Creamy Spinach & Garlic Chicken

Next up for a fresh and healthy 2017 is this delicious oven bake. With all the usual suspects in the line up – spinach, garlic, parmesan, this chicken wonder will leave you feeling full and satisfied. I have used coconut cream as the healthier alternative to regular cream here and it worked a treat but as always, this is more a guideline than a recipe so feel free to use whatever cream or cream alternative you want.

I loved making this dish as it was super easy to put together. I stormed home tonight after a full on day at work and big gym sesh and almost fell over with exhaustion but knew that dinner had to be cooked and was glad I had planned ahead with this one. I popped the oven on to preheat, prepared the chicken and the cream sauce as per the method below and threw this yummy looking dinner into the oven. Now with 40 minutes to kill, I got myself organised for tomorrow, showered and into my pjs and was back in the kitchen just i time for the oven timer to tweet.

And now I’m sitting here after enjoying this delish dinner telling you guys all about it and encouraging you to add this to your meal plan this week. Cheap and cheerful, this one is defo for the clean and healthy January menu.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1kg (6-8 pieces) bone-in, skin-on Chicken Thighs
2 cups Fresh Spinach
1 can (330 ml) Coconut Cream
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. Shaved Parmesan
1 Tsp. Corn Flour
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash Olive Oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
In a blender, processor or Nutribullet – whatever you have available – add the coconut cream, spinach, garlic, parmesan and seasoning and blend together until smooth and creamy.
Put the cream sauce to one side.
In a large pan, heat some olive oil and add the chicken thighs with the top side facing down.
Sear the thighs until brown and sealed and then turn them over.
Repeat the above step with this side of the thighs.
Once the chicken thighs have been sealed, place them bottom side down in a large oven dish.
Remove any remaining oil from the pan in which you seared the thighs and add the cream sauce (don’t wash the pan as it will be full of rich flavour from the chicken).
On a low heat, gently stir the cream sauce and add the corn flour to thicken.
Once the cream sauce has heat through, pour it over the chicken thighs waiting in the oven dish.
Add a sprinkle of seasoning over the chicken and place the oven dish on the middle shelf of the oven.
Leave the dish to bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
Once thoroughly cooked, remove the dish from the oven.
Using a tongs, remove the chicken pieces from the dish and serve as desired.

Advertisements

Aubergine, Red Pepper & Olive Pasta Sauce

For those of you who have read some of my previous posts, you will know that I am allergic to a zillion different foods and have had to cut out the majority of these from my diet. That unfortunately means that I have slipped into the habit of creating recipes based on the foods I am allowed eat. But have no fear! When creating my plan for 2017 for this little blog, I vowed to try and incorporate some of my forbidden foods into my recipes again so that you don’t have to miss out like I do. Even thinking about what I can’t have anymore is making me pine for them! I actually miss yogurt so much. And eggs…and mushrooms…and tomatoes 

So this little creation sticks mostly to my list of allowed foods but I have also used some tomato puree from concentrate in the recipe so you guys are not deprived. This is a great recipe for a really rich and filling Pasta Sauce using chunky vegetables with intense flavours to create a very indulgent meal without most of the naughty additions.

The key to this sauce is to keep the vegetables whole and not to pulverise them down during the process. You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it either. Whatever you decide to do, decide to make a batch either way – it’s just gorgeous! This sauce is full of flavour and healthy vegetables and will leave you feeling super satisfied. I used Spaghetti as it was all I had in the pantry but I would also recommend Penne as this always goes well with Pasta Sauce. I also added a sprinkle of chilli flakes to the mix as I can hardly have any meal without them these days but this is up to you if you want to add them. The same goes for any other of your favourite seasonings you might want to add.

As always, this meal is cheap to prepare, quick to cook and so comforting to eat so go ahead and give it a try! Thanks for staying tuned xXx

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 medium sized Aubergine AKA Eggplant
2 large Red Peppers
½ cup Black or Green Olives, halved
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. concentrated Tomato Puree
1 cup Vegetable Stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ Tsp. Chilli Flakes (if desired, optional)
2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil (maybe a little more)
Enough Pasta of your choice to serve

