make sure you pop in and submit your entry before it’s too late – the winner will get their burger featured on the menu. They aren’t accepting entries online so you will have to pop in, but that just gives you a perfect excuse to stop for a beer!

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Sunday Lunch – all of the goodness none of the faff!

In our house the general rule for Sundays is ‘do little and eat lots’…but when there is only two of you to feed, cooking a Sunday roast starts to feel like more work then fun.

Luckily, about ten minutes away from us is The Trent Lock, a cosy gastro pub with roaring fires and a great roast dinner menu. It is part of the ‘vintage pub’ chain, so elements of the menu and wine list can feel a bit predictable but the decor and ambiance more than makes up for this. In the summer they have a huge beer garden which leads all the way down to the river – very picturesque.

The wine selection was reasonable, with a 175ml glass of Malbec being under £6 but D felt that the beer selection was somewhat lacking in variety.

The Sunday menu is slightly more limited than their standard menu, but there are still plenty of options if you don’t fancy a traditional roast dinner. My second choice would have been the beer battered fish and chips – which looked very good from the table next to is.

As well as the standard roast options they also offer the ‘vintage roast platter’ which is a selection of three different meats, stuffing, pigs in blankets, Yorkshire puddings, duck fat roast potatoes, parsnips and mixed green veg. Being the gluttons that we are, and given that they were out of roast chicken (by 2:30 I might add!) we couldn’t resist.

The platter comes with turkey, beef and pork, all of which were cooked to perfection. The turkey was moist, the beef pink and the pork had a nice crunch to the fat. The duck fat potatoes were cooked to perfection – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. D wasn’t too keen on the stuffing as he can be a bit funny about sweet and savoury mixed together (it had raisins in it) but personally I thought it worked really well. Sadly the green veg was overlooked and the sprouts were a bit mushy but overall the dish worked really well. The only issue I had was that the gravy was served already poured over the meat, whereas I would have preferred for it to come separately so I could add it to my veg and Yorkshire puds – instead I. Just mopped it up from the platter like a heathen! (And I have no shame about this)

After all of the food there was no way either of us could face dessert, and having seen the portion sizes I am glad we didn’t. We did however manage to split a cheese board between us. It came with three cheeses – Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Ford Farm cheddar and Cornish Brie, more than enough for the two of us. The chutney it came with was a bit sweet for my liking, but the oat biscuits were a delight.

Overall we were really happy with our meal, and felt it was good value for money. The service was friendly but not pushy, which in my mind is a perfect combination. Definitely can’t wait to get back and test out the full menu soon 🙂

For anyone who fancies testing this place out, sign up to their mailing list and you can get 25% off your meal Monday to Friday

Butternut Squash and Kidney Bean Burgers

I don’t know about you, but after the long Christmas break (and my birthday) I was desperate for some fresh home-cooked meals with lots of veg! D and I were both off work for the whole Christmas period which just meant a contstant stream of eating out, drinks with friends and family dinners – with plenty of grazing on christmas goodies along the way.

As fun as it all was at the time (I mean, who doesn’t love a slice of pork pie slathered in stilton?!), suddenly my waist band is feeling a little tight and I think it’s time to start thinking about what I eat a little bit more carefully!

Luckily, thanks to the guys over at Able and Cole I now have a fridge full of fresh organically grown veg. If you haven’t tried a fruit/veg delivery before I would absolutely recommend it – not only does it taste better but I find we are saving more money because we have to go food shopping less (I just make do with the leftovers in the fridge until the next delivery arrives).

But I still need to make food which is substantial enough for D, and doesn’t feel like ‘diet food’. That’s why these veggie burgers are so good – he can have them in a burger bun, or flat wrap, and I can have them in lettuce leaves. It really is a flexible dish – add as many toppings as you like. We went for chill sauce and mayo, with jalapenos and salad, but I think avocado would be a really good addition too if you want to bulk it out a bit – and lots of vitamins and good oils in there too.

Microwaving the butternut squash makes this a really simple, healthy, mid-week recipe. If you don’t have a microwave then I would just roast the squash in chunks for about 40mins, until it is soft and mashable. Adding the crushed tortilla chips may seem a bit odd – but it meant that the burgers had a nice crisp to them and helped them to hold their shape. It also gave them a slightly Mexican taste, which with the added toppings ,worked really well.

This made 6 normal size burgers, but I found they were quite slow to cook so I have suggested making 12 mini burgers instead. If you did want to make normal size burgers just bear in mind the additional time it may need. Alternatively, if you skip the ‘chilling’ stage they would cook quicker but may not hold their shape as well.

Apologies for the lack of photos, but it was the first day back to work and I was just so hungry!

Ingredients

– 600g butternut squash

– 1 tin kidney beans

1 tsp chilli flakes

– 2 cloves of garlic

Several handfuls of crushed tortilla chips

– Vegetable oil

– Burger buns and toppings of your choice

1. Cut the butternut squash into equal chunks (don’t worry about removing the skin) and place in covered microwave proof bowl. Microwave on high for 10 minutes

2. Meanwhile blitz the kidney beans, chilli flakes and garlic cloves in a food processor until they form a smooth paste

3. After the butternut squash has cooked, remove it from the microwave and allow to cool slightly

4. Scoop the butternut squash flesh away from its skin, and add to the bean mixture

5. Mix in a handful of crushed tortilla chips – this will help it bind. Keep adding chips until you think the mixture will hold its shape

6. Using slightly wet hands (to avoid the mixture sticking) mould into twelve mini burger shapes

7. Place on a non-stick baking tray and leave to chill in the fridge for 10 mins

8. Pre-heat grill

9. Remove burgers from the fridge and place under the grill. Cook on each side for at least 5mins. Just make sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn

