Slimming World Cauliflower Pizza

Without a doubt, pizza is my favourite food. I love it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza I didn’t enjoy, but let’s be honest, even a bad pizza is still better than pretty much any other food. Amirite?

Thanks to the wonder that is Slimming World, pizza is not off the menu even though I’m trying to lose weight and I get to have it pretty frequently. My favourite way to enjoy it is using a wholemeal pita for 6 syns, or a Bfree gluten free tortilla wrap as my HEXB. I have pita pizza and SW chips most weekends, topping the pita with syn free tomato sauce made from passata, herbs and garlic, sliced chorizo or veggie sausage, peppers, onions, and my HEXA reduced fat cheddar.

Exhibit A:

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I also make the perennial SW fave ‘Pizza topped chicken’ quite often, with either actual chicken or Quorn fillets. This is a nice alternative, and it means I don’t have to use my HEXB on bread for the base.

On Saturday night though, I fancied something a bit different. A proper pizza. Well, ish. I wasn’t about to spend all my syns on a single slice of supermarket pizza (I needed them for wine, obvs) so I decided to make a cauliflower pizza base. These have been going around food blogs for a few years now, and Slimming World put a recipe online last year when spiralising/vegetable replacements to carbs/cauliflower-based everything were all the rage. This is the third time I’ve made one and while it is a fair amount of faff, I really like the finished product. Obviously it doesn’t taste like a thick, doughy slice of Dominos or proper homemade yeast pizza, but for very low syns it’s pretty awesome. And, it means I can go nuts in the morning and use my HEXB for toast or cereal instead! (I know, I need to calm down.)

The recipe is pretty simple and you can really add as few or as many toppings and extras as you like/can be bothered to chop.

Slimming World Cauliflower Pizza

For the base:

1 head cauliflower

1 egg

salt, pepper, garlic powder, italian herbs to taste (you can’t really go wrong here, we’re just trying to flavour the base a bit)

For the sauce:

250g passata

Balsamic vinegar, italian herbs, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper (again, this is just what I add to my pizza sauce, all pretty much guessed amounts and it turns out just fine every time!)

Toppings:

I used spinach, basil, red onion, vegetarian sausage, tinned mock duck (all free) and synned black olives and mozzarella.

80g reduced fat cheddar (2 x HEXA as I ate the pizza in 2 servings)

Start by chopping the cauliflower into florets, and then chuck into the food processor. Blitz it until it resembles rice and is all evenly sized.

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Pop the cauli-rice into a bowl and microwave for 6/7 minutes until it’s cooked through. Now, here comes the fun bit. Most recipes call for you to put the cauliflower into a clean tea towel and squeeze it until all the moisture comes out. I tried this for about 2 minutes with kitchen towel as we didn’t have a clean tea towel, and let’s just say it didn’t go well. I burned my hand with the steaming hot cauli, and the kitchen roll cracked under the pressure and ripped. Thinking on my feet, I decided to just gently dry fry the cauli in a pan so it would get rid of all the moisture that way. Spoiler alert – this works really well!

Here’s the pan-fried cauliflower all dry and lovely.

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Then add the beaten egg and all the herbs and seasoning. Food bloggers who aren’t following SW generally add grated parmesan in here, and while I don’t doubt this is delicious, ain’t nobody got time for parmesan syns on Saturday night when there’s a bottle of wine in the fridge. Stir the cauliflower and egg together and you’ll be left with a bowl of wet mush. Mmmmmm. It won’t go doughy so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like you’d expect, the egg works as a binder in the oven and dries it out.

Pop your base onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and shape it into a nice circle. Bake it for 10 minutes, flip it over, and bake it on the other side for another 10 minutes. It’ll be quite delicate when you try and flip it so be gentle – let’s not forget it’s essentially egg and cauliflower so not structurally sound!

Here’s the finished crust! Yummy!

 

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Then, add all your toppings! Here’s my cheese and ‘meat’ (I was on a veggie kick this night so all fake meat.)

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Here’s the finished product pre oven…

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Et voila! I baked it for a further 20 minutes on 180 until the cheese was bubbly, and it was perfect. I ate it quite simply with a green salad and the slices were just sturdy enough to be held, so it felt like a real treat.

