Meatless Mondays (Chocolate) and What I Ate This Week (13th-19th May)

I’ve not been well these past few days and have been in bed with some kind of cold/flu type thing. Today I’m feeling a lot better but am behind on my blogging so I’m having to combine a couple of posts! I’ll be back to normal soon!

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I’ve loved the Dark Chocolate Meatless Mondays A-Z challenge! It’s one of my favourite ingredients (obviously) so I had a hard time choosing which recipe to follow. Unfortunately all of the recipes on the MMAZ page were made with ingredients I didn’t have or were full of gluten. I found a lot of chocolate containing recipes on my Healthy Indulgence Pinterest board and after much deliberation decided on the Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread from Gluten Free Gus.

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I followed the recipe exactly apart from replacing the sorghum flour with brown rice flour. I also used peppermint extract in the glaze rather than vanilla with gave a lovely “After Eight” type cake!

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Other recipes I want to try from this week:

You can see my recipe for Chocolate Orange Banana Bites here.

What Else I Ate This Week

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This is my “get well” vegetable soup! I made a large batch of this last time I was ill and found a tub of it in the freezer. It had new potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, peas, cabbage and tinned tomatoes in it and was lovely with a dash of vegan Worcester sauce.

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This was inspired by the meal I had when I stayed at a hotel in Derby a couple of weeks back. I stir fried some basmati rice, purple sprouting broccoli, peppers, celery and cashews. I used coconut oil in this stir fry and it was surprisingly good! Much better than any other kind I’ve tried (except maybe toasted sesame).

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A mixed berry chia pudding made with vanilla Rice Dream milk. When I first gave up dairy I hated the taste of soya milk so for a while I used rice milk in my cereal. I have memories of watery horrible cereal and have stayed away from rice milk ever since. However I found this vanilla flavoured milk on offer and decided to give it a go. It was quite nice! This chia pudding also contains strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

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When I made my Red Lentil Lasagne with Dijon Sauce I had a lot of the lentil mixture left over which I stuck in my freezer. I defrosted it this week and it made a lovely comforting meal mixed into rice pasta with a side salad.

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A warming curry made with red thai curry paste, coconut milk, sweet potato, carrots and green beans. I love coconut based curries and I think thai curries are my favourite.

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This is a Sweet Potato Gratin which is part of this month’s cookbook challenge. More about this later in the week!

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This Thai Curried Parsnip Soup is also part of this month’s cookbook challenge. More later this week!

What have you been eating this week? Were you inspired by this week’s MMAZ challenge?

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April Cookbook Challenge – 4 Ingredients Gluten Free Review

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For my cookbook challenge last month I was testing recipes from 4 Ingredients Gluten Free and the Meat Free Monday Cookbook. In this post I will be reviewing 4 Ingredients Gluten Free and letting you know how I got on cooking recipes from this book all month!

Introduction

The premise of this book is a good one. It is a cookbook aimed at families and people who want to create delicious gluten free meals quickly and easily. The 4 Ingredients Cookbook range is quite a wide one so it’s good to see a Gluten Free version!  The good thing about the introduction pages of this book is that they use information provided by the Australian Coeliac Society to back up their claims. This gives the book an air of authenticity which is good in a wary gluten free world!

The introduction starts by explaining exactly what gluten is and why it should be avoided in people with coeliac disease. It gives some good tips about who to contact for more in depth information whether you live in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand or the UK. There us also a useful table of foods to avoid in a gluten free diet and those safe to include. This would be a handy reference for anybody new to the diet.

A useful tool for people who live in different countries is the guide to weights and measures. I’m constantly looking up on the internet how much a cup of something should weigh but there’s no need with this quite comprehensive table! There is also a guide so that you can convert the oven temperature from fahrenheit to celsius or even gas mark. Another useful tool that makes this book good for worldwide cooks.

On to the recipes!

Breakfasts

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I think breakfast is possibly the hardest meal to try and make gluten free. There are a few good ideas in this chapter of both savoury and sweet breakfasts! I tried two recipes from the breakfast chapter. The first one I tried was Damper  which turned out to be a sweet syrupy bread. I had a lot of trouble with this recipe (as can be seen  in the link above) and can’t help but wonder if it’s too simple. From experience I know that gluten free baking usually uses a large mix of flours and starches and with just 4 ingredients I don’t think this can compete. Another point I wanted to make about this recipe is that I actually had to search online to see what “Damper” was. There is no introduction to this recipe and while I could guess what it was from the ingredients it would have been nice to have had a bit about the recipe.