Method

Finely dice the Aubergine and Peppers – about 1cm cubes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and add the crushed garlic.
Stir the garlic until it has browned and then add the diced vegetables to the pot.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil and stir it in to coat the vegetables.
Continue to stir the mix until the vegetables start to soften and cook through.
Add the seasoning and tomato puree and stir through the mixture.
Pour approximately half of the stock into the pot and bring it to the boil.
Once bubbling, reduce the heat to a low-medium temperature and stir the mixture occasionally.
Put the pasta of your choice on to cook as per the packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, continue to stir the sauce mixture every now and then.
About half way through the pasta’s cooking time (approx. 6-7 minutes), blitz the sauce quickly with a hand blender to break up the vegetables and combine the sauce to make it thicker.
*Do not fully blend the sauce as you would if you were making a soup – only blitz for about 30 seconds – you want the sauce to remain chunky.
Return the pot to the heat on a simmer with the lid off to reduce the excess moisture.
Slowly pour in small tipples of the remaining stock, stirring it through and letting it absorb.
You may be left with some excess stock but it’s better to have made a bit extra than not have enough.
By the time you have cooked and strained your pasta, your sauce should be just about ready.
Add the cooked pasta to the pot of sauce and  stir it all through so that the pasta is fully coated.
Serve piping hot.

 

Clo’s Chicken Pie

Happy New Year to all you Lovely Humans! If you are reading this, I hope you have read some of my other posts and if so, I would like to first of all thank you for even bothering 🙂 This blog started as something to do at the weekends, to share my love of cooking and develop my knowledge of healthy food, its benefits to my health and how to make it good enough to eat. I honestly have no idea if people are even reading it so if you are, thank you.

One of my 2017 Resolutions is to develop this blog more and explore other ways that I can share the benefits of healthy eating – and healthy cooking – with you all. I am almost finished a course in Nutrition and Food Science that I have found so informative and interesting. I have been jotting down so many new ideas for The Countertop so “watch this space” – lots of exciting posts and delicious recipes will be coming your way in 2017 if you stick with me.

So, I thought I would kick of the New Year with an easy one – the humble Chicken Pie. If like me, you are not fully ready to dive feet first into Clean January but want to ease yourself in instead, then this recipe is perfect! This pie has all the elements of an indulgent meal but it is in-fact quite the opposite. When you break it down, the ingredients are all generally very healthy – chicken breast, spinach, almonds. Yes, the pastry might be a tad indulgent but when weighed out against the rest of the ingredients you will have nothing to feel bad about. The trick here is the mixture’s sauce. It will look and taste like you’ve landed a pint of double cream over the chicken pieces when you have really just combined some yummy almonds and chicken stock together! I was very excited when this experiment worked and the result really is delicious.

It would be a great Sunday Dinner if you are at a loss as to what to cook today. It is a simple recipe with a truly comforting and tasty end result and will help you settle into Sunday evening nicely.

So I urge you all to give this one a go – a true comfort food to get us all back on track for a brand new year full of possibilities! xx

Ingredients (Serves 4)

320 gram Ready-Made Puff Pastry Roll
3 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast Fillets
2 cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
60 -80 grams Almonds
500 ml Chicken Stock in Water
1 Tbsp. Corn Flour
1 Brown Onion, coarsely chopped
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
Dash Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to season
1 Tsp. Dried Parsley

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celcius.
Grease a small-medium size oven dish and put to one side.
Chop the chicken fillets into small chunks.
Heat the olive oil on a frying pan on the hob.
Add the chopped onion and chicken pieces to the pan and fry until the chicken is cooked through and has browned.
Remove the pan from the heat.
In a food blender, processor, Nutribullet (whatever you have available), add the chicken stock, crushed garlic, almonds, dried parsley and seasoning.
Blend this mixture until it becomes smooth and creamy – add a little more almonds or stock until you reach your desired consistency.
Once you are happy with your sauce, return the frying pan to the heat and add the sauce.
Reduce the hob to a medium heat and stir the filling consistently for about a minute.
It is at this stage that you can use your own judgement – if you think the mixture needs some corn flour to thicken or more seasoning etc, play around with it at this point.
Once you are happy with the mixture, stir in the Spinach leaves and remove the pan from the heat.
Roll out the pre-rolled pastry and cut it out to cover the oven dish – leaving an extra few centimetres to cover the edges.
Pour the chicken filling from the pan into the oven dish.
Cover the mixture with the puff pastry, securing it tightly over the edges of the dish.
Place the dish on the middle shelf of the oven and cook as per the pastry’s cooking instructions (about 40 minutes usually).
Once the pastry has cooked through, remove this delicious pie from the oven and serve.
This will go great with many different sides. Try some fresh salad, sweet potato fries or steamed broccoli.
Delish!