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I’ll definitely be making this again. As I said, it was time-consuming but not hard work, it’s just because of the number of steps involved in making the base. I believe some supermarkets now sell pre-made cauliflower rice which would speed up the process a bit, but I’m not about to spend £2 on 100g of cauliflower when I can buy a whole one for 90p. Each to their own, though!

Let me know if you try making cauliflower pizza, and I’ll be back soon with some very much non-Slimming World Orlando food bloggage!

 

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Life update!

Uh oh. Naughty blogger alert. It’s been a very long time since I last blogged…an awkwardly long time, in fact. Can I just say in my defence though, a lot has happened in these last 18 months! Most importantly…

I got married!!

Actual married. In Walt Disney World, like we always dreamed, with 30 of our amazing friends and family. It was absolutely incredible and I will be doing a post shortly about the wedding itself as we’ve got all our professional photos back now, and if I’m honest I look for opportunities to share them wherever and whenever I can.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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Another thing that happened was losing 2 stone and reaching my Slimming World target!

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It took a year and a half but I hit target August 2016 and felt incredible on my wedding day in October. Yay!

I then ate all the food during our 3 week Orlando/Bahamas honeymoon food-filled bonaza, carried on during the run up to Christmas, over Christmas, and let’s be honest, after Christmas. So I have put some back on, but it’s totes manageable and I’m getting back into the SW mindset now after a few months being a lot more leniant. Which actually felt so good and enjoyable after being so strict for so long!

So I thought to ease myself back into blogging, I’d delve back into the archives and share some more of the Slimming World meals I eat regularly. Thanks to my keen Instagram usage I’ve got many a dinner documented, so it’s just a case of remembering what it actually was. I’m also going to share some of the awesome food we ate during our Christmas 2015 trip to Orlando where we planned our wedding, and during the wedding trip itself. While it’s not Slimming World (Obviously! Can you imagine, ‘Let me just work out the syns in this table-sized platter of 30 garlic shrimp, loaded mashed potato skins and butter drenched green beans.’) it was all delicious and needs to be shared. It’s all about balance anyway – I lost weight so I could look amazing on my wedding day and eat what I wanted on my honeymoon, but I couldn’t eat like that all the time as I think I’d possibly maybe die. Or at least weigh 70 stone.

Here we go, then!

First up is this delicious tomato and basil pasta. Quorn sausages are hidden underneath, and I topped it with my HEXA cheese, chopped basil and 1 syn of balsamic glaze. Easy, simple, delicious.

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Curry fakeaway night! I used the Slimming World spicy tikka sauce from Iceland but it was quite thin and watery so I added some passata to thicken it up, and then a Muller light coconut yoghurt to make it more korma-esque. It was really nice after that! I used tinned mock duck and chickpeas as the protein, teamed with double carbs and a medley of speedy spinach and courgette. So good!

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A classic SW breakfast! I believe this was created as a result of feeling slightly hungover one Saturday morning…oops.

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SW arancini with roasted cauliflower, salad and spicy tomato sauce. I make the arancini using leftover Slimming World risotto, but it would work with just leftover rice too. I shape the cold, leftover rice into balls, add a cube of reduced fat cheddar or mozarella into the centre, and then shape the ball of rice around it. I then dip them in beaten egg, and again in breadcrumbs (2 slices of wholemeal bread blitzed up makes enough for 2 people’s worth of arancini – around 8 balls if you’re doing them this size) and bake them on a tray in the oven with a bit of fry light. They go all crispy on the outside and the cheese melts and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

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This was butternut squash and bacon carbonara. The recipe is roughly the SW carbonara with quark and eggs, but I added roasted butternut squash which not only adds a lovely sweet flavour, but also bulks out the meal and ensures you’re getting that 1/3rd speed. Basically roast cubed bnut squash for about half an hour until it’s soft and getting browned, then stir it in with the sauce (quark, eggs, garlic, bacon, seasoning) and add it all to the pasta. So good. I need to make this again!

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This was a breakfast/brunch recipe that I discovered last summer and basically made every weekend for about 6 months. It’s based on one of Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 recipes – sweet potato cakes with spinach, sausace (or bacon) and a soft poached egg. I love it because it’s super easy and if you’re mega organised you can make 10 at once and freeze them, but I’m not so I didn’t. But one day I will. You just peel and cube 2 sweet pots, microwave them for 8 minutes, add chopped onion, garlic and seasoning, and shape them into patties. Dry fry them for 5 minutes or so until browned, wilt the spinach and add the chopped sausage or bacon (this can cook while you’re microwaving the sweet potato) and then poach your egg! So simple and so good – a great way of avoiding using your HEXB in the morning which is something I really struggle with as I live for toast/cereal/porridge/anything that requires a HEXB.

