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I have to admit that I don't particularly like packed lunches because I find them repetitive, dull and too easy to be lazy with. Plus I find it really hard to decide in the morning (or even the night before) what I am going to want for lunch. I also find that they are not very healthy because you end to stick a lot of pre packaged things in them.
I like to change things around a bit so I will vary the sandwiches firstly - one day I'll have bread, another wraps and another bagels. My favourite is bagel with pastrami, pickled gherkin slices, mayonnaise and lettuce. But I do get fed up of sandwiches very quickly. I always make sure I have a cup a soup or a noodle sachet that you can make with boiling water so I can have something hot or a bit different if I fancy. Also, if I am making salad or pasta for dinner, I'll make extra and stick it in a airtight container for lunch the following day.
I am perpetually on a diet and like a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables so I tend to make sure I have a tub of either to go with my lunch. I often buy a tub of tzatziki and cut up slices of carrot, cucumber, pepper, radish and cherry tomatoes to dip in it for a change.
I steer clear of chocolates and crisps really, but I do like something sweet so I'll stick in a chocolate mousse or a fruity yoghurt.
It's not very exciting, but there are a few ways to spice up your packed lunch!
I absolutely love fruit in almost all its forms, in fact the only fruit I can think of that I don't like is peach and that is not because of the taste of it, but more because of the furry skin that goes through me! Here are my top five fruits . . .
1. Mango - without a doubt my absolute favourite and delicious when it is ripe and has gone that lovely orange colour. I am not a big fan of mango flavoured drinks and the like, but fresh mango is absolutely delicious. I could easily sit and eat plates and plates of the stuff. In fact the only thing that stops me is the fact it takes so long to prepare. I remember at uni, it was always my hangover cure because our local supermarket had a fresh salad counter and I used to go and get a tub full of mango from there!
2. Watermelon - I love this because it reminds me of summer. I love being somewhere hot and having a nice big slice of cold fresh watermelon. My husband doesn't get it because he says it tastes of nothing, but he is wrong obviously!
3. Clementines - for the exact opposite of watermelon, I love clementines because they remind me of Christmas! I love the really tiny sweet ones that are still quite firm but are juicy when you get inside. Plus they don't have pips which is an added bonus!
4. Blueberries - This is a recent thing for me because, although I've had them in the past, I've never really realised how good they are. They are what is called a superfood, which means they are super good for you (I assume!). I like to add these to a fruit salad, but can quite easily eat a packet of them by themselves.
5. Cherries - I love fresh cherries, almost as much as I love mangoes! They are a bit fiddly to eat, but so worth it, especially when they are nice and ripe.
So there you have it, my top five fruits!
I absolutely love fruit in practically all its forms. I can't actually think of a fruit that I don't like at the moment. In fact I am pretty miserable at the moment because I am pregnant and fruit isn't agreeing with me at all and I miss it so much!
I particularly like the more exotic fruits like mango, pineapple, passion fruit and so on although these ones tend to be a lot more time consuming to prepare. If you want a quick snack , it is much easier to grab an apple, an orange, a pear or a banana. Having said that, I have overcome this problem a little.
When I do my weekly shop, I buy lots of different fruits all at once. Usually I include a melon of some kind and a pineapple as well as whatever is in season - in summer it tends to be grapes, berries and nectarines whereas in winter I add pears, kiwi fruits and apples. Then I chop everything up there and then. It takes a while but it worth it in the end because I then stick it all in a big airtight lunch box and it is there for whenever hubby and I fancy some. We tend to have a bowl of fruit with a yoghurt on for dessert after our dinners and it is so much easier when it is preprepared. Also I find that there is much less wastage this way because, in the past, I have been guilty of buying fruit like pineapples and then never quite getting round to eating it.
It is important to use things that keep well - bananas are no good and I stay away from strawberries too - because things that don't keep well make other fruits go bad too. Pineapple and melon are a really good base to add more colourful fruits to to make it look appealing. You really can add anything you like!
I love making a nice party buffet because you can have a lot of fun with it and make all kinds of things that don't necessarily have to go well together. There are the staple additions, such as big bowls of crisps with accompanying dips, sandwiches (cut into triangles of course) and various other things, but there are a few extra things that I like to add . . .
Firstly, mini chicken skewers are always a good one. You just need to cut your chicken into bite sized chunks and then marinate them overnight. If you are adventurous and talented, you can make your own sauce, but in the interest of saving time and making things easy, I tend to use ready made sauces. You don't need to marinate overnight, but the longer you leave it the better. Then simply stick a couple of pieces of chicken on a cocktail stick and gentle grill until brown on the outside and cooked all the way through.
