Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne

Hello, I really hope you enjoy this post – Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne.  It’s extremely easy to make, there’s no need to precook the lasagne sheets.  This lasagne is also a lighter version than the traditional beef lasagne.  If you wanted to really cheat you could buy good cheese sauce, but it’s not a complicated process to whip up your own!

Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne - delish!
Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne – delish!

This is a perfect make ahead meal as it only gets better the longer the lasagne sits. It will keep, unbaked, in the fridge for 4 days and double wrapped in cling film, again unbaked, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.  It is also the perfect, portable meal.  Ideal for delivery to a new mum, a family going through tough times or a bring and share meal with friends.  Truly an all-in-one feasting dish!!!

A perfect, portable meal for sharing with others.
A perfect, portable meal for sharing with others.

By substituting the beef, usually used in Lasagne, with minced Chicken, the resulting baked Lasagne becomes a lighter dish. Not lighter in calories, with the delicious four cheese sauce – but not as heavy on the stomach and a delicious change from the norm!  The four cheese sauce was simply me raiding the fridge for leftover Christmas cheese!!!

The Four Cheese Sauce tops of this lasagne perfectly!!
The Four Cheese Sauce tops of this lasagne perfectly!!

I realise that minced Chicken is not  available everywhere, minced Turkey is a great substitute.  Otherwise processing skinless chicken breasts, thighs or a combination in a food processor would be another way to make your own chicken mince.  Alternatively, chopping up chicken with a sharp knife would work and give the lasagne added texture.

Recipe : Serves 6-8 portions.

Chicken Lasagne Sauce

450g/1lb  Chicken Mince

1  Large White Onion

2tbsp  Olive Oil

2  Celery Stalks (the larger outside stalks)

1  Green Pepper (washed, deseeded and finely diced)

2-3  Carrots (peeled and finely diced)

3  Garlic Cloves – minced

3 x 400g  Chopped Tinned Tomatoes

2tbsp  Tomato Puree

1tsp  Dried Mixed Herbs (or fresh basil/oregano/parsley/thyme – to taste)

1tsp  Sugar

Salt and Ground Black Pepper – to taste

Cheese Sauce :

3tbsp  Butter

3tbsp  Plain White Flour

750-800ml. Whole Milk

6oz  Hard Cheese (I used a 50/50 mixture of Mature Cheddar and Swiss Cheese)

125g  Riccota

250g. Mozzarella (drained)

1 tsp  Nutmeg – freshly grated if poss

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste.

Butter – For Greasing the Lasagne Dish

1 packet Dried Egg Lasagne Sheets 375g – NO NEED TO PRECOOK!!!

Method: Chicken Lasagne Sauce

Finely chop/dice the onion/celery/green pepper and carrots.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes over a medium heat until the onions just start to turn translucent.  Add the diced celery to the pan and continue to sauté for a couple more minutes, just until the celery starts to soften.  Push the onions and celery to one side of the pan and add the Chicken mince to the other side (if you don’t have a large sauté pan, remove the onions and celery, into a separate dish and then add the Chicken to the pan).  Cook the chicken, using a wooden spatula to break up the mince so big clumps of meat don’t form.

Having a large sauté pan means you can cook all the ingredients in one go!!!
Having a large sauté pan means you can cook all the ingredients in one go!!!

Unlike beef mince, the Chicken mince will get lighter as it cooks. I don’t cook the Chicken until it is browned, just until it is cooked through (lighter colour).  Now add the carrots/green pepper and also the minced garlic (I use a garlic press!!).

Mix all the veggies and garlic with the Chicken mince. Inhale the gorgeous aroma!
Mix all the veggies and garlic with the Chicken mince. Inhale the gorgeous aroma!

When all the veggies and garlic are well mixed add the tomatoes (rinse each can out with water, fill the can almost to the top and add that to the pan as well), tomato purée, dried or fresh chopped herbs. Give everything a good stir add the sugar and add salt 1/2tsp and a good grinding of black pepper.  Turn the heat to medium/low and leave to gently bubble away on the stove for an hour, stirring occasionally.

This gorgeous Chicken, vegetable and tomato sauce just bubbles away happily on the stove! Pop the kettle on for a cuppa!!!!
This gorgeous Chicken, vegetable and tomato sauce just bubbles away happily on the stove! Pop the kettle on for a cuppa!!!!

Method: Four Cheese Sauce

Into a medium heavy based pan add the butter. Over a medium heat melt the butter until just sizzling. Add the flour and keep stirring as the two become a paste. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes, this removes any floury taste.

This is what the butter and flour should look like.
This is what the butter and flour should look like.

Now gradually start adding the milk, approx 50mls at first and stir vigorously. The milk will become incorporated into the flour/butter paste making it a thicker past. Keep adding small amounts of milk, stirring continuously.

The sauce will become very thick. DON'T WORRY!!!!
The sauce will become very thick. DON’T WORRY!!!!

Now you can add larger amounts of milk, keep stirring, lumps will form, if you want to you can switch to a whisk at this stage (I do!). Keep stirring and adding the milk until all the milk has been added and you have a beautiful, lump free white sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.

No lumps here - if you squint!!!!!!
No lumps here – if you squint!!!!!!

Remove the pan from the heat and add the Ricotta and all the other cheese (except the mozzarella), which if you are a patient person you certainly may grate. I almost never bother to grate, I just chop the cheese into smallish (1/2″) cubes and the sauce turns out fine.

The Ricotta gets dumped in and then add the hard cheeses.
The Ricotta gets dumped in and then add the hard cheeses.