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A typical work lunch for me! The big tub is couscous with veggies in, smoked mackerel in tomato sauce, and boiled eggs. I obviously add water to the oats once at work cause ain’t nobody got time for dry oats, and I keep a tub of Nutella in my drawer to add that all important chocolate hit to my porridge.

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I went through a Cocoa Shreddies phase for a while and it was really good. This was a desk breakfast (deskfast?) with yoghurt, fruit and choc shot.

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Until the next time! x

 

 

 

Slimming World – Week 2 + recipe for Chicken Fajita Bowl

Okay before I go any further I have to just share;

I LOST 2.5LBS ON TUESDAY!!

Phew! Got it out of my system!! Obviously I am CHUFFED and it’s spurred me on so much to carry on Food Optimising and get to a weight I’m happy with. Yay! Ben also lost a fantastic 2lbs, meaning he’s already lost over half a stone! It’s only been 2 weeks! Blimey, the boy can diet.

I’m feeling so lucky to have a lovely group with a fab consultant; I enjoyed listening to everyones thoughts about the week they’d had. I even felt a bit emotional at times when people were saying how they’d struggled, how much they want it, etc. It’s also so inspirational; some members have lost SO much weight it’s insane! I don’t have a crazy amount to lose but hearing members saying they’ve lost 2/5/8 stone (!) just makes you think if they can do it, I can do it! Or I should be able to!!

So, a recap of this weeks eats! Apologies for the slightly late post this week, we’ve gone into the following weeks eats too, eek!

It’s been another week of lovely food. I cut back a bit on non-speed fruit and veg, and added in speed where I could.

Breakfasts have been my HEXB of porridge oats, made with water and splenda and topped with 1/2 banana. I find this fills me up till lunch at 1 which is brilliant! I experimented with yogurt, HEXB of All-bran and yogurt a couple of mornings but I just don’t find it as filling, or yummy! So porridge is my go-to weekday breakfast.

On Saturday I had a little treat of this:

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Smoked salmon, mushrooms in fry-light and two poached eggs with my new sillicone egg poacher. LOVED this! We were going to see Queen + Adam Lambert at the o2 in the evening and I knew we’d be having dinner out, so I wanted to minimise damage at breakfast and save both my HEX’s 🙂

An example of the food I generally take to work each day. I often don’t end up eating the fruit as the rest is filling enough! Breakfast this day was layered All-Bran, yogurt, raspberries and apples.

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Tuna and sweetcorn with extra light mayo, chickpeas, spinach, apple and ham slices.

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Tuna sweetcorn sandwich with ham salad

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Lunch on a weekend, way more exciting! A bunch of random leftovers piled on top of spinach. Surprisingly good!

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Dinners have been a lot more interesting. Friday night we had loaded fries…Slimming World style! We made sweet potato and normal potato fries then layered panfried peppers, onions, courgettes and Quorn beef strips, all coated with a BBQ spice mix. We topped the bowls with shredded lettuce, sweetcorn, our HEXA of cheese, and a dollop of fat free yogurt. SO GOOD! And a fantastic way of eating loads of speed food without really noticing.

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Sunday’s dinner was 5% beef mince simmered for a looooongggg time with 100ml of red wine (4 syns) and beef stock, loads of finely chopped carrots, onions, courgette and mushrooms, garlic and tomato pasta. This is my new favourite Sunday dinner and it makes looooaads! I served it over papadelle pasta with roasted brussells sprouts and my HEXA of parmesan. A proper winter warmer!

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I made SW hunters chicken this week! I made a BBQ sauce using tomato passata, chopped onion, garlic, sweetener and KEY INGREDIENT diet coke! I made hunters chicken on last years Slimming World attempt but I just couldn’t replicate the sweet, sticky BBQ sauce using the usual Slimming World recipes. ‘Diet cola chicken’ is a popular SW dish using similar ingredients so I chanced it and chucked some diet coke into the pan. I simmered it for a while until it reduced and went sticky, then tasted it. BBQ HEAVEN!! It was so good. I’m never making BBQ sauce without diet coke ever again. I poured the sauce over two chicken breasts I’d wrapped in bacon (fat cut off!) and then topped the lot with my HEXA of cheese. Served with roasted sweet potato fries and a simple salad, this meal was incredible. I want to make it every day! If you want some proper pub tasting food on SW, definitely give this a make. It’s about as far away from diet food as you can get!