Tuna rolls are always a good one to have as well to make a nice change from sausage ones. simply mix tuna, a bit of olive oil and some chopped onions together and then line a sheet of puff pastry with it, chop into bit sized chunks and cook for fifteen minutes or so until the pastry is golden brown. These are handy because they can be served hot or cold and so can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator until they are required.
So there you have my two favourite and easy to make party food additions!
I am a bit of a chocoholic. It is strange because I never used to be - I was always a sweets person as a child but as I have got older, I have found that I crave chocolate more. I like it in all forms except for that that cheap nasty stuff you get in the cheaper Christmas calendars, although my favourite kind is dark chocolate.
I particularly like Black Magic boxes of chocolates, especially the raspberry creme one which is just amazing. I sometimes find milk chocolate too sweet which is why I tend to go for dark chocolate, although I don't like the really bitter stuff.
If I were to choose, I'd always go for a selection box such as Thornton's, Dairy Milk Tray or, of course, Black Magic because I like the variety. In terms of bars of chocolate, I would rarely opt for a plain chocolate bar because I much prefer them with something in them such as Galaxy Caramels or Snickers bars.
When it comes to puddings in restaurants, which I ALWAYS have, I can't resist a chocolate one.I don't really like brownie or ice cream ones, but I love chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and those melt in the middle chocolate fondants!
I guess you can see that what I am trying to say is that i am indeed a chocoholic. I am pregnant at the moment and I was hoping that I would go off chocolate and start to crave healthy things. Unfortunately exactly the opposite has happened and the baby seems to have a taste for Kinder Eggs! Oh well, what baby wants...
I love to make mini bruschettas for a pre dinner nibble or even as a starter if you are cooking an Italian themed meal. They are really easy to do and you can vary them a bit if you like with different toppings.
-To make the bruschetta bread-
You'll need a baguette. Depending on whether you want to make canapes or starters will dictate on what size of baguette you get. if you want to make a starter I'd get a nice thick one. If you want canapes, a long thin one is better. Either way, cut the baguette into strips and very lightly toast on either side. You can do this well in advance of serving if you like because it doesn't need to be warm and it doesn't matter if the bread goes hard because it will soften up when you put the toppings on.
-For the toppings-
My favourite topping is a simple tomato and onion one. Get some good quality, ripened but firm tomatoes. I think baby vine tomatoes work best. Chop them into fairly small chunks and place into a bowl. Chop up a red onion into really small chunks and add to the tomatoes. Then drizzle some olive oil over them and add chopped chilli and garlic (I use the lazy versions in both cases and it works just as well). Add plenty of salt and pepper and stir well. I find that this tastes better if you make it well in advance and leave in the fridge to chill for a few hours and soack up the flavour.
-Other topping ideas-
If you want a bit of variation, you can use the same recipe but with sweet peppers. Grill the sweet peppers early on and let them go cold before adding to the same mix. Grilling them really brings out the flavour. You can use different colour peppers to make it look pretty.
Adding mushrooms also works although I'd leave out the onions and chilli and try to find some different kinds of mushrooms to add flavour.
I am a big fan of all kinds of potatoes and I recently discovered these ones that end up tasting a bit like mini baked potatoes but have the fun element that mean kids will enjoy eating them too.
New potatoes - as many as you need for each individual person I usually find five or six of the larger ones or seven or eight smaller ones.
Making the potatoes is ridiculously easy. You need to preheat your oven to about two hundred degrees. Meanwhile wash the potatoes thoroughly and then, with a sharp knife, cut halfway through them in half centimetre spaces so that they look like they have lots of lines all the way across the top of them (this is so hard to describe). Place them onto a shallow baking tray on put some oil and salt on them. Cook for about forty five minutes to an hour or until they are a nice golden brown colour.
if you are short on time, you can par boil the potatoes for 8-10 minutes first and then reduce the cooking time to about fifteen minutes in a hotter oven.
Be careful not to cut too deeply into the potatoes or they will split and not look as good when they are finished.
Try to make sure all the potatoes are roughly the same size to ensure even cooking.
I use one cal cooking spray because it is better for you and it actually stops them from becoming too greasy.
I recently bought a new slow cooker and was thinking of things to make in it and thought of doing a beef stroganoff. This is an easy recipe that you can tweak a bit if you like. It makes a generous portion for four.