Stir vigorously. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. The Ricotta cheese will give the Four Cheese Sauce a slightly grainy texture – DON’T WORRY – that’s normal! If you’ve grated the cheeses they will melt into the sauce easily. With the cubed cheese the sauce will almost never become completely smooth – but that’s ok as it will when it’s baked in the oven later! Also the addition of freshly ground nutmeg not only elevates the flavour above and beyond, but please, if you can, grate your own nutmeg. I know I was lazy with the cheese but, freshly grated nutmeg is a million times better than pre-ground nutmeg, trust me.

Assembly :

You will need an oven proof rectangular dish.  Mine is  12″ x 8″ x 3.5″(deep) – measurements were taken from the top.  But you can always use an oval dish and break the lasagne sheets to fit the curves – I have made many lasagne dishes this way, or alternatively split between 2 small dishes. As long as the dish is ovenproof, this really is an adaptable recipe!!!

I always butter my lasagne dish, it makes the cooked lasagne much easier to dish up!
I always butter my lasagne dish, it makes the cooked lasagne much easier to dish up!

I’ve found, after making more than a gazillion – slight over exaggeration – lasagnes, that buttering the dish before hand not only helps when serving the cooked lasagne, but also, it doesn’t require 3 days soaking to get the stuck bits off of the dish!! It’s the little things you know???

These are dried lasagne sheets. Any brand will do!
These are dried lasagne sheets. Any brand will do!

I REALLY WASN’T JOKING, when I said that you don’t have to precook the lasagne sheets. I’ve used lots of different makes, some with ruffled edges, green spinach lasagne sheets, egg vs plain AND this works with ALL TYPES – I guess you could even use fresh lasagne sheets, you would need to cook the Chicken lasagne sauce for longer so that it was thicker – otherwise I can’t see it being an issue. If you try it please let me know how you get on?

Once you have buttered/oiled your dish place a layer of HOT Chicken lasagne sauce (check the seasoning and adjust if necessary) into the bottom of the dish, so that it is completely covered.

The first layer is down, time to start building!!!
The first layer is down, time to start building!!!

Next place enough lasagne sheets to cover the bottom layer – I got luck and this dish takes 4 exactly. I like the layers to meet or very slightly overlap.

If your lasagne sheets don't fit exactly, just snap bits off to adjust them.
If your lasagne sheets don’t fit exactly, just snap bits off to adjust them.

Repeat the sauce/lasagne sheet layering twice more finishing with a sheet layer.

All the bits and pieces of the lasagne sheets will be covered by the Four Cheese Sauce.
All the bits and pieces of the lasagne sheets will be covered by the Four Cheese Sauce.

Now pour the cooled cheese sauce all over the top of the lasagne sheets. I gently tap the dish to ensure any trapped air bubble rise to the surface.

Ooh this is going to be sooooo good - look at that yummy cheese sauce layer!
Ooh this is going to be sooooo good – look at that yummy cheese sauce layer!

This baby is still not finished!  Drain and slice the mozzarella.

The final gooey, stringy, adornment for this fab lasagne dish!
The final gooey, stringy, adornment for this fab lasagne dish!

And now arrange the mozzarella slice on top of the cheese sauce.

The Four Cheese Sauce tops off this lasagne perfectly!!
The Four Cheese Sauce tops off this lasagne perfectly!!

The Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne should be left, ideally for 4 hours, to allow the dried lasagne slices time to absorb moisture from both sauces. This dish can also be made 1-2 days in advance, wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge.

When ready to bake preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan oven). Place the lasagne dish onto a slightly larger baking tray; this dish can bubble up and over – it’s much easier to clean a baking sheet rather than scrub out the bottom of your oven!!!!!

Cook the lasagne for 1 1/2 hours until piping hot all the way through and gorgeously, golden brown.

Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne - delish!
Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne – delish!

Remove from the oven 10-15 minutes before serving. This allows the lasagne to cool slightly and hold it’s shape when being served.

This Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne is delicious on it’s own, served with a salad or garlic bread. It can be frozen at the pre-bake stage or in individual portions, wrapped tightly in foil and popped into the freezer. Or why not double the quantities and make an extra meal for the freezer?

If you try this recipe please let me know how you get on. Do you have alternative lasagne combinations that are scrumptious? If you do please share them.

But most of all if you know a new mum, or someone who has been ill for a while, or just a very busy family that you would like to bless, then this is THE perfect, portable, all in one meal for sharing!

As ever, remember food always tastes better when it’s shared. Happy Feasting.

Sammie x

 

 

 

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Migraine Not Always Sunshine And Roses

Hello there eveyone. How you doing?  No really – How – Are – You?  I really want to know. I thought I’d veer off my normal recipe/uplifting thought inspiring post for today and be honest.  It’s not that I’m dishonest on my blog, but I fully understand that whenever you portray yourself via a blog, or on social media, you get to choose which parts of you the world sees. Which is why I’m addressing why Migraine Not Always Sunshine And Roses.

Now I love Sunshine and I adore Roses, but in my real, everyday life sometimes the Sunshine hurts and the Roses are thorny and those thorns can dig in and take a while to come out – I’ll explain:

Actually, this is really hard to put into words.

Migraine
Migraine

I struggle.  I’ve just been up (I literally mean out of bed and dressed) for 2 days.  The previous 4 days were spent laying in my bed, blackout curtains drawn, burying my head into piles of pillows trying to stop the pain. I had a Migraine and yes it lasted 4 whole days.

The slightest sniff of even the blandest food can set off nausea and vomiting. A shard of sunlight, streaming through a gap in the curtains, feel like a dagger to my eye.  My head literally feels like it is going to explode; like someone is blowing a balloon up inside my head and the pressure keeps building and building.

A Migraine is not a headache, although blinding pain in your head can be part of  the Migraine.  My head throbs with every beat of my heart, the pressure increasing with every beat until eventually I vomit and the pressure is temporarily released, only to build again as the cycle repeats itself.

