Home Alone Cooking Day 8: Roasted Aubergine

This was a way of using up the aubergine and remainder of the can of black beans from earlier in the week.

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There was nothing complicated in the prep, but it did take a bit of time.

First stage was to oven bake some thin aubergine slices.  Recipe says “thin slices, a couple of millimeters” and the picture seems to suggest lengthwise cuts. And I could have used a mandolin. But I quite enjoyed the meditation like state produced by slicing my rounds by hand, taking my time.

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These (there were a lot of them) were put on an olive oil slicked tray, with more oil drizzled on top (how to do this? I don’t know! Should I have spritzed?  I felt some slices got lots more oil than others)

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The recipe called for sauteed spinach with garlic.  I had no spinach, but I did have pak choi.

The recipe also called for brown rice cooked from scratch for 40 mins.  I had none of that either, but I did have a ready cook rice sachet or brown basmati and quinoa.

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In the recipe, the final stage was to dry roast off “a good handful” of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  I did this stage first, before adding any of the softer ingredients, and also to stop the rest getting cold while i did my dry roasting.

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So, to assembly – rice stuff stirred with tahini and tamari.  Pak choi and bean garlic stir fry. Sort of roasted aubergine slices. And a sprinkle of roasted seeds.

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Honestly? It felt a bit knit-your-own-lentil worthy and heavy. I love aubergine, but I’m not sure this used them to their best advantage.

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Home Alone Cooking 6: Black Beans

Sunday.  I decided to take Max for a good long run before it got too hot.  As it turned out, we were 1km into our run when the heavens opened and it poured.  So I was in need of something tasty on my return.

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The TV had been showing footage of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and patron’s lunch, part of which was a picnic hamper packed with foodie goodies sourced from all over the UK.

I was inspired by their smoked salmon starter, and decided to make my own version, using the half price organic cold smoked stuff I’d bought in Dobbies yesterday.

2 small slices, chopped finely with a knife and fork (use the back of the fork to mush it a bit more)

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Add a good heaped teaspoon of Skyr, or other thick natural yoghurt.

Squeeze in half a lemon, and add some fresh black pepper.

Arrange attractively, using red peppers out of a jar, capers, and tortilla chips.

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For dinner, it was back to Ella, and what she claimed was the Best Sweet Potato.

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One of the issues I’d had with Click-and-collect-ing is that you can’t choose the size of your veg.  I’d been hoping for some chunky sweet potatoes suitable for baking, but instead my bag contained long thin ones, more suited to making wedges.  So that’s what I did.

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The filling was half a can of black beans, sauteed with mushrooms.  The recipe said 7 mushrooms, or 150 g.  I’m glad it added the grams, as my mushrooms, having been unable to select myself (see above) were on the large side, and in fact 3 of them took me to 150g.

To the pan, I added a teaspoon of jarred chillies. and 3 chopped cloves of garlic.  The recipe said to saute these in “lots of olive oil”. Lots?  How much is lots?  Is that 3 tablespoons or half a bottle?  Actually, I find you don’t need much oil when cooking mushrooms, as they release their own liquid.

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A dressing was also required – 2 teaspoons tahini, the juice of a lime (size unspecified), a teaspoon of honey, and pepper and salt.

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I missed when reading the ingredients that there was an avocado as well, so my version omitted it.

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It was a very edible meal.  But just too….earthy.  There was no contrast or light and shade in the flavours.  The sweet potato is earthy, the beans are earthy, mushrooms are earthy, the tahini dressing is…yes you’ve guessed it, earthy.  Even the lime juice wasn’t enough to lift it. And a cookery book that claims to be “no sugar” but merrily adds honey to recipes is failing my nutritional awareness hurdles.



Home Alone Cooking 4: Vegan Carbonara

One of my main quibbles with Deliciously Ella is that it gives no idea on cooking and preparation times, or level of difficulty.  I’d been going to do this vegan version of a carbonara last night, until I discovered that I had to soak the cashew nuts for 3-4 hours first.