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On Thursday, myself and the boy went swimming. It was a pretty big deal. We bought swimming caps (mine is for extra long hair as I have a lot of hair…) and goggles and dug out our swimsuits from the drawer they were probably shoved into after we got back from Florida in 2013. We were both weirdly nervous, but it turned out to be fine! It was relatively quiet, the pool was lovely, and we managed a full 40 minutes before it started to get a bit busier and we felt like our arms were going to fall off. We got home about 8 which wasn’t too bad and I was so proud of us! We’re going to go at least once a week from now on, and really make a concerted effort to stick at it.

This is the dinner we had when we got home, which I had prepped before we left. SW syn-free carbonara with courgettes and spinach.

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Finally, my favourite meal of the week! Chicken fajita bowl, mmmm! Everyone needs to make this, right now. It’s so perfectly suited to SW! I didn’t really follow a recipe but I’ll jot down what I did in case anyone fancies giving it a go.

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Serves 1 with a small bowl of leftovers for lunch the next day, can easily be doubled to feed 2 (or 4 etc etc) quantities are pretty flexible depending on what you have!

Ingredients:

Chicken breast (I used one big one!)

Assorted fajita veggies; I used half a red pepper, half a yellow pepper, 1 courgette and 1 onion

Tomatoes

Coriander

Lettuce

1 Lime

Rice

HEXA of cheese

0% natural yogurt

Fajita seasoning (I used the Schwartz Fajita one)

Optional: avocado, chillis, black beans, refried beans…anything else you’d normally have with fajitas!

Method

1. Get your rice on! I used a sachet of microwaveable spicy Mexican rice which was in the cupboard, but normal white or brown rice would be fine too. The sachet is 2 syns so plain rice would be better as it’s syn-free! If you’re using plain rice, I read a lovely recipe where the cook mixed chopped coriander and lime juice into the rice which I think would be amazing!

2. Coat the chicken breast(s) in the fajita seasoning, spray Frylight on a baking tray and pop in oven for about 20 minutes

3. Meanwhile, slice the peppers, onion and courgette into long strips and fry slowly in a pan with Frylight. I find a slow pace reallllyy helps when you’re cooking with Frylight, it means the food doesn’t catch too quickly and cooks fully before browning. Add the fajita seasoning after the vegetables have been cooking for about 10 minutes.

4. Super quick pico de gallo time! This isn’t essential but really made such a difference to this bowl of goodness. Finely chop half an onion and a handful of cherry tomatoes and season well. I didn’t have fresh coriander so I used frozen, but either would work! Sprinkle coriander over the onions and tomatoes and mix it all together. I added a sprinkle of garlic powder too, for an extra kick. Put the pico de gallo in the fridge for the flavours to combine!

5. Chop lettuce, grate your HEXA of cheddar (I used reduced fat cheddar so I get 40g, score!) and cut a lime in half.

6. Get the chicken out of the oven and slice it up reaaallll good. Add your cooked rice to a bowl, and add the sliced chicken. Once the veggies are at an acceptable level of caramelised crispy-ness, pop them on top of the rice too. Add the chopped lettuce, pico de gallo and cheese, and top with a generous dollop of yogurt. Squeeze a lime all over the bowl and voila, ready to go!

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So it’s been a good week of eats! Fingers crossed I’ll see a loss on Tuesday! Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend 🙂

Potato, Spinach and Quorn Breakfast Hash

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Every so often you cook something absolutely amazing, using only the ingredients kicking about your fridge, with no prior planning or thought given to it previously. This is very unusual for me as I love the build-up to a dish creation and I often spend a lot of time thinking about how I’ll cook it and what it’ll taste like. Obsessive? Perhaps. But Polka Dot Kitchen wouldn’t exist if this didn’t happen!

A couple of Sundays ago, we woke up at a leisurely hour and dragged ourselves from our bedroom to our l0unge, to slump on the sofa just in time for Sunday Brunch. We looooove Sunday Brunch. We used to love Something For The Weekend and I was absolutely devastated when the BBC cancelled it. Like, inconsolable. Then the stars aligned and good old Channel 4 picked it up and we didn’t have to face a lifetime of Sundays without Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer talking about conservatories. Ahhh, bliss!