At the onset of a Migraine I begin to lose the sight in my left eye (a relatively new development), my sense of smell goes into overdrive, I crave fresh, cold air, yawn incessantly. My one and only desire is to head straight to bed, briefly halted by the need to get Indomethacin in me ASAP – there’s no dignity in having a Migraine, it’s a suppository.

Once cocooned in my blacked out room I have to decide whether to use my Triptan injection. You’d think it’d be a straightforward decision, but hang on – my ability to think, let alone think clearly goes right out of the much needed open window as soon as a Migraine begins.  Firstly the injection hurts – a lot!  I also have Migraines so frequently (it’s not uncommon for me to spend more than half of the week in bed) that I have to limit how much Triptan I use.

Sumitriptan is one of a group of drugs, called Triptans, that can halt, or shorten the length of a Migraine.  However, in me, overuse can lead to tolerance and  so the injection has little or no effect.  Long term overuse can also lead to ‘Medication Misuse’ triggered Migraines and/or headaches.

Writing this blog is upsetting because it forces me to focus on the reality of the world and body I live in.  A natural optimist, I always focus on the good rather than the bad.  And that sucks.  I hate that I am in pain. I hate that my back and neck go into spasm and my body aches like I’ve got the Flu. I hate being sick, except for the few minutes after vomiting, when the pressure in my head is relieved.  I hate that the Migraine plays tricks on my body, I feel a bit better, move and the throbbing in my head comes back with a vengeance.  I hate having my words come out all jumbled up, when I try to speak.

But mostly I hate the impact it has on my hubby and our 3 children. Is there a mother out there who delights in being cared for, dependant on their children??? I don’t. I’m their mum, I should be doing the looking after. The added stress to my amazing hubby, who I forever wonder why he choose me?

On a practical side, me being ‘out of action’ is a nightmare, that is soothed only by help from the BEST family (both of ours), friends I don’t deserve and my Faith (see ‘Important Stuff’).

To all of you I say Thank you from the bottom of my heart – I love you.

I have always had Migraines, even when I was a toddler. Then I was involved in a car accident 25 years ago and the Migraines changed. Before they would build during the day, culminating in a vicious cycle of intense pain, vomiting, sleep, pain building etc. I learned what foods to avoid and overtime narrowed down some of my other triggers; such as tiredness, excitement, not eating regularly.

Since the car accident I wake in the early hours of the morning (between 3-5am) with a full blown, excruciatingly painful Migraine. Dr’s don’t know why – I suspect it could be due to the neck/back injury I sustained in the accident. Who knows?? It is what it is and it sucks.

The waste of being unable to ‘do’ anything, just stuck in bed. Praying hard that this Migraine will pass quickly. All I’ve ever wanted to be is normal, blend in (hard I’m 6 foot tall), give our children a great childhood, be the best wife I can be and help others. So frustrating and disappointing. My belief in and love for Jesus gets me through, always, even when I think I can’t face another day He carries me through.

I’m not looking for sympathy, just a little understanding. I started my blog so that I could not only share my recipes but have something positive to do when I’m recovering from a Migraine?

Do you get Migraines? How do you get through those days?

Sammie xx

 

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Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw

Hello everyone.  A big shout out to all the Mums and Dads on half-term duty.  I’ve created a deliciously Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw, that all my children love. It’s a really good way of getting fresh veg onto the dinner plate and goodness into us all.  Not only that but this Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw tastes seriously good!

Homemade Crunchy Coleslaw - easy on the eye, tasty on the tongue!
Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw – easy on the eye, tasty on the tongue!

Some may argue – ‘Why should I make my own Coleslaw, when it’s easily available and isn’t expensive?’  Which, if you think about it, it a fair point.  I do, on occasion, buy Coleslaw from the shops aaaand each time I do I regret it!  The Coleslaw is either really gloopy and absolutely smothered in a creamy sauce, or else it seems to contain only cabbage and onion, the latter having a strongly, oniony, overbearing taste.  I don’t like shop bought Coleslaw!  There I’ve said it!!!

Homemade Coleslaw really is better than anything you can buy.
Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw really is better than anything you can buy.

Now I like onion in my Coleslaw, but I don’t like it to have a nasal clearing, strong, over powering taste.  I’ve sorted this problem.  Firstly I use red onions, which are generally sweeter than white onions, then I slice them thinly and soak them in lemon juice with a sprinkle of salt.  The lemon juice draws out all the acridness from the onions, leaving them sweet and crunchy!

Pretty red onions add a super sweetness to this Coleslaw!
Pretty red onions add a super sweetness to this Coleslaw!

I make a great big bowl of this Coleslaw which we eat alongside fish and potato wedges, fabulous with homemade pizza, great with burgers, or in place of salad with any meal.  Let’s get on with the –

Recipe :  Serves 6 as a main side dish.

1/2  Medium White Cabbage

1  Medium Red Onion

3  Medium Carrots (or 2 large)

1  Lemon

Approx 5 Heaped Tablespoons of Mayonnaise (I use full fat mayo)

Method :

First take the lemon, cut in half a squeeze it into a large bowl – feel free to use your favourite citrus juicer!!!

Watch out for any pips!!!
Watch out for any pips!!!

Now cut the red onion in half and slice as thinly as possible into half moons. Break up the onion and add to the lemon juice in the bowl. Sprinkle over the sea salt and mix the onion half moons, breaking them apart as you go, into the lemon juice.

Set aside for 10 minutes whilst you prep the cabbage.
Set aside for 10 minutes whilst you prep the cabbage.