The second breakfast dish I tried was the Toffee BananasThese were excellent but I probably wouldn’t serve them for breakfast due to the amount of sugar! They made a lovely dessert.

The rest of the recipes in this chapter were not vegan friendly as they relied heavily on eggs and cheese. However, for a non vegan cookbook, I think finding two breakfast recipes is an achievement!

Dips

I didn’t actually test any of the recipes from this chapter which is a shame. I think if there had been a party/buffet to cook for I would have made the Butterbean & Mustard Topper and maybe the Roast Aubergine Dip.

Salad Dressings

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I was quite impressed with this chapter as it had a huge range of different salad dressings. I tried the Orange & Mustard Dressing  which I really enjoyed. The only thing missing from this chapter is actual salad! I think it would have been good to have some suggestions of salads which would go well with each dressing.

Sauces

I didn’t try anything from this section either as nothing really caught my eye! That said, there was quite a lot of choice in this chapter for a vegan and I probably would have gotten round to trying some of it at some point. The Salsa looks particularly good.

Cocktail Food

This chapter was very heavy on the meat, fish and cheese so I didn’t try much in it. It would have been useful to have more veggie options here.

Morning & Afternoon Teas

Gluten free baking is a minefield but there are some interesting ideas in this chapter! I only tried the Pineapple Cake from this chapter and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out as most gluten free baking recipes require a lot more effort. There was plenty in this chapter which I wanted to try including Orange Coconut Clusters and Fruit Cake.

Light Meals & Lunches – Soups

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Soup is one of my favourite foods so I gave this chapter a good try! I tried the Pumpkin, Lentil & Ginger Soup which was surprisingly good for such a simple recipe! The Tomato & Basil Soup was also a definite eye opener as it was made with just tinned tomatoes and stock. This chapter was one of my favourites in the book as it showed that you need very few ingredients to make an excellent soup!

All Others

Another chapter that I didn’t try anything from! This chapter was based on light meals and included quiches, pizzas and other nice sounding lunches. It didn’t really have much choice for vegans though!

Salads

Sadly this chapter got largely overlooked due to the amazing salad recipes in the Meat Free Monday book. These salads just didn’t grab my attention! They looked quite boring with such few ingredients. Another problem I had with them is that they couldn’t really be modified. If you didn’t have one of the ingredients you would be left with a very bare salad.

Potato 

This was a very basic chapter which would be good for beginners. I didn’t really find much in there that looked exciting! I did try the Healthy Rustic Chips which is pretty much the same as the recipe that I’m used to using anyway.

Vegetables

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A chapter full of interesting ways to cook vegetables! From this chapter I tried the Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes which can be seen above. These were a lovely way to eat cherry tomatoes and something I’ll be using again.

Mains – Meat

There are a number of chapters on meat based mains but as I didn’t use any of them I’ll just let you know what they are (in case you’re interested!). There was beef, chicken, fish & seafood, lamb and pork.

Pasta

Oddly the pasta chapter is nestled in between the meat ones. I didn’t try anything as the dishes were all meat, fish and cream based.

Vegetarian Mains

IMAG1098The photo shows the Broccoli & Lemon Risotto which was a slightly disappointing recipe as the instructions didn’t include enough water and the end dish was much too lemony.

IMAG1139The Rice Pilaf was a perfect recipe and a really nice side dish. I did note that it was not anywhere near substantial enough to eat as a main course though.

There was a good variety of dishes in this chapter and many were vegan which is good to see!

Desserts

This chapter focuses on one of the hardest types of food to make once you go gluten free.. pudding. I don’t often make desserts as they’re usually too big for just me to eat! There were some good recipes in here though including a Cheesecake Base which could come in very handy.

Children

I imagine children are very difficult to feed when they are gluten free! This chapter has all sorts of ideas for quick snacks, lunches and meals which would be very handy for the mum of a young coeliac. The lunchbox ideas are particularly good! There is also a chapter on feeding babies gluten free food.

Drinks

I’m a water drinker really so this chapter didn’t really entice me. There’s a good mixture here though!

The Finishing Touches

After the recipes there are a few useful chapters including one focussing on the different herb and oil types and what they can be used for. There’s also a chapter full of household tips which again would be useful for a new mum.