So this particular Sunday, we were running slightly low on breakfast supplies. And when I say low, I mean we didn’t have any milk, bread or butter. Three ingredients which pretty much top every breakfast dish ingredient list. We did pool together our change (about £1.47) and consider getting dressed and buying some hideously overpriced bits and bobs at the village shop but we decided NO. We Don’t Need It. I should mention, we spend pretty much all our lives saving for our Florida holidays (Floridays) the second of which is in a mere 90 days, so we are generally thrifty and always looking not to spend money. This is also the reason I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to; Florida planning is taking up all my time! We’re going for three weeks and so there are ESTA’s to do, hotel reviews to read, restaurant menus to peruse and the Disneyworld website to pore over and check I haven’t missed a single potential activity that could make our holiday EVEN BETTER. I’ll be doing a full food review on the Dibb (an awesome website for fellow Florida obsessives) and I’ll post a few on here too for those who are interested 🙂

WOW can we say tangent!? Going back (again) to that Sunday, we basically didn’t want to spend any money. But I fancied a nice breakfast. We hardly ever have a cooked breakfast as I’m overly keen on toast with marmite but that day I really fancied one. So I perused our cupboards, did a quick google to see if anyone had ever put roughly these ingredients together, discovered they hadn’t so threw some oil in a pan and cracked on with it.

I started, as many recipes do, with some sliced onion. I love slicing onion like this as they take hardly any time to chop. I can’t be doing with finely chopped onion (even though that is how I prefer my onion) as it just takes soooo long and the chunks are never even anyway 😦 I fried the onion slices in a pan with some olive oil, seasoning and garlic. While that was cooking, I cubed some potatoes that, judging by the sheer size of the sprouts coming out of them, had almost become living beings. They went into the microwave for about 4 minutes for a lazy boy boil and I then added them to a new pan with some more olive oil and seasoning.

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I wanted them to get all crispy and browned and I knew they wouldn’t if they were squished in the other pan with the onions. Two pans Morgan!

The onions were looking nicely browned by this time so I added in some spinach and a load more garlic. God I love garlic.

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I was feeling like this badboy needed some meat (and when I say meat, obviously I mean “meat”) so I grabbed whatever frozen Quorn delights were lurking in the bottom of the freezer, gave them a quick microwave to thaw a bit and chucked them in with the onions. We had Quorn fillets and sausages but I think most fake meat would work! Facon would work. Mmmmm.

The potatoes were now nicely browned and crisp, the onions were caramalised, the spinach was fully flavoured and the fake meat was browning away nicely. I tipped the onion/spinach/Quorn mix into the potatoes, added a tiny bit more salt and pepper and let it all come together while I cooked the eggs. I did consider adding some chopped tomatoes to the pan to moisten it all up a bit but honestly, it was so good on it’s own! But tomatoes would be nice if you wanted more of a liquidy hash.

I quickly fried two eggs and added them to the top of two hulking piles of hash. The verdict? LIFE-CHANGING. I found that the onions had flavoured the whole dish with a good, solid savoury taste and the minced garlic and super posh garlic oil (see Foodies Festival post!) had really made it all come alive. Ben actually said, and I quote, “This is the best breakfast I’ve had outside of America.” !!! Big words!! I was one smug store-cupboard chef that morning!!

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*I haven’t added amounts as it was very much just chucking whatever I had in. I will say that I probably made enough for four and between two of us…we ate it all. Just sayin’. If I make it again I will record all measurements like a proper food blogger 🙂

BBQ Pulled ‘Pork’ (Seitan!)

It was Ben’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and as one of his (many!) presents, I bought him some vital wheat gluten flour. ‘Great gift…’ I hear you cry! But, it was in fact, an awesome gift. Because vital wheat gluten is pretty pricey and it’s not something he’d ever order from himself so he was chuffed to bits when he opened it, mainly because I think he then knew he had many seitan-based dinners on the horizon.

The first thing I wanted to make with the flour was BBQ Pulled Seitan 😀 We were watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (when are we not) and for probably the 276th time, I watched somebody making pulled pork. It always looks soooooo good! I decided I wanted to recreate it for Benj and what better meat substitute than seitan? Seriously, there IS no better meat substitute. Seitan is chewy, textured and just plain MEATY! And it takes on flavour really, really well.