Take half a medium white cabbage and remove the tough core.  Cut the cabbage into 3 sections and finely shred them with a sharp knife.L

Shredded, Crunchy, White Cabbage.
Shredded, Crunchy, White Cabbage.

In the bowl with the onions and lemon juice add 4-5 heaped tablespoons of your favourite mayonnaise.  Mix thoroughly so that the lemon juice becomes incorporated into the Mayo. Add 1/2tsp of freshly ground black pepper.

The onions should now be in a thickish, lump free sauce.
The onions should now be in a thickish, lump free sauce.

The lemon juice thins out the mayo so the resulting sauce is smooth and creamy, but not gloopy, thick and claggy like mayonnaise only Coleslaw sauces.  Put the shredded cabbage on top of the onions and sauce in the bowl.

All we need now are the carrots!!!!
All we need now are the carrots!!!!

Trim off the tops and bottoms of the carrots, peel and then grate in the coarse side of a box grater.

This is gonna be grate!!!!!!!
This is gonna be grate!!!!!!!

Place the grated carrot in the bowl.

"Hi there - you've been Tango-ed!!!"
“Hi there – you’ve been Tango-ed!!!”

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and you have yourself some top notch, Crunchy, Homemade Coleslaw.

I'm not a side dish - I'm the main attraction!!!
I’m not a side dish – I’m the main attraction!!!

If not using straight away, cover in cling film and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  This coleslaw is at it’s best the day you make it, but will keep for a day in an airtight container.

Put me on a jacket potato and dive in!!!!
Put me on a jacket potato and dive in!!!!

Again this is a fantastically portable dish, that makes it great for feasting with family, friends, work colleagues, in fact ANYONE.  This Coleslaw is ideal for buffets (it’s easy to double/triple/quadruple the quantities. It is so easy, inexpensive, cheaper and way more delicious than the shop bought alternative.  Try this recipe once – feel free to adjust the lemon/mayo ratio – and I bet you’ll think twice before buying shop bought Coleslaw again!

 

Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw - another batch made - we eat this ALL the time!
Crunchy Homemade Coleslaw – another batch made – we eat this ALL the time!
Homemade Crunchy Coleslaw
Homemade Crunchy Coleslaw equally as good made with red cabbage.

Oh and please let me know how you get on, I love to read your comments.

This Homemade Crunchy Coleslaw is the ideal accompaniment to:

Better Than Takeout Pizza

Better Than Takeout Pizza
Better Than Takeout Pizza – crispy edges, chewy dough, gooey melted cheese. Once you’ve made this you’ll never want to order a pizza again! www.feastingisfun.com

Ciabatta Based Pizza

Homemade Ciabatta Base Pizza
Homemade Ciabatta Base Pizza.

Until next time happy feasting, sharing and having fun!

Sammie x

 

 

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Breadsticks Garlic Herb Dipping Oil

Hello there, have I got a new take on Garlic Bread for you today? Oh yes I have. Homemade Breadstick Garlic Herb Dipping Oil – deeeelish!! A fab recipe to make with the kids any day, but especially this week, during half term, here in the UK. Just like at Cafe Rouge except everyone has their own pot of dipping oil!

Crunch Breadsticks with Garlic and Herb Dipping Oil
Crunchy Breadsticks with Garlic and Herb Dipping Oil

We first had a version of these at Cafe Rouge a few years ago and we all thought they were yummy. So my mind started whirring, thinking that these couldn’t be ‘that hard’ to make at home – and guess what, they’re not!! And, dare I say, they taste better!

 

THE perfect sharing food. Perfect with pasta
THE perfect sharing food. Perfect with pasta.

Usually, when I’m feeding a crowd, I double up on the recipe and two people share one plate. But last night, with our Spag Bol we each had our own bowl of Garlic and Herb Dipping Oil and Breadsticks (some of us are getting over colds – so thought individual was best!!).

Crunchy Breadsticks, perfect for dunking in the Garlic and Herb Oil.
Crunchy Breadsticks, perfect for dunking in the Garlic and Herb Oil.

Firstly to make the breadsticks, for me it really is easier to have a bread maker or stand mixer. There is no way I could do all that kneading by myself, but if you’re happy to make the dough by hand, feel free.

 Recipe : Breadsticks Makes 10

1lb/450g  Strong White Bread Flour

2tsp  Dried Fast Acting Yeast

300ml Water – Approx 37C Body Temp

2tbsp Olive Oil

3/4 tsp Sea Salt Flakes – I used Maldon

Method : see below for hand kneading

Place the warm water into the bowl of your bread maker or stand mixer with the dough hook attached.  Add the dried yeast and mix with your fingers.  Place the flour on top of the water/yeast.  Pour the oil on top of the flour and sprinkle over the salt.

* For bread maker set cycle to knead and prove.

* For the stand mixer, mix the ingredients for 10 minutes. When the dough is soft and elastic remove to an oiled bowl, turn once, so the sides and top are slicked in oil, cover with cling film and place in a warm place to double in size (1-2 hours).

* For hand kneading, place all the ingredients into a large bowl, as per the other methods. Bring together with your hand, in the bowl, until a complete lump of dough is formed. Place the dough on a lightly floured worktop and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic – proceed as for stand mixer.

Once the dough has doubled in size knock back – gently punch down into the bowl to knock out the air (in a bread maker set to mix and allow 30 seconds of slow rotating to knock back your dough).

Tip your dough out onto a floured worktop.

Form the dough into a flat, done shape.
Form the dough into a flat, dome shape.
Divide the dough into half - using a dough cutter or knife.
Divide the dough into half – using a dough cutter or knife.
Divide the first half into 5 equal pieces of dough.
Divide the first half into 5 equal pieces of dough.
Pull each piece into a length.
Pull each piece into a length.
Twist each length of dough, pulling as you do so, to make a long twisted, uncooked bread stick and place on an oiled baking sheet.
Twist each length of dough, pulling as you do so, to make a long twisted, uncooked bread stick and place on an oiled baking sheet.