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So I popped them in a bowl overnight.

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The other main ingredient in the sauce is butternut squash.  Again I ran into problems with the quantities, given as   1/3 of a squash.  But how big of a squash? 200g it helpfully added – which is actually remarkably little actual squash.

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I was worried that my little stick blender would have difficulties in combining all the ingredients.  I didn’t have nutritional yeast, so I added a spoonful of Marmite.  And 3 teaspoons of tamari seemed like a lot of saltiness on top.

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Plus cayenne pepper?  I rarely use it these days in cooking – I did add some to petroleum jelly to make a deterrent paste for the dogs….

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But the stick blender coped well, the soaked nuts were easy to pulpify, and I soon ended with a rather tasty gloop.

I cooked some buckwheat noodles, and added some frozen peas 2 minutes before the end of cooking.

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In a frying pan I sauteed mushrooms and garlic, and added spinach to wilt down.

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Everything was combined together – the mushroom-garlic-spinach, the noodles-and-peas, and the cashew-squash sauce.  Once again, I felt this was a massive portion for one person, and I’ve kept some back for lunch tomorrow.

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I made the full 4 person version of the sauce, and put the leftovers in tubs to freeze.

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The end result was, well, delicious!  I’d never have thought about making a sauce this way, but it was rich and unctuous, with a real umami hit from the marmite and tamari. And look at the veg count snuck in there – peas, spinach, mushroom, squash.

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My Fitness Pal estimates the calories at 550, with a whopping 90 carbs (mostly the noodles, it has to be said), and a low-ish 23 g protein from the nuts.

I’ve been eating Ella’s recipes for a few days now, and I do have to admit I crave sugar much less.  My body seems to be performing well on the good fuel I’m giving it, and I’m excited to try more ideas.


Home Alone Cooking Day 3: Full of beans

The pomegranate seeds were next of the items to need using up, and I was intrigued at the idea of combining them with beans and pesto.

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It was a very simple and quick recipe, though I did cheat a little and use a ready made jigger of pesto.

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But…….a whole can of beans for one person? There are no calorie counts or nutritional info given in the book, and while it’s USP is it’s “healthiness”, I’d like to know this.  Another niggle is that some of the quantities given are imprecise – a handful of pumpkin seeds, for example.

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The combination of crunchy seeds, bursts of pomegranate, soft beans and rich pesto was really good, and I could see myself making this again.  I will plug the ingredients into My Fitness Pal to get a feel for how calorific it is, but the measurement of seeds would need to be more precise.

Using a full can of beans – it’s approximately 600 calories, 60g of carbohydrate (the beans and pomegranate), 25g fat (pesto and seeds), and 25g protein (the beans and seeds).  The book is gluten free and the recipes have no added sugar.

Home Alone Cooking Day 2: So. Much. Kale.

My Click and Collect groceries are here!

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I got lots of frozen seafood, including salmon, prawns and scallops.

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Store cupboard protein – puy lentils, cashews and pine nuts.

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Fresh fruit – limes, lemons and pomegranate arils.

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And fresh vegetables.  Lots and lots of veg.  Too much, really!

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The nice C&C man pointed out that the kale was short dated, so I’ll work on using that one up first.  I’d been planning a laksa tonight, but instead went for Ella’s Green Goddess Bowl, which has “a good handful of kale” as one of the ingredients.

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The combination was really good – slightly crunchy steamed veg, with soft quinoa, but teh dressing was just fabulous – tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  I’ll definitely make that again!

I’ll also make her kale and cannelini bean stew, to which I’ll add those leftover carrot strips,  and put individual portions in the freezer.  Dammit, need sticky labels!

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For lunch today I had some of the leftover carrot and courgette salad, which is very filling.  There’s even some left for tomorrow.  I accompanied that with some pumpkin seed ryvita and sweet chilli feta.