We decided to turn the BBQ pulled seitan into an entire American evening, complete with Disney videos on Youtube (our newest obsession)  and summer-y drinks. To accompany the rolls, we made chilli cheese fries and had onion rings, corn on the cob and coleslaw on the side.

First up, I had to actually make the seitan! I used the Fat Free Vegan BBQ Seitan Ribz recipe as I figured I was going to be chopping the meat up into little pieces at the end anyway.

Here are the dry and wet ingredients ready to be mixed…Ben said it looked pretty disgusting. He is correct.

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The dough comes together very quickly and is super hard to knead. It doesn’t knead like normal bread dough, it kind of just forms a ball and then stays like that. I couldn’t really flatten the shape or make it fit the size of the tray like the recipe said to, so I just formed it into a rectangle and left it! Onto an oiled tray and into the oven for 15 minutes; I had no idea what was expected to come out but hoped for the best.

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I think it looks a bit like brains :/

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15 minutes later I pulled what can only be described as a BEAST out of the oven. Eeek! This photo was taken as it had started to deflate too, it was HUGE!

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We flipped it over and popped it back into the oven for 5 minutes to give it a chance to CALM THE HELL DOWN.

When I took it out again it was slightly less terrifying and I was able to baste it with BBQ sauce and put it back into the oven for its’ final hit of heat. The next time I took it out, it actually looked pretty good! And it smelled AMAZING. So if you do try this recipe, you just really need to persevere with the seitan because it is a funny old thing but it does come together eventually.

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Close-up! See, appetising!!

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I left the seitan to cool for a little while before I sliced it up. Whilst I waited, I indulged in a little of this:

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(Passionfruit juice and vodka)

And Benj indulged in a little of this:

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(Margarita)

It was Saturday night! Hey, can you tell we like Disney? I’m not sure it’s obvious enough.

Once about 10 minutes had passed, I sliced up the seitan into lots of small chunks. I wanted to get the look and feel of pulled pork but it was tricky because the seitan didn’t ‘pull apart’ as such, I just had to do it manually. But once it was all doused in BBQ sauce and sticky, it really looked the part.

 

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I then popped it into a pan and fried it on high for a few minutes to encourage some crisping and browning of the edges, before adding a liberal amount of BBQ sauce. It all came together beautifully in the pan and with a bit of added water to make the BBQ sauce go further, it was starting to look fantastic.

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See?

We served the pulled seitan with the aforementioned sides and I was so pleased with how it turned out. Ben never thought he’d be able to sample this authentic American delight and here he was, with a plate in front of him!!

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For the chilli cheese fries, I just used some leftover frozen chips we had in the freezer, topped with veggie chilli (veggie mince, taco seasoning, chilli powder and passata) and my homemade nacho cheese sauce which I have perfected over recent months and I’m now very proud of!! It’s a basic roux, with added plastic cheese slices, garlic and a few glugs of brine from a jar of jalapeno peppers. The brine gives it a lovely heat and to me, it tasted exactly like the plasticy nacho cheese sauce found in many an Orlando restaurant/quick-service place. Try it, it’s so easy! We tried to buy Squeeze Cheeze to make our lives even easier but tragically, Asda didn’t have any 😦 I topped the cheese fries with some chopped spring onion, but you have to call them scallions to make it all authentic and American.

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We then have corn on the cob, beautifully cooked by Benjamin with liberal amounts of butter and salt and some oven baked onion rings, which I dipped in sour cream. A lot of sour cream. Like, half the tub. I served the pulled seitan on buttered white rolls as although this goes against everything I’ve ever been told about carbs (go brown wherever possible) that is how they are always served on TV. I topped them with some coleslaw (not homemade as we really couldn’t be bothered to wash the new food processor we have recently acquired) – plain for me and a mango jalapeno variety for Benj.

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This was a proper, trashy, down-home American meal and we absolutely loved it. Better still, we made enough for two nights so enjoyed exactly the same treat the following evening! Best Bank Holiday ever!! If you are a vegetarian just gagging to experience the full, unadulterated beauty of pulled pork, please try these. 🙂

Japanese Gyoza

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Sometimes, I get a food craving. A really really strong, can’t-think-about-anything-else food craving where I actually have to abandon all other eating plans and satisfy it.