Repeat the same process for the other half of the dough. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm draught free place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 215C (200C fan).

Place the baking sheets into the hot oven and bake the breadsticks for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Crunchy, golden breadsticks.
Crunchy, golden breadsticks.

 

Place the cooked breadsticks on a cooling rack to cool.

Recipe : Garlic and Herb Dipping Oil

4tbsp  Virgin Olive Oil

4tbsp  Butter

3  Fat Garlic Bulbs

1tbsp  Fresh Finely Chopped Herbs – I used Thyme and Rosemary – or 1tsp Mixed Dried Herbs

1/2 tsp  Flaky Sea Salt

1/2 tsp  Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Method :

Firstly I have to admit I didn’t actually measure the butter or olive oil when I made this!!  But you are aiming for a 50:50 mix of Olive oil and butter!  My laziness is your gain, as you can add more oil/butter if you want to stretch this recipe out for more servings!!!  And I get called Cheeky – can’t think why?????

Anyway back to the dipping oil for the breadsticks!  Put the Olive oil and butter into a small pan. Chop the herbs finely and add to the cold oil/butter.

Finely chopped Thyme (left) and Rosemary (right).
Finely chopped Thyme (left) and Rosemary (right).

Either mince finely, or use a garlic press to chop/squish the garlic bulbs and add to the pan.  Finally add the salt and pepper – you can add less salt if you’ve used salted butter – too little salt however, will result in this dipping oil having a very bland flavour (sorry Cafe Rouge, but it’s the seasoning in your dipping oil that let’s it down!).

Ooh a little heat, a little time and this will become the MOST delish Garlic and Herb Dipping Oil x x x
Ooh a little heat, a little time and this will become the MOST delish Garlic and Herb Dipping Oil x x x

Place the pan over a very low heat.  The idea is to melt the butter, infuse the oil/butter with the garlic and herbs and of course NOT BURN THE GARLIC!!!!

As soon as the butter is melted take the pan off the heat.
As soon as the butter is melted take the pan off the heat.

Leave the pan off the heat to sit and infuse with the Garlic and Herb flavours.  Even a few minutes makes a big difference to the final oil.  I made the oil whilst the Breadsticks were baking.  10 minutes before serving place the pan over a medium heat. As soon as the oil is bubbling and the Garlic is sizzling, remove from the heat and decant into individual serving bowls – I used ramekins.

THE perfect sharing food. Perfect with pasta
THE perfect food for sharing. Perfect with pasta.

Breaking into the crunchy Breadsticks and dipping into the Garlic and Herb Oil is a taste explosion in your mouth!! It’s a fun change from the usual Garlic Bread.  As always these Breadsticks go amazingly well with all pasta dishes.

NOTE: The Garlic and Herb Oil can also be spooned over Ciabatta or Baguette for a more traditional style Garlic Bread.

The Breadsticks can be made smaller (this will stretch out the number of servings), just remember to reduce the baking time – I’d start checking at 15 minutes.

Any leftover breadsticks can be frozen, in a freezer bag, for up to a month.

If you do try this recipe I’d love to hear how you get on?

Have fun making these and most of all sharing them!

Sammie x

 

 

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Peach and Banana Smoothie

Hi and thanks for dropping by.  Are you having a good Monday or is it a bit of a drrrraaaagggg?  Mondays can be a real dichotomy.  If you’re on holiday, honeymoon or just cos the sun’s shining, then Mondays can be great!! If it’s another week at work or school, with deadlines looming, meetings pressing and the sun nowhere to be seen, it can be the hardest thing ever having to haul yourself outta bed and start another working week.  This super easy Peach and Banana Smoothie not only looks like sunshine in a glass, it tastes amazing, is made in moments and it’s good for you!!  Just the pick me up needed on a Monday, or any other day of the week.

Peach and Banana Smoothie - a glass of sunshine to brighten your day!
Peach and Banana Smoothie – a glass of sunshine to brighten your day!

So whatever day you are having this super easy, super delish, Peach and Banana Smoothie is exactly what you need to give you the energy to face the day!

Peach and Banana Smoothies - ideal to have with Breakfast!
Peach and Banana Smoothies – ideal to have with Breakfast!

Although I’ve pitched these as ideal for breakfast, I actually made this mid afternoon!!! We’d had a late breakfast, skipped lunch and I didn’t want us (me included) snacking on sugary treats whilst waiting for dinner.  So far, so good! Dinner’s still an hour away and no ones hungry.

A healthy, filling, sunshine Smoothie.
A healthy, filling, sunshine Smoothie.

To make these Peach and Banana Smoothies all you need is:

Recipe : Makes 4 servings.

3  Bananas

2 x 400g Tubs/Cans Peach Slices in Fruit Juice

Method :

Tip the peaches and juice into a blender, or a food processor.

Peaches in....
Peaches in….

Next peel the bananas, break them into chunks and add them to the peaches.

Your Peach and Banana Smoothie is a few pulses away.
Your Peach and Banana Smoothie is a few pulses away.

Blitz the peaches and bananas until you have a lump free Smoothie.

Get ready to pour....
Get ready to pour….

And then pour your smoothie into a tall glass…

It's like pouring liquid sunshine!!
It’s like pouring liquid sunshine!!

Next enjoy!

Such a scrummy smoothie
Such a scrummy smoothie

During the summer you could add frozen bananas, or substitute tinned peaches for fresh and add some ice to make this a cool drink.  But for mid February this Smoothie was fab as is. Enjoy!!!!

