Oaty Baked Chicken

It was another experimental dinner last night for Mr Fiancé. Like me, he’s on a slim down for the wedding, but is quite happy eating his carbs, which I’m cutting back on. He’s big into his chicken at the moment, but after having it with rice a lot, he asked me to whip him up a tasty chicken sandwich, that was still healthy.

Challenge accepted!

I started by pounding a chicken breast to make it equal thickness and then coated in flour, dipped it into beaten egg and then into my special oaty mix. This mix was simply basic porridge oats, cayenne pepper, hot chilli powder, chilli flakes, garlic powder, paprika and cracked black pepper. Yes, my fiancé likes things hot and spicy.

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Once I made sure the chicken was nicely coated with oats, I popped it onto a lined baking tray and put it in a pre-heated oven at 190C for around 25minutes – check it’s cooked through before serving.

To serve, I got some crusty bread, made a sweet chilli mayo with just a mix of these two condiments and smothered the bottom piece with that, layered up with salad and chicken and put some mango chutney on the top layer.

Apparently, it was a very good dish – too spicy for me! – but well worth a try I think.

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Healthy Warm Chicken Salad

Like most people, I don’t enjoy dieting. However, with my wedding now all booked for this year, the clock is well and truly ticking for me to lose the 2 stone that’s been haunting me for the past two years.

I’m currently running – on the spot indoors admittedly – for an hour a day, which my pedometer says is around 7miles. On top of that, I’m doing sit ups, crunches, leg raises, planking and squats. I can’t say I’m enjoying any of it, but needs must.

Food is a struggle for me too, because I love tasty things! I’m being very good though and going for high protein where possible and avoiding chocolate, which isn’t easy.

I’ve been turning to my warm steak salad a lot and tonight, I opted for a warm chicken salad. Quite simply, I just cooked a chicken breast, cut it into pieces and served on a bed of mixed salad leaves, tomatoes, spring onion and avocado with just a small crumbling of cheese for added texture and flavour. Instead of a dressing, I used just a little balsamic vinegar and walnut oil.

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Beef Stroganoff

Firstly, apologies for the lack of photos – I forgot!

This was a last-minute beef stroganoff request from my fiancé. It’s really easy to whip up though, so don’t panic.

Start by finely chopping an onion and sweating in some olive oil in a saucepan, along with three crushed cloves of garlic. When nicely softened, throw in some skirt steak or frying steak, that has been cut into bite-sized pieces and allow to brown.

Then squeeze in a good amount of tomato puree, before adding beef stock, red wine stock and some Marmite, along with some cornflour. Give the mix a good stir, put the lid on and allow to simmer at a low heat for around 15 minutes, before adding some paprika, mixed herbs, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish sauce, wholegrain mustard and English mustard. As you know by now, I’m not really one for measuring things, so just try and see how it turns out. You can always add more of an ingredient. Stir every now and then to make sure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan. Have to confess, I also added a splash of brandy.

Allow everything to simmer for around 45 minutes, then taste to see if anything is missing. Now you can add some chopped mushrooms and a small tub of soured cream, before allowing to cook for around another half an hour.

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Serve with some boiled rice and if you fancy, as I did, a little grated Parmesan cheese.

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Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of the easiest cakes to make and is a great way of using up bananas that could otherwise be facing the bin.

All you need to whip up this family favourite is:

150g self raising flour
165g caster sugar (white or golden)
1 egg
3 very ripe bananas

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add in the sugar and the egg.

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In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until smooth and add that to the other ingredients.

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Simply mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is combined and pour into a lined loaf tin. I always line my loaf tins, as it saves on the washing up!

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Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180C for around an hour. Check with a skewer and it if comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, before turning out on to a wire rack to cook complete and then enjoy with a cuppa.

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As an alternative, you could stir through a handful of chopped nuts or chocolate chips or even a couple of spoonfuls’ of honey or peanut butter to jazz up the cake.

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Vegetable Soup

I love whipping up a soup. It’s so easy, you near enough just throw everything in a pan and let it take care of itself.

I had a mountain of veg that was just crying out to be used up.

Very simply, I peeled and very roughly chopped:

2 small potatoes
a handful of carrots
a red onion
a white onion
a cabbage
a good handful of sprouts
2 leeks

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I add the potato as a thickening agent. Otherwise, any veggies you have begging, just throw them in! I also put in a chicken stock pot (use veggie stock if you’re keeping it all vegetarian), some course black pepper, paprika, onion salt and dried basil.

Top up the pot with water and allow to simmer until all the veggies are soft, then liquidise to your liking with either a handheld whizzy thing, or blender.

Once smooth, I allow some blue cheese to melt in. Again this is optional, depending on your taste or dietary requirements.

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Turkey & Ham Pie

So, the turkey is drawing to a close and last night, part of the leftover meat was transformed into a tasty turkey and ham pie. It really couldn’t be easier and my fiancé loves it.

As you should know by now, I find life too short to make pastry, so I just bought a pack of ready rolled shortcrust and a pack of ready rolled puff pastry. Grease a pie dish and gently place the shortcrust in, making sure it’s nicely tucked down, with all the sides covered.

Then add in chunks of turkey – I use leg and breast – ham, stuffing and I sweat off a leak in some butter to pop on the top. For an extra treat, I sprinkled over some grated cheddar cheese.

In a saucepan, start by making a rue with melted butter and plain flour.

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Allow the flour a little time to cook out, before adding in a splash of milk and whisking together. Keep adding milk slowly, whisking all the time, until you have a thick sauce. I also added some of the jelly from the turkey juices for added flavour and a grind of black pepper.

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Pour the sauce over the meat

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and pop the puff pastry on the top. Give it a milk wash – I use milk rather than egg as it’s cheaper – and cut a little cross in the top of the lid to give the steam somewhere to escape.

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Place the pie on a baking tray – just in case it boils over – and place in the middle of a 180C oven for around 30-40mins. Again, I’m a horror when it comes to timing things, I just watch and go by gut, but as long as your pastry is nice and golden brown and the filling piping hot, you should be fine.

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We had ours with mashed potatoes, sprouts – leftover from the Christmas shop! – and in my other half’s case, gravy.

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Peppermint Hot Chocolate Stirrers

If you have leftover candy canes from Christmas, you could try this little idea that I did as a gift for friends this year.

Inspired by a social media post, I thought I would try out candy cane spoons – mostly because I have some silicon spoon moulds that I had never used.

I started by smashing up those red and white peppermints – similar to candy canes and to be honest, I didn’t even think about saving the hassle of finding these mints and used candy canes instead!!

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Pour the crumbs into the moulds – this will be very sticky and pop in the oven at 150C and allow them to melt. I cannot stress how vital it is to keep and eye on this stage as I forgot on my first attempt and ended up with a bubbling, sugary mess. You may need to top up after the first melt, as the candies can pack down a bit.

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Once you’re happy with the thickness of your spoons and they’re completely cool, carefully remove them from the moulds.

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Whilst the spoons are cooling, melt some chocolate – of your choice – in a double broiler with a touch of butter and fill some baby fairy cake cases with the chocolate. Dip your spoons into the chocolate, just far enough for them to stand up unaided.

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Get them in cellophane bags as soon as possible, otherwise the spoons will become tacky. And there you go, peppermint hot chocolate/coffee stirrers.