 

Almond and Red Pepper Sauce

No matter how healthy I eat, there is nothing that can stop my hankering for pasta when I’m feeling the effects of an alcohol-filled Saturday night with my girls. This weekend we celebrated the first girl of our group’s Hen Weekend, it’s hard to believe one of us will be walking down the aisle in a few weeks and oh did we celebrate!

So pasta was on the brain for most of today and as usual, I caved and fired up that fusilli. To ease the guilt somewhat, I decided to team it up with a healthy, homemade pasta sauce and I must say, I was pretty impressed with the end result. Adding almonds to the mix gave this sauce a really creamy finish and gave me the feeling I was seriously indulging in a cream-based pasta sauce when really it was nothing of the sort.

I’m really chuffed with this one actually and I’m sure you will be too if you give it a try. Very simple and really yum – here is my Almond and Red Pepper Sauce.

Ingredients

2 Red Peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 clove Garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
60 grams Almonds
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a frying pan.
Once hot, add garlic and peppers to the pan and coo for about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the peppers cool for about 10 minutes.
Add all of your ingredients including the garlic and peppers to a food blender, Nutribullet or you can use a hand blender and puree the entire mix until smooth and creamy.
Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions and drain.
Put cooked pasta back into the pot it was cooked in and pour in your pepper sauce.
Heat the sauce through until piping hot and serve.

This sauce can also be served as a dip too. I chopped up some carrots and had a dip and it was pretty delish!

Saucy Spinach & Artichoke

If I’m honest, I actually created this sauce with absolutely no thought process at all. I came home from work last week and just pulled whatever I had in the fridge out and somehow this was the end result.
So when a colleague of mine asked me what it was the next day for lunch, I actually had to think about it and remember how I made it.
It just shows how robotic the daily grind can be I guess!

When I was trying to remember the thought process behind it, I remember thinking that I couldn’t face another bowl of wilted spinach – as much as I love a good bowl of spinach with my protein of the day, I have been eating copious amounts of the stuff these past few weeks to build up my immune system and overall greenness now that we are heading into Autumn.

IMG_1421 - Copy

So instead of pouring the usual boiling water over my pot of spinach, I emptied a jar of artichoke hearts in olive oil in instead and sprinkled with some seasoning and crushed garlic.
I whipped out the hand blender and before I knew it, I was heating up a fabulous fusion of greens and garlic to pour over steamed salmon and new potatoes.
All I can say is that this meal did not last long on the plate and luckily I had used lots of spinach so there was enough sauce leftover for another two portions. This made me very happy.

The sauce keeps well in the fridge and can be reheated either in the microwave at work or on the hob at home, whatever you’ve got time for.
It goes ridiculously well with salmon but I also lashed it through some penne pasta (like a pesto almost) and it was uber delish!

It’s a really tasty way to get your greens in if you’re not their biggest fan but want to up your game.

If you do give it a go, let me know what you teamed it with for some inspo of my own!

IMG_1423 - Copy

Ingredients

100 grams Fresh Baby Spinach
1 jar Artichoke Hearts in Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil from the jar
1 Clove Garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Strain the jar of Artichoke Hearts but save the oil as it can be reused.
Add all of the ingredients listed above into a large bowl.
Using a hand blender, blend all of your ingredients until it reaches the desired consistency,  I like to leave mine a bit pulpy or unblended for extra texture but of course, it’s up to yourself how far you want to go with it.
When you’re happy with the consistency, transfer the sauce from the bowl to a hot, oiled frying pan and stir quickly for a few minutes until it has been cooked through.
Pour this over cooked salmon or chicken or whatever way you like and enjoy a healthy serve of green goodness that tastes incredible and makes those run-of-the-mill dinners taste a whole lot better

IMG_1424 - Copy

Infused Olive Oils

Olive oil is one of the good ones, full of the good fats and an essential cooking product for the healthy chef.