Easy, quick Peach and Banana Smoothies - delish x
Easy, quick Peach and Banana Smoothies – delish x

I hope you give this a try and that it makes you smile on a Monday, Tuesday, in fact what ever day you make it!

Sammie x

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Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi, there how are you? In the mood for baking these Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies I hope???

A Tower of Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies - scrumptious
A Tower of Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies – scrumptious.

These cookies deserve some serious (only kidding!!) respect.  They are sugary crisp on the outside and gooey, meltingly, chocolately on the inside.  This is THE cookie you have been waiting for – and you didn’t even know it!!!

See I told you!! That's a large ice cream scoop - lost amongst the Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies (bet it would be nice to be that scoop??!!).
See I told you!! That’s a large ice cream scoop – lost amongst the Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies (bet it would be nice to be that scoop??!!).

I can honestly say I’ve never wanted to be an ice cream scoop before – but there’s a first time ……

That's only 8 cookies people - nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower (artistic license allowed!!)
That’s only 8 cookies people – nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower (artistic license allowed!!)

Did I mention that these are Giant  Chocolate Chip Cookies – oh I did and you want me to get on with the recipe – fair enough: here goes!!

Recipe:  This recipe makes 14-16 Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies.

225g/8oz  Light Brown Sugar

150g/5oz  Unsatled Butter

1  Large Egg +

1  Large Egg Yolk

2 tsp  Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt – free flowing

275g/10oz  Plain White Flour

1/2 tsp  Sodium Bicarbonate.

400g/14oz  Chocolate Chunks/Chips

Method :

Preheat the oven to 170C (160C fan).

In a large, microwave proof bowl, add the butter and sugar.  Place in the microwave and heat until the butter is just starting to melt : it’s very hard to give exact timings here, as it depends how cold your butter is to start, what power (wattage) your microwave is etc.  The only advice I would give is to heat it slowly, on medium.  Once butter melts in a microwave it starts to spit and bubble.  Whilst this is going to have a small impact in your recipe, it’s a real pain to have to clean out the microwave, mid baking, before the butter sets hard.  Just trying to help!!

Next get whisking and I mean you really do need an electric whisk for this.  I made these cookies a fair few times before I realised the importance of really whisking the butter and sugar together properly and then again when you add the egg, extra yolk and vanilla extract. Bi have absolutely no idea why it makes such a difference, but it does and so much for the better!

The whisked butter and sugar, ready to be whisked again with the egg and vanilla.
The whisked butter and sugar, ready to be whisked again with the egg and vanilla.
Lovely fluffy, whipped eggs/butter/sugar and vanilla - almost doubled in size.
Lovely fluffy, whipped eggs/butter/sugar and vanilla – almost doubled in size.

Whisking the eggs and vanilla extract into the butter/sugar mixture for a good 5 minutes makes all the difference to the finished cookie.

Now sift in the flour/bicarb and salt.  Then add the chocolate (I used Milk Chocolate Chunks – you may use whichever chocolate you prefer!!).  Using a spoon gently fold all the dry ingredients, including the chocolate  chunks into the whisked mixture.  I’ve found the cookie dough comes together very easily.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - yummeeeee!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – yummeeeee!

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (I’m sorry I just don’t get along with greaseproof paper, it always sticks!!).  Then using a large, spring operated ice cream scoop ( see 1st photo! ), proceed to scoop out 4 portions if cookie dough, well spaced apart, on each sheet.  Using damp hands, slightly flatten the dome top of each unbaked  cookie. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the biscuits have a sugary, crackled sheen, turning golden and are starting to set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minute before placing each cookie on a baking rack.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Then proceed as before to bake the rest of the Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies – or make smaller cookies: take a golf ball sized piece of cookie dough, roll into a ball in you hands, place on the lined baking sheet and press down lightly as before.  Bake for approx 15 minutes.  The cookie dough left, yielded 13 smaller (but NOT small) cookies.

The second batch of smaller, Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies - now there's a contradiction!
The second batch of smaller, Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies – now there’s a contradiction!

I had soooo much fun making these cookies.  The recipe was originally inspired by Nigella (thank you Ms Lawson) but I’ve adapted it over time and it is absolutely, one hundred per cent, our children’s and my Nieces favourite cookie that I bake – like ever!!!

A Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie with 2 not so smaller ones!
A Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie with 2 not so smaller ones!

The very best part of making these cookies is sharing them.  Children and the young at heart love being treated to a Supersize cookie (as the sugar content is quite a bit higher than my other cookie recipes, these don’t get baked very often – see I am a responsible mum – almost!!).

I hope that you give these Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies a try and enjoy sharing them and revelling in the smiles you see!

Sammie x

 

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Valentines Day – what Love means to me.

Hello, how are you today?  I’d like to share a few thoughts about tomorrow – Valetines Day.

Pretty swirly heart design.
Pretty swirly heart design.

Valentines Day, for me, is not about cards, flowers and all the other little love touches that surround the day – as pretty, appreciated and adorable as they are.  For me Valentines Day is a gentle reminder, to show all the people in my life that I am blessed to love, that I DO indeed love and appreciate them.

A beautiful rose, blooming in the rain!
A beautiful rose, blooming in the rain!

My hubby and I have always taught our, not so lil children, that love is a doing word.  For me a cup of tea in bed, a thank you for an every day task, 5 minutes just snuggling with my homework laden babies, fills my love tank.  There are literally thousands of ways they show us, as parents, that they love us – and I love that!!