My Overall Verdict

I think this book would be perfect for families going gluten free and particularly mums. I’m not really the target market! However there were some very simple recipes that could be used time and time again and some good ideas to help me with my gluten free cooking.

There are some things I would have liked to have seen in this book. As always, photos are what draw me to cook books. There were no pictures at all in this book and they really would have helped me to get excited about what I was making. There were also no introductions to the recipes apart from vague “this is really good” type messages. I love it when an author puts some of their own experiences and tips in with a recipe. Finally I would have loved to have been able to look in the index for an ingredient and easily find the recipes that include it. This was a major flaw in my opinion because it makes the book less user friendly and made me want to reach more for the other book in the challenge.

If you’re starting a gluten free family or making changes for your coeliac son or daughter I think this book would be perfect for you. As for me, it was slightly too basic and didn’t make trying recipes fun enough.

Past Updates From 4 Ingredients Gluten Free:

  • Update 1 – Damper, Tomato Soup, Pumpkin Soup, Sweet Potato Fries, Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes, Toffee Bananas
  • Update 2 – Orange & Mustard Dressing, Broccoli & Lemon Risotto, Rice Pilaf, Pineapple Cake

May Cookbook Challenge – The Books!

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It’s that time again where I choose the two books that I will be obsessively using over the next month! Every month I choose two books from my overstocked shelf of cookbooks and try as many recipes I can from them all month. At the end of the month I review both books and let you know what I think.

So far I’ve reviewed Veganomicon and Weightwatchers Meat Free Meals. Last month I used the Meat Free Monday Cookbook and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free which will be reviewed this week.

The first book I’ll be reviewing this month is The Vegetable Bible by Sophie Grigson.

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This book is not a vegetarian/vegan one and is not gluten free. However with the strong emphasis on vegetables I am hoping there will be plenty in it that I can make! It is advertised as being perfect for veg box users so it should be a good fit into my routine and hopefully won’t require too many specialist ingredients.

The second book I’ve chosen is Everything You Need To Know About Gluten Free Cooking by Rick Marx and Nancy T.Maar.

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After a quick search it seems that this book is not very widely available! I bought this when I was first told to give up gluten. I got it second hand from Oxfam but I’m sure it can be found in other places. I chose this because I’m still not entirely confident about gluten free cooking and am hoping this will give me some good advice!

So that’s my challenge for this month! As always I will post around one update a week on my progress and then at the end of the month I will give a full roundup and review. Wish me luck!

April Cookbook Challenge – The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (Update 4)

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This is the final update in my April Cookbook Challenge! This is a round up of all the recipes I’ve made from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook in the second half of April. I’ve been using this cookbook a lot this month so this will be a long post!

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IMAG1154This Waldorf Salad is the first salad I’ve eaten with fruit in it. I was always very much against fruit in salads but this definitely changed my mind! This recipe is in the Spring section of The Meat Free Mondays Cookbook and is called a packed lunch. The recipe is very simple, consisting of apple, celery, walnuts, red onion, oil and vinegar. The great thing about this recipe is that it makes just enough to serve one person. I always have lots of leftovers when I use cookbooks so this was great. I served it with salad leaves and roasted new potatoes and it has to be one of the best salads I’ve had recently! The different flavours and textures made it a total winner. I’ve already had this one again.

IMAG1158I love pasta and I adore sun-dried tomatoes so as soon as I received some olives in my Graze box I had to try the Pasta with Broccoli, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives from the Autumn section of the book. This is another lunch recipe but I enjoyed this for tea. The recipe actually includes a type of pasta called Orecchiette which are tiny little scoop shaped pieces. I would have gladly tried to find some of these but since I had to make the recipe gluten free I used my normal corn pasta. I also replaced the pine nuts with sunflower seeds as that’s what I had in my cupboard and I used green olives rather than black. I wasn’t sure what this was going to be like as there is no sauce and I thought the pasta might be a bit tasteless. It was the opposite! I’m definitely going to be making this dish again, it’s one of the tastiest pasta dishes I’ve ever tried.

IMAG1176Two recipes in one here! This is the Roasted Herby Mushrooms with Colcannon. These are both listed as side dishes but were substantial enough together with some baked beans to make a lovely comforting meal. I used portobello mushrooms rather than chestnut mushrooms as that’s what I had in my fridge. These had a lovely earthy flavour and an almost meaty texture once cooked. I followed the recipe exactly and they came out beautifully. For the colcannon I only made one alteration. I used half the amount of cabbage recommended because it seemed like much too much. I’m glad I did because it seemed to be the perfect amount. Again I followed the recipe to the letter and it turned out really well.