This happened the other day with Japanese gyoza. I was chatting innocently to the girls at work about the wonders of Wagamama and how I hadn’t been in ages. When I used to work in Basingstoke I would go quite often as the restaurant was about 5 minutes from my office but since I started my new job, I haven’t been once. Which is very, very distressing. Although, I did get into the quite expensive and extremely calorific habit of just grabbing a take-out box of my favourite dish Amai Udon on my way back to the office, after a lunchhour spent browsing the shops. Not very good at all! So maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that I’ve had to go cold turkey, on reflection.

Anyway. Myself and Ben had a gig on the Saturday (this was the Thursday) IN Basingstoke and although I knew we should go somewhere cheap for dinner beforehand, the lure of Wagamamas was extremely strong and quite difficult to ignore. I realise that to most people Wagamamas is a cheap option, however, last time we went I accidentally got two side dishes* AS WELL AS my main meal, plus we both had wine and beer. So the bill was like £50. Not even slightly cheap.

*I find it really hard not to order the gyoza when I visit Wagamamas and then I saw they had salt and pepper squid so obviously I had to get that too. In my defence.

So I was chatting to the girls at work about how amazing the food at Wagamamas was and what a shame we were going to Wetherspoons instead in order to keep costs down, when the craving hit me. Hard, suddenly, and out of the blue. I had to have gyoza. Right now. This was like 5pm so as I drove home I was mentally rifling through our cupboards to see if we had anything remotely Japanese-y that I could make gyoza with. We actually had baked potatoes and veggie chicken kievs on the meal plan for that night, but that went out the window and it was all about the Asian food.

I remembered seeing The Hairy Bikers make gyoza a couple of weeks before on their new gourmet cooking show and it looked so easy! I Googled the recipe and lo and behold, water and flour!!!! Easy peasy pie. I whipped up a batch of dough (if you can call it that) and left it out to prove for a bit whilst I made a filling.

We didn’t have any ginger or rice wine vinegar or anything helpfully Asian like that so I had to make do with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce. I defrosted some Quorn chicken chunks, chopped them up into small pieces and chucked them in our wok with some garlic and sesame oil. I then added shredded lettuce (cabbage would have been much preferred but we didn’t have any!) and some chopped red onion. I fried it all for a few minutes before tasting it and I actually couldn’t believe how nice it was! I was seriously impressed with myself.

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The dough had been proving for about half an hour and it was ready to go. I divided it into 4 pieces (having halved the original Hairy Bikers recipe as I didn’t want to make enough for 8 people!) and rolled each section out super duper thin, with plenty of flour. I then used my cookie cutter to cut nice round circles out and stacked them all up into a pile, with flour in between each disc so they wouldn’t stick.

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Benj was eager to help with the gyoza making so after a brief viewing of ‘How to Make Gyoza’ videos on Youtube, we felt ready to give it a go.

And, honestly, it was so unbelievably easy!! I couldn’t believe it! We had the whole stack of about 28 gyozos done and dusted in about 15 minutes!

You take a disc, rub cold water around the edges and put a small spoonful of filling in the middle. It is then just a case of folding the dough around the filling and pleating it all the way, which sounds hard but once you’ve watched someone else do it, you’re sorted!

Ben’s hands expertly pleating the gyoza dough.

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Here is around half the batch we made, sitting pretty in the frying pan about to be seared! You need to sear the gyoza on the bottom until they are golden brown and crispy, before steaming them. This is a very important step! Otherwise you’ll have soggy gyoza! Surely everyones worst nightmare?? I know it’s mine.

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I seared them for about two minutes on a high heat. Oooh, they smelt so good! I then turned the heat right down and added 100ml of water to the pan. It hisses and spits a bit so be careful! I got Ben to add the water as he’s brave like that 😉 I put the lid on the pan and steamed the gyoza for another two minutes before serving them with dipping sauces; soy sauce and sweet chilli and garlic. Both were lovely but soy sauce always wins for me!

We were so unbelievably proud of our creations, they could have come straight from the Wagamama kitchen!!

Check these bad boys:

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The bottoms were crispy and crunchy and provided a lovely contrast to the slightly gooey texture of the steamed dough. The filling tasted delicious with the extra cooking time and I can’t recommend it enough! I was so impressed with the ease and simplicity of these treats and how professional and restaurant-y they turned out.