Don't worry, I've got your back x x x
Don’t worry, I’ve got your back x x x

As a family we watch out for each other.  Making time in our fast paced 24/7 world says, you are important to me.  We aren’t perfect, but we are trying.  Recently during our eldest daughter’s exams, her younger sister bought her a little something (usually chocolate – the universal language of love with teenage girls, in fact most girls!!) for everyday she had an exam.  She was showing her big sis love, telling her how proud she was of her and recognising how hard she had worked.  That no matter what, she would always be there for her.  As a mum my heart melted.

Taking time to paint/decorate someone's nails is FUN and shows you love them!!
Taking time to paint/decorate someone’s nails is FUN and shows you love them!!

Our lil man gets up before everyone else at the weekend and feeds our cat and dog.  A small act of love that means we get a lay-in!  My gorgeous hubby brings me a cup of tea, in bed each morning through the work week, I feel loved.  When I have a rotten migraine he holds back my hair, if I’m being sick, I KNOW I am loved.

I married my best friend x x x
I married my best friend x x

I have said before that I enjoy cooking for other people, especially as a way of showing them that they are loved, appreciated, valued and important in my life.  This is not restricted to our immediate family of 5, but our parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and honorary family members.  It’s nice to feel special but it’s AMAZING to make someone feel loved.

One of my favourite ways to show love!
One of my favourite ways to show love!

So I guess what I’m saying is that, true love is in the giving and receiving.  When God created Adam, He said “It is not good for man to be alone” and created Eve, from Adam as his helpmate/partner/wife/friend. He gave Adam a person to love – not just God himself.

Heart tree
Heart tree X

So while I love the opportunity to whip up a batch of heart shaped shortbread for family and loved ones on Valentines Day and cook a special dinner for us as a family, really I see Valentines Day as a reminder, to me, to be more loving, show more affection (I’m not really the most ‘cuddly person’) but others are, so I’m working on that. I prefer to do the giving rather than receiving, but others want to show me their love too!  Love is not fixed. It’s adapting to others needs whilst still retaining a sense of who you are – cos that’s why you’re loved!!

So Happy Valentines Day to you all.
So Happy Valentines Day to you all.

I wish everyone of you a Happy Valentines Day, where, no matter how hard you try, you are loved more than you love.  May your Valentines Day be showered by little hearts of love, may you KNOW the truest love of all – Jesus. Let your heart be filled with His Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Grace and Life, that you too can say, for sure “I am loved, just as I am”.

Love Sammie xx

 

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Lovin Bloglovin’ and Pintrest

Hi there, how are you today? I’m finally on some social media websites! And I’m Lovin Bloglovin’ and Pinterest!

If you've got a blog you need some Bloglovin'
If you’ve got a blog you need some Bloglovin’

It’s a great social community/networking site, where you can only join if you have a blog.  You are then able to search other blogs, by category – for example : Food and Drink, Lifestyle, Beauty, Animals amongst many others.

I stumbled across Bloglovin’ whilst searching for other blog sites that were  food/recipe based.  Bloglovin’ seems to have a really positive vibe – lots of encouragement and replies to comments.  A really good, supportive community.  So I joined and I can now be found as ‘Sammie’ on Bloglovin’.

 

Me on Bloglovin'.  As well as my blogs you can see who I follow, what recipes I have saved etc.
Me on Bloglovin’. As well as my blogs you can see who I follow, what recipes I have saved etc.

 

Also I’ve got myself on Pinterest @sammiefeasting.  This is another great site, where you can create boards (a bit like designers have mood boards), of all your favourite things.  So for me, I can pin photos of my love of nature, this world and our universe.  Recipes, colours, shoes (I’m a girl!!!) absolutely anything.  It’s good fun and a way of showing more of who you are, as a person through pictures.

I have to say it is a bit addictive – I never tire of looking at snow scenes or cute animals, so I limit how much time I spend ‘pinning’.  I use it as a brilliant source of inspiration, not just for cooking/baking, but colours, textures, light – oooh look I’m getting all creative now!!!!

Definitely worth taking a look at though!

Find an image/quote/photo you like, create a board and Pin it!!!
Find an image/quote/photo you like, create a board and Pin it!!!

Some of my boards on Pintrest!

Each board gets a different title and has a variety of images pinned to it - I love my 'Just Cos' board!
Each board gets a different title and has a variety of images pinned to it – I love my ‘Just Cos’ board!

I hope you get a chance to check out both sites. They are full of inspiration and most importantly FUN!!

Sammie x

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Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake

Hi there, I hope there is something in your day today that makes you smile.  I’m definitely smiling because I’ve made this luscious, moist Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake. Chocolate and vanilla sponge swirled together, baked and then topped with a generous slather of Nutella and whole, toasted hazelnuts.

Nutella and Hazelnut covered, light and moist, Chocolate Marble Cake.
Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake.

Yep I’m back to baking, after being out of action for a few weeks with horrid Migraines, see here. Frustrating, painful and boring, however today I did it.  I finally got to remake the cake that I teased you about  and as Nutella has been on special offer, I won’t get blasted by the children, for depleting their Nutella supply.

Chocolate and Vanilla Cake Swirled together. Seriously luscious!
Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake  

I should mention, given the number of times I’ve mentioned Nutella, that this is not a paid promotion.  It’s just Nutella is such an easy frosting for a cake and this particular combo is especially yummy.

Because I like to be honest, I’ll admit to eating a slice of this cake for lunch, three days in a row. It really is that tempting.