IMAG1212I love the colours in this photo! This is the Ratatouille which is a packed lunch recipe from the summer section of the book. I’m not sure about this dish as a packed lunch. I don’t know what it would be like cold! I followed the instructions for this exactly apart from using cherry tomatoes instead of normal ones. The recipe is extremely simple and easy to follow. I served my ratatouille with spaghetti because I didn’t feel it would be filling enough on its own. I think I was right about this as it was the perfect meal.

IMAG1191A definite aubergine theme going on here! This is the Aubergine, Pepper and Potato Stew which is in the Autumn section. This dish is the first one I ever made from this book and is one of the meals that first made me love aubergine so I was keen to try it again. I followed the recipe exactly but left out the feta. The only thing I will say about this recipe is that the photo in the book is not very accurate at all! The stew has a lot more liquid in it which is actually a good thing.

IMAG1181Lastly a soup that reminded me of my student days! This Leek and Potato Soup is a packed lunch in the Autumn section of the book. The only change I made to this recipe was using almond milk rather than semi-skimmed to make it vegan. An easy recipe to follow and a lovely creamy soup.

That’s the end of my Meat Free Monday recipe roundup! The full review will be posted next week. Does anything here take your fancy?

Past April Cookbook Challenge posts:

  • Update 1 (Meat Free Monday) – Caribbean Rice & Beans, Parsnip Soup, Quinoa & Roasted Tomato Salad
  • Update 2 (4 Ingredients Gluten Free) – Damper, Tomato Soup, Pumpkin Soup, Sweet Potato Fries, Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes, Toffee Bananas
  • Update 3 (Meat Free Monday) – Orange & Mustard Salad Dressing, Broccoli & Lemon Risotto, Rice Pilaf, Pineapple Cake

 

 

 

 

 

April Cookbook Challenge – 4 Ingredients Gluten Free (Update 3)

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This is the second to last update for my April Cookbook Challenge. In this post I will focus on the recipes I’ve cooked for the second half of this month from 4 Ingredients Gluten Free. The full review for this book will be posted a week today so look out for that!

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IMAG1172The first recipe I want to talk about is the Orange & Mustard Dressing from the Salad Dressings chapter of the book. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the dressing before I put it on the salad! The dressing was made up of orange juice (which I squeezed fresh), wholegrain mustard and walnut oil. I was drawn to this recipe because it seemed different from the usual dressings of balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice! It’s a simple recipe which just involves whisking the ingredients and it was lovely and fresh on my pasta salad. The flavours complemented each other perfectly.

IMAG1098One of my favourite foods is risotto so I was excited to give the Broccoli & Lemon Risotto a try! This was an odd recipe as it tells you to add all of the water to the rice at the beginning and stir rather than adding a bit at a time like I’m used to. I followed it to the letter though and found that the risotto needed a lot more water than recommended. The lemon flavour was much too intense in this dish so I wasn’t impressed with the flavour either. Not very good overall but edible!

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The picture above shows my favourite comfort food! Scrambled tofu which I served with the Rice Pilaf from the mains section of the book. Firstly I’d like to say that rice pilaf is not a main course. The ingredients for this dish were onion, garlic, rice and stock which is no way near substantial enough for a main meal but it makes a perfect side dish. The recipe was easy to follow and the rice tasted really nice. I’ll probably make this one again!

The last recipe I tried was the Pineapple Cake from the Morning & Afternoon Teas section. I’ll be honest that I had no faith that this recipe would work. The ingredients were gluten free flour, sugar and tinned pineapple. I imagined a gloopy uncooked mess. Needless to say, this recipe was amazing. So amazing that I forgot to take a photo before I ate the cake! I’m now wondering whether it would work with other types of tinned fruit and I’m definitely going to give it a go.

So that’s the last recipe round up from this book! Next week I will round up the recipes from Meat Free Mondays and review both books. Does anything here take your fancy?