10. Once they are nice and crisp on both sides remove from the grill

11. Build your burgers and enjoy

Chocolate Brownie Mince Pies

I don’t know about you but one of my favourite things about Christmas is all of the yummy treats there are around – both store bought and homemade. I have been seeing so many different things around this year, but one thing that really caught my eye was this recipe from Sainsbury’s Magazine for Brownie Mince Pies.
I have to admit; as soon as I saw the name I was intrigued – the thought of gooey chocolatey brownie mixed with all of the goodness of mince pies and perfectly baked pastry?! We had had so many awesome ‘hybrid’ foods like the Cronut…so why not do the same with mince pies?!
So, after going on about how much I wanted to try this for about 4 weeks, I finally got round to making them this weekend…and they were definitely worth the wait! The recipe does make quite a few but I promise they won’t go to waste.
As my last few attempts at brownies haven’t gone to well (cracked glass bowls and exploding ovens being the least of my problems) I decided to take the slightly easier option and buy ready-made pastry. I actually managed to find this in Aldi (I think it is part of their Christmas range) and it was surprisingly effective and cheap! I will be very disappointed if they don’t keep this in stock after the New Year!
A standard pack of pastry from Aldi made 14 mince pies, with a bit of brownie mixture left over. I assume if you make the pastry from the recipe you won’t have that problem. I just poured the left over mixture into a tart tin and baked it as a normal brownie – it tasted just like Christmas pudding!
I know a lot of people will think that its sacrilege messing with the traditional mince pie but personally I love a bit of experimentation. And for those of you who don’t really like mince pies (my other half included) these can be a good middle ground.
I decided not to add the frosting decoration as I took this into work as a bit of a Christmas treat for my colleagues and I was concerned about how they would travel. Instead I just have them a dusting if icing sugar and they went down really well…even if they were a bit dubious to begin with.
Safe to say these may become a new Christmas tradition.

Merry Christmas!

Sadly no pics of my own version but here is what they should look like according to the Sainsbury’s recipe image:

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/710/72764082/files/2014/12/img_1268.jpg (photo from Sainsbury’s Magazine)

Monday night firsts

A few months ago the boy and I decided we needed more fresh veg in our lives and decided to sign up with Abel and Cole for regular veg box deliveries. As well as ensuring a healthy dose of vitamins, I think the best part has been all of the weird and wonderful vegetables they send us-some of which I have never heard of!

This week the delivery included a pettypan squash, which is a small summer squash resembling a flying saucer. I have to admit when I first saw it I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but after a bit of online research I felt inspired. My first thought was something along the lines of this but having no Parmesan or marinara sauce kinda put the end to that one!

Finally I settled on this – a medley of roasted veg (including the pettypan squash) on top of a bed of spicy cous cous.

Having never tried pettypan squash before I was pleasantly surprised. Roasting it have it a sweet edge, and it worked really well with the roasted carrots and peppers. It does go a little bit soft so you may want to keep an eye on it whilst it’s in the oven, but mixed with the other ingredients there is still plenty of texture.

I apologise but I did use a ready made cous-cous mix (I think the Ainsley Herriot ones are a good option) but it is a Monday night and it’s been a busy day at work!

This served me and the boy with minimal leftovers. The sweetcorn doesn’t technically go with the recipe but it needed eating.

Given the success of the pettypan I can’t wait to see what gets delivered next time 🙂

Roasted Pettypan, Carrots and Red Pepper with Spicy Cous-cous
one pettypan squash cut into chunks
one red pepper cut into chunks
6 carrots, peeled
2 garlic cloves
1tbsp olive oil
100g cous cous

– heat the oven to 180/200
– put squash, carrots and pepper in a roasting dish with the garlic and olive oil
– roast in over for approximately 45mins (or until the veg starts to go soft)
– meanwhile make your cous cous (follow instructions on pack)
– heap hot fluffy cous cous into bowls and top with the roasted veg
– serve and enjoy

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Burgers,bacon,Mac an cheese- a match made in heaven?

So after an impromptu night of drinking on Friday there was no way I was in any mood to cook on Saturday, which gave me the perfect opportunity to visit one of my favourite haunts from law school -Spanky’s Van Dykes.

Spanky’s is a chilled out slightly alternative music venue, with a reputation for incredible burgers and fried chicken. Although I am hardly the best person to comment on the standards of music ( as my boyfriend would be quick to verify) I do love a good burger and the variety there is second to none. As well as a variety of suggested burgers (including a monster munch and emmental burger?!) they also have a whole host of toppings if you prefer to ‘make-your-own’. You can check out the complete menu here

Sadly they were out of monster munch on Saturday, and so I settled for designing my own perfect burger…after a long internal struggle over the traditional (blue cheese and bacon) vs the alternative or obscure (peanut butter and jam) I finally settled for the middle ground- 1/4 pounder topped with bacon and homemade mac n cheese. 

After a very reasonable wait time, my burger arrived…and I was not disappointed. Fat, creamy, melt in the mouth macaroni spilling out from a perfectly cooked, meaty burger,topped with hot crispy bacon….pure heaven!The only slight disappointment was the fries…these used to be skinny double cooked fries but appear to have been replaced with chunkier chips which reminded me of the type you get from a chip shop…nice but nothing special.

One thing I did love was the wide range of condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, 3 kinds of Tabasco, hot sauce (plus a few I can’t remember).

Overall this is a great venue with a wide variety of burgers to suit every taste. Add in a good range of beers( Sierra Nevada is usually available on draft) and you have a winning combination for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

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