FF Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake
Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake

Recipe :  Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake serves 8-10

12oz/350g  White Caster Sugar

12oz/350g  Unsalted Butter – room temperature

1/4tsp Sea Salt – I use Maldon

2tsp  Vanilla Extract I use Nielsen-Massey

6  Large Eggs – pref free range

240mls/8fl oz  Buttermilk

12oz/350g  White Self Raising Flour

3oz/75g  Cocoa Powder – I use Callebaut

5-6  Heaped Tablespoons of Nutella

4oz/100g  Blanched Hazelnuts

Method: Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan, gas mark 2, 300F

  • First of all grease thoroughly with butter a 9 inch/22.5cm springform cake pan and line the base with baking parchment.
  • Add the butter, sugar and salt to a large bowl and cream together using an electric whisk (or stand mixer with paddle attachment). This actually takes a good 5 mins to get a really pale, light and fluffy mixture (so unless you want a thorough workout I don’t suggest you do this by hand!).
Pale and fluffy!!
Pale and fluffy!!
  • Next add the vanilla extract, and 1 egg. Whisk until combined.  While continuing to whisk gradually add the rest of the eggs, slowly, one at a time, until they have all been added.  If it looks like your mixture is going to curdle add one tablespoon of Self Raising Flour and the mixture will come back together.
  • All eggs added and no curdling - I added a tablespoon of flour, just in case!!!

All eggs added and no curdling – I added a tablespoon of flour, just in case!

  • Add the remaining  flour and partly fold in. Now add the buttermilk (it’s worth giving the container a good shake, as the buttermilk can settle).  Complete the mixing, by folding in the part blended flour mixture and the buttercream.  Watch in amazement as the batter takes on a mousse like consistency.
This St Ivel buttermilk is the only one I could find!
This St Ivel buttermilk is the only one I could find!
A lovely mousse type batter, that is really light and airy - and easy to stir!!
A lovely mousse type batter, that is really light and airy – and easy to stir!!

If my batter looks a bit pinky/orange, it’s  because the eggs that I used had very orange yolks.

  • In a separate bowl (I suggest that you use a larger one than I did) add the cocoa powder.
  • Place half of your vanilla cake batter on top of the cocoa and whisk until blended. I did try mixing by hand, but it was hopeless as the bowl was too small!
Cocoa.
Cocoa.
Place half the batter mixture on top.
Place half the batter mixture on top.
And whisk!!!
And whisk!!!
  • Spoon in large dollops of the chocolate cake batter.
  • Follow with vanilla cake batter dropped in between the chocolate.
  • Now add chocolate batter on top of the vanilla.
  • Likewise repeat with vanilla and then chocolate batter until it is all in the cake tin.
First I dolloped chocolate cake batter.
First I dolloped chocolate cake batter.
Then I added vanilla..,
Then I added vanilla..,
Finishing with the rest of the chocolate.
Finishing with the rest of the chocolate.
  • Using a butter knife swirl the two batters together.  What you’re aiming for is a rippled effect. Since there is no precision to this method, swirl a few times, but not so many that the result is both cake batters completely mixed together.
Swirling finished, now level off the cake top.
Swirling finished, now level off the cake top.
  • Place the cake in the preheated oven and bake for an hour.  The cake is cooked when it is firm to touch and does not wobble underneath the set top. Also an  inserted skewer will come out clean.
  • As soon as the cake is cooked remove from the oven.
  • Place the cooked cake, still in it’s tin onto a baking rack and leave to cool, for 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minuntes  unclip the springform tin and remove the tin, leaving the cake on the tin base to cool.
Don't worry if there are a few cracks on the top. These will close as the cake cools.
Don’t worry if there are a few cracks on the top. These will close as the cake cools.
  • While the cake is cooling, lightly toast the hazelnuts.
  • Place the hazelnuts into a dry frying pan and toast over a high heat for approximately 5 minutes.  Toasting the hazelnuts brings out the wonderful oils and flavour. As soon as the hazelnuts are toasted remove from the pan and place in a bowl to cool.
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over a high heat.
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over a high heat.
Once toasted the hazelnuts turn a gorgeous golden colour.
Once toasted the hazelnuts turn a gorgeous golden colour.

As I mentioned, any cracks in the top of the cake will close on cooling, but don’t worry, the top is going to be covered in Nutella.

Place the cake on a cake stand/board or plate.  Place 5-6 tablespoons of Nutella on to the top of the cake.  Spread the Nutella over the top of the cake right up to the edge. An off set spatula is ideal for spreading.

Sorry, you do have to spread the Nutella as it doesn't set.
Sorry, you do have to spread the Nutella as it doesn’t set.
Nutella is so easy to spread!
Nutella is so easy to spread!
Oooh scrummy, this Nutella covered cake looks ready to eat - but we can add a final touch!
Oooh scrummy, this Nutella covered cake looks ready to eat – but we can add a final touch!

Time to get creative with the toasted hazelnuts. You can place them randomly or in a pattern on top of the Nutella.  Once finished you finally have a Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake.

Nutella and Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake.
Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake.

So scrumptious looking and the perfect cake for sharing.  Also the Nutella doesn’t set so invite a friend/neighbour round, or the whole family and pop the kettle on. This cake is ready for slicing, so enjoy.

Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.

If you have enjoyed this recipe for Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake you may also like these:

Vanilla Sponge Cake

FF Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake
Victoria Sponge Cake

Malted Marbled Chocolate Cake

FF Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake
Malted Marbled Chocolate Cake

Maltesers Popping Candy Cupcakes

FF Nutella Hazelnut Covered Chocolate Marble Cake
Maltesers Popping Candy Cupcakes

While it is nice to bake a cake, just to have in the cupboard. So that family members can cut a slice and enjoy with a cup of tea, there are other reasons to bake. For example, to give as a gift to a new family, or take round to welcome new neighbours. If you think bout it there are plenty of reasons to bake and share cake. Since an unexpected gift has a Double feel good factor. Not only do the recipients receive a delicious gift, they also know that they’ve been thought about. What other reason do we need that that?

Whatever you are making, baking and creating in your kitchens, have fun preparing your feast.

Sammie xx

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