Past April Cookbook Challenge posts:

  • Update 1 (Meat Free Mondays) – Caribbean Rice & Beans, Parsnip Soup, Quinoa & Roasted Tomato Salad
  • Update 2 (4 Ingredients Gluten Free) – Damper, Tomato Soup, Pumpkin Soup, Sweet Potato Fries, Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes, Toffee Bananas

 

 

April Cookbook Challenge – 4 Ingredients Gluten Free (Update 2)

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This is the second update for my April Cookbook Challenge where I am reviewing The Meat Free Monday Cookbook and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free. The first update for this challenge can be found here where I discuss recipes from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (including Parsnip Soup and Quinoa & Roasted Tomato Salad!).

In this update though I will be talking about the recipes I’ve tried so far from 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

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I’ve made a few recipes from this book but no full meals so far. It’s good for lunches and sides though!

IMAG1081The first recipe I tried was from the Breakfasts chapter of the book. First I googled to find out exactly what Damper was as the book doesn’t give much description other than the ingredients and method. The four ingredients that make this beautiful sweet bread are Gluten Free flour, baking powder, milk and syrup. I made this for breakfast one morning and followed the instructions to the letter (apart from subbing almond milk for dairy milk). However the mixture was much too watery and I ended up adding some more flour. It also took an hour to cook all the way through rather than the 30 minutes mentioned in the book. The result was a rather dry loaf of bread (so maybe I was wrong in adding more flour). It was nice though, warmed up and smothered with chocolate orange spread.

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IMAG1128Ok I don’t want to be overenthusiastic but this is the most simple and delicious recipe I’ve tried! It is the Tomato & Basil Soup from the Light Meals & Lunches section. The recipe was really easy to follow and used everyday ingredients. I can’t believe such a tasty soup was made with tinned tomatoes! I actually got through 2 bowls of this for lunch the other day.

IMAG1147Another soup recipe! This is Pumpkin, Lentil & Ginger Soup. I actually used a butternut squash for this and had to make up the weight with carrots (my squash was nowhere near 1kg!). The instructions were easy enough to follow but I had to add quite a bit of extra water to thin it out. The soup itself was gorgeous.

IMAG1091There are two different recipes on the mix-match plate above. At the bottom of the photo are the Sweet Potato Fries from the kids section of the book (good for adults too!). I have been trying not to adapt recipes too much but I honestly could not bring myself to use cinnamon sugar on these. I always prefer herbs on my sweet potato so here I used rosemary. A simple recipe and delicious side dish. In the top right hand corner are the Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes. Another simple recipe and a delicious alternative to raw cherry tomatoes!

IMAG1092Last but not least are these Toffee Bananas. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a banana as much as I did here! It was pretty much banoffee pie in a bowl. I topped mine with some slivered almonds and a splash of almond milk. These are from the breakfast section of the book but to me they are much more of a dessert.

That’s it for the second update of the challenge! Do you own this book? Do any of the recipes inspire you to pick up a copy? Do those toffee bananas make you want to lick the screen?

 

 

 

 

 

April Cookbook Challenge – Meat Free Monday Cookbook Update 1

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This is the first update from my April Cookbook Challenge where I am reviewing The Meat Free Monday Cookbook and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

This first update is for The Meat Free Monday Cookbook by the McCartneys.

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So far I’ve not been very successful in finding many recipes in this book that I can make using ingredients I’ve already got in my kitchen. So far I’ve tried a few recipes though.

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The first recipe I tried was when I was very short on food in the kitchen. It’s the Caribbean Rice and Beans from the Autumn section and comes under the Packed Lunch category. It’s a relatively simple recipe made with just rice, red kidney beans and coconut milk. It was lovely if a bit bland. I don’t think I’d take this as a packed lunch on it’s own as it would be very boring!

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Another recipe from the Autumn section and a packed lunch. This is Parsnip Soup which is a soup that I wouldn’t usually need a recipe for! This one used carrots as well which isn’t something I’d have necessarily put into a plain parsnip soup. It was lovely though and I’ll be making it again!

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A recipe from the Spring section this time! Again this is a lunch recipe (but not a packed lunch one). The Quinoa and Roasted Tomato Salad was a lunch that took a bit longer to prepare due to the roasting but it was lovely. I think next time I’d use stock to cook the quinoa in rather than using balsamic vinegar to add flavour. That’s just personal preference though!

That’s it for this week’s update. So far so good but I haven’t found as many recipes I can make as I did with Veganomicon!

Have you got Meat Free Mondays? Do any of these recipes help persuade you to give it a go?