I can’t wait to make these again, I think they’ll be even nicer when I have the correct ingredients! I’m going to research yummy fillings and make sure I have everything before I start cooking. But for a weeknight indulgence with no prior planning and no extra ingredients purchased, I think we did pretty good! 😀

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Pretzel Pie


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It is not often I make desserts, but when I do, I try to ensure they involve as many of my favourite ingredients as possible. As soon as I saw this pie, I knew it was meant to be. Chocolate? Good. Peanut butter? Goood. Cream cheese filling and pretzel base!? Gooooooood!

I originally came across a version of this pie on Come Dine With Me (which is on in our lounge 90% of the time) and when Dave Lamb listed all the ingredients, I suddenly started paying a lot more attention. The actual recipe was on the Channel 4 website but as with all CDWM recipes it was a bit wishy washy and this, coupled with the fact that under every entry Channel 4 writes something about how none of the recipes are tested so you could be gambling just like the contestants on the show, slightly put me off. I set my sights on finding a more refined version on t’interwebs.

And this is it! Nadia G’s Peanut Butter Pie from her show Bitchin Kitchen, which is coincidentally starting on Food Network in the UK tonight! I got really excited when I saw the advert as I’d spent all week obsessing over this pie and reading reviews, blogs etc of the show and her book. She seems like a pretty hilarious chef and her book has got great reviews so I’m excited to watch her show later on.

So, the pie. The recipe can be found here, although I did tweak it slightly as I found the ingredients weren’t enough to fill my pie dish. Disaster. Although, not really, as I ended up almost doubling the recipe so we were eating chocolate peanut butter cream cheese pretzel pie for days, which is in no way a bad thing. Although it is quite bad for my diet. Which ended on or about January 3rd, but that’s another story.

The pie crust consists of whizzed up salted pretzels, brown sugar and melted butter. Do pie crusts really get any better than that?

Not sure why I took a photo of this, possibly to show my delightful tablespoon/teaspoon measuring cups?

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Here is the pie crust, all mixed together. This is when I ran into difficulties; I realised this was not going to fill my pie dish so I added more and more pretzels, butter and sugar until it seemed like a good amount.

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I then smoothed the mixture into the dish and all up the edges to form a lovely pretzel-y crust.

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See?

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I popped that into the fridge to chill while I worked on the peanut butter filling. This is a no bake pie, so all it involves is a bit of chilling!

The peanut butter filling consists of smooth PB, cream cheese, whipped cream and brown sugar. Again, I wasn’t sure the amounts would fill my dish so I doubled them. I got to use my brand new American measuring cups which Ben bought me in Asda and make me feel like the Barefoot Contessa. ‘Add a cup of heavy cream!’ etc. She says that all the time, trust me. (Barefoot Contessa is on in our lounge the 10% of the time Come Dine With Me isn’t.)

All the goodies in the bowl!

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I mixed all these up and then carefully folded in the whipped cream. The recipe calls for 35 percent whipping cream but I just used double and it worked fine. When I was finished, I swirled the peanut butter filling into the pie dish, put it in the fridge to chill and started my final layer, the chocolate whipped cream.

This required the melting of cream and chocolate in a bain-marie which I then chilled for a couple of hours in the fridge, before whipping together using my little hand mixer. I spread the mixture on top of the pie dish and ta da!

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I took it to our friends’ house that we were staying at over the weekend and I have to say, with the chocolate shavings on top I was pretty impressed with how it looked!

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And I was even more impressed when it actually held together as I sliced it!

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The pie itself was incredibly rich and creamy; I don’t actually enjoy fresh whipped cream all that much (I know, I’m weird) so it wasn’t really the ideal dessert for me. But, our friends absolutely loved it and even my peanut-butter-hating boyfriend enjoyed his slice, as well as the second he had a couple of days later! The peanut butter flavour wasn’t quite strong enough for me to be honest, I feel the cream really overpowered it and I’d like to be able to really get a proper, intense, OMGPEANUTBUTTER hit of PB. I didn’t realise it’d be quite so creamy when I first read the recipe.

I’ve got an idea in my head that seems to be more tart than pie, with layers of pure peanut butter, chocolate ganache and a crunchy pretzel/digestive biscuit base. So I might try that out soon, once we’ve recovered from the calorific bomb that was this dessert. I recommend the recipe though, just be prepared to tweak it to make it fit your pie dish. And add more peanut butter!