Medium packet of stewing steak
Mushrooms (as many as you like), halved
Tin of mushroom soup
100ml boiling water
Packet of garlic and herb cream cheese
Black peppercorns (again, as many as you like)
This is a really easy recipe because you don't need to seal the meat first. Simply throw the beef, mushrooms, soup and water into your slow cooker, mix it well and put on a low heat for about 6 to 8 hours. Two hours from the end of the cooking time, you need to add the cream cheese and the peppercorns and stir well. I'd recommend adding just a few peppercorns at this point and then tasting it in another hour to see if you need or want anymore. Throw the salt in then as well. Keep an eye on it towards the end of the cooking time to make sure that it is not curdling and you do need to stir it a couple of times.
I love mushrooms so I put loads in, but obviously you can add as many as you like. I would say at least 200 grams though to get the flavour.
You can make this slightly healthier by going for low fat cream cheese - it makes no difference to the taste I have found.
We served ours with jacket potatoes and it was delicious although it does work just as well with rice if you prefer.
I love these cereal and chocolate combined treats - I am loathe to call them cakes because they don't really constitute a cake I don't think - but I like to change it around about. I am not a big fan of the sharp bits that you get when you use cornflakes and they harden with the chocolate - I find that they hurt the inside of my mouth and there is no fun in that so here is my recipe . . . (PS I have left out quantities because it really depends on how many you want to make and how chocolatey you want them - it is really easy to work it out as you are going along)
Melt the mars bars in a bain marie, by placing a large glass bowl over a smaller pan of boiling water. You want to make sure than there is at least a couple of centimetres gap between the bowl and the water. Do it gently and stir continuously to prevent the Mars Bars from splitting. Once it has fully melted, then take it off the heat and pour in the cereal a little at a time and stir them in well to cover the chocolate completely. Once you have used up all the chocolate by coating the cereals thoroughly, use a spoon to scoop them into individual cake cases and allow them to set in the fridge.
I use the Mars Bars because they give the cakes a nice chewy texture, if you prefer not to do this, you can use a good quality chocolate - dark white and milk all work equally well!
You can do it with marshmallows instead if you don't want any chocolate at all.
Everybody looks a good sandwich, but which is your favourite? These are my three favourite kinds of sandwich . . .
Salmon Roll - I first had this on a Christmas market in Cologne, Germany and I have recreated it at home since to good effect. You get one fresh salmon steak per person and cover it is salt and pepper and a little chili powder if you like a bit of a kick then grill it until it is cooked to your liking. Meanwhile bake one medium sized parbake roll per person, cut it in half and add a generous amount of soured cream or mayonnaise (whichever you prefer) and some shredded lettuce. break up the salmon steak and fill the sanwich with it.
Pastrami Bagel - Lightly toast a sesame seed bagel and then fill with sliced gherkins, lettuce, mayonnaise and slices of pastrami. I love this one because it is very American, it is quite luxurious but is easy and cheap to make.
Chicken Sandwich - This is my absolute favourite and it might sounds a bit boring to be my favourite but it is the bread that makes it. I use Tesco's salt and pepper tiger baguettes which are absolutely amazing when they are fresh. I just top it with a bit of butter, plenty of salad cream and slices of freshly roasted chicken breast - delicious!
So there you have it, my top three sandwiches, all very different but all equally delicious. What is your favourite sandwich? I'm always looking for new inspiration!
This is a dish I make when we are short on time and fancy something a little bit naughty but tasty. When I say a little bit naughty, it is probably more than that, but it is good all the same and everybody needs a treat every once in a while. This recipe makes enough for two.
A large bag of salted tortilla chips
A jar of salsa dip
sliced chicken breast
Grated cheddar cheese
On two dinner plates, layer a few tortillas, a spoonful of salsa, a bit of chicken and a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese. Repeat this until all the ingredients run out (usually about four layers I find) and top the whole lot with some more grated cheese. Put each plate into the microwave for five minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom of the plate is hot.
I make this cheaply because I use supermarket own brand salsa and tortilla chips. You can use flavoured tortilla chips, but I find that plain salted ones work the best.
If you like your food with a bit of a kick, use spicy salsa, or stir in some chopped chili into the salsa before adding it to the recipe.
It is hard to make it so the two plates are ready at the same time unless you have two microwaves, so I tend to cook one for four minutes, then the other for four minutes and then finish each of for a minute so they are ready closer together.
You can make the stacks quite high because they do shrink a bit during cooking!
I often make these breakfast burritos for hubby and myself when we are having a lazy morning and brunch is on the cards. They can be adapted to whatever you like most but are tasty and filling. Recipe is for a generous portion for two.
Four tortilla wraps
Two handfuls of grated cheddar
Two teaspoons of tomato puree (or tomato ketchup if you don't have any)
Four slices of smoked ham, cut into strips
Fry the sliced vegetables until they are softened and brown and then throw in the sliced ham to warm it through. Meanwhile spread the tomato pruee onto each of the tortilla wraps and sprinkle some grated cheese onto each one. Pour the ham and vegetable and ham mixture over the top of each dividing it between the four wraps.Roll up the wraps and cut them in half. warm up a dry griddle pan and put the halved wraps on to cook. turn them halfway through cooking and ensure they are golden brown on each side and that the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
If you like your food with a bit of a kick, you can add some chopped chili or garlic to the mix when you fry it.
You can add any vegetables that you like, these are just my preference. Also you can switch the ham for chicken if you want to make these for lunch rather than breakfast.
I add a bit of pepper to the mix, but not salt because I find they are salty enough with the ham and cheese.
I sometimes add a few baby or cherry tomatoes to the mix as well so make them a little less dry, it depends on your preferences.
This is one of my favourite meals to make and eat. it is quick for a weekday meal and tastes really delicious, even if I do say so myself. The recipe below makes enough for a generous portion for two people.
150 grams pasta (I use penne)
8 rashers of smokey bacon, cut into 1 cm slices
150 grams mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion thinly sliced
1 carton Elmlea single
Salt and pepper
Gently fry the onions and mushrooms on a medium heat until they are softened then remove from the pan. Turn the heat up on the pan then throw in the bacon and fry until it is well cooked, almost crispy. Then put the onions and mushrooms back in and mix together. Add the Elmlea and turn down the heat. Cook for around ten minutes adding salt and plenty of pepper about halfway through. The sauce should thicken but do not allow it to boil.
Start the pasta just after you add the cream so that they are both ready around the same time. Once both are cooked, then mix the pasta into the bacon mix and serve straight away.
It isn't the healthiest meal on the planet at first glance, but that is why I use Elmlea rather than full cream and I also use one cal cooking spray instead of oil or butter to soften the onions and mushrooms. I also find that this prevents the sauce from becoming greasy.
You need plenty of pepper to really bring it together and not too much salt because it will already be salty from the bacon. Make sure you add a bit of each at a time and keep tasting it. Remember the salty flavour will intensify during cooking, so go easy.
If you want to make it a proper filling meal, serve it with a couple of slices of garlic bread.
This is a dkm1981 invented recipe that changes every time I make it, but essentially follows the same plan. I call it Mediterranean Vegetables because I think it looks very Mediterranean and the olive oil and chilli help. It is very easy to do and can be adapted to your favourite vegetables and to what is in season.
-To Make Them-
Basically you need to chop up a load of vegetables. I usually use new potatoes, courgettes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, baby tomatoes, baby corn, sugar snap peas, carrots; things like that in general although it doesn't matter what you use, like I say. Throw them all in an oven tray (leaving out the tomatoes initially) and pour over some olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add a teaspoon of chopped fresh chili and a clove of crushed garlic(I actually use lazy chili and lazy garlic because I find them much easier and they work just as well). Then roast the lot for about 45 minutes on a medium heat. Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the tray about halfway through cooking. Give the vegetables a stir a couple of times during cooking.
If you are using things like potatoes and carrots which need longer than other ingredients, it is best to boil them for a few minutes first to soften them up.
I usually serve them with a simple pork chop or something like that. The vegetables end up quite moist because of the tomatoes and the juices from them, so you don't need a sauce.
It is easier I find to make a whole heap of them at one and freeze individual portions for a very quick meal later on. I actually find that they taste even nice warmed up again because the vegetables seem to soak up all the flavours even more!
Whenever I get a scratchy throat or the signs of a sore throat, I turn straight to Halls Soothers because I find that they do the job perfectly and they are indeed very soothing. They are widely available and, as far as I know, come in three flavours - blackcurrant, peach and raspberry and cherry.
Personally my favourite flavour is cherry although I find that they all work equally well and that they all taste pretty good actually. Whereas medicine type things always taste disgusting, these actually taste really fruity so that you feel like you are eating sweets rather than medicine. The flavours are really full and balance out the menthol effect well so that it is not too overpowering.
The sweets are available everywhere more or less, although I find that the blackcurrant ones are more common and that you have to search a bit for the other two flavours.
As I say, they work really well at soothing your throat because they have a menthol liquid centre that seems to coat your throat and gives instant relief from scratchy and dry throats. I find that you only need one or two as well and that they have a fairly long lasting effect which is good.
They aren't cheap at 80p for a 45 gram packet which contains about ten or eleven sweets, but I think it is a price worth paying for the effect that they have. You can buy them in three packs as well, which makes them cheaper.
Overall I would definitely recommend them because they taste good and work well.