To heat on the pan when cooking or drizzle over salad as a dressing alternative, its just something you need to have in the cupboard.
A great way to enjoy olive oil more and use it more diversely is to infuse it with your favourite herbs and spices.
This is just a quick post to show you how to create some really interesting flavours that you can then add to your favourite cooked dishes and especially salads.
Essentially all you need is a big bottle of good quality olive oil, some smaller glass bottles or jars and your desired ingredients to add to the oil.
Below is the guide for:

Chili Oil
Garlic Oil
Basil Oil
Rosemary Oil

Basil Oil
3-4 sprigs fresh Basil
½ cup olive oil

Rosemary Oil
3-4 sprigs Rosemary
½ cup olive oil

Chili Oil
1 tbsp Red Chili Flakes
1 to 2 whole, dried Thai chilies
½ cup olive oil

For each of the above ingredients, the recipe is pretty simple.
Stuff your herb or chili into the bottle or jar you are going to use.
Warm the olive oil on a pan until it starts to bubble slightly.
Ten pour the oil into the jar and seal tightly.
Store in the fridge overnight and it will be ready to use.

Garlic Oil
4 cloves Garlic, peeled
Juice from ¼ lemon
1 to 2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Garlic infused oil is a bit more complex to put together as uncooked garlic can cause food poisoning.
So, half your garlic cloves steep them in the lemon juice.
Then roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes.
Add the cloves to a small airtight container and pour the oil over the cloves until they are covered in oil.
Refrigerate overnight and then strain the oil into a jar or bottle and seal.
Do not add the garlic cloves to the bottle.

These oils can be used and stored for about 10-14 days. I would recommend storing them in the fridge also.

Inspiration : Asian

With overseas travel becoming more affordable and popular in recent years, international cuisine is fast becoming the same.
Curries, stir fries, noodles, sushi – they are available everywhere now and the best thing about these South East Asian eats is that they’re quick, clean and wholesome.
Travelling South East Asia last year was a culinary feast for me as a foodie, I literally couldn’t wait for the next time I would be hungry and my bucket list mainly contained local, ethnic dishes I had heard about before the trip.
Anyone who has been to South East Asia will agree with me that the locals like to cook fast. The main means to a main meal in South East Asia is usually a giant hot wok where you throw all of your
desired ingredients in and let the fusion begin. With most of these countries belonging to the third world, you will also see that the locals will source their food as fresh and as cheap as possible with vegetarian dishes being hugely popular
due to the high cost of meat and poultry.
A foodies dream, South East Asia dared me to push my taste buds to the max and dip outside my comfort zone every now and then by trying something new and bizarre.
The intense aroma of chili and garlic fusing together with fresh coriander and basil winding its way through a busy food market is really something else!

IMG_0816
Me trying the local delicacy – deep fried cockroach

I took notes of every dish that delighted or surprised me, guessing what flavours were used to make me so satisfied.
I also took a Thai Cooking Class in Northern Thailand to learn as much as I could about the core fundamentals of South East Asian cuisine.
I would like to share with you some of my favourite dishes from the trip over a series of posts and hopefully give you some Asian Inspiration for your next meal.

First up is an all ’round favourite – Thai Green Curry.
Here you will see how to create the paste from scratch and I’ll add a quick recipe to throw it together at the end.

Ingredients

5 fresh Green Chilis, finely chopped
1 Tsp. Salt
1 thumb Lemongrass, finely chopped
5 cloves Garlic, crushed
3 Shallots, sliced
1/4 lime, sliced
1 Tbsp. Coriander, chopped
1 Tsp. Turmeric
1 Tsp. Shrimp Paste
1 Tsp. Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
1/2 Tsp. Cumin Seeds
1 Tsp. Ground Ginger

Method

Using a food processor, pestle and mortar, coffee grinder; combine ground coriander, cumin seeds and black pepper.
Add the green chilis and salt and mix thoroughly.
Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the shrimp paste and combine together.
Once youve reached a smooth paste-like consistency, add the shrimp paste and mix until smooth and fine.
*If you want to make the paste greener, add in some coriander or basil leaf and combine.
You now have your paste!
I know its much easier just to buy from the jar but trust me, it tastes far better when you make it yourself – so authentic!

*To make a thai green curry with your paste, brown a chopped onion on a hot pan and add 2 Tsp. of the paste.
Stir in 1/2 cup of coconut milk and stir until mixed through.
Add your sliced meat of choice, I usually use chicken or prawns and stir until meat is cooked through.
Gradually add another 1/2 cup of coconut milk and 1 Tbsp. fish sauce and stir through.
Leave to bubble on a low heat for about 10-15 minutes and serve with steamed rice.
Delish!

IMG_0810

Vietnamese Noodle Soup

This is one of my favourite quick dishes to throw together.
It takes no time at all and is so yum!

Ingredients

500 ml vegetable or chicken stock
50 grams rice noodles
5-8 mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts, washed
1 cup bok choy leaves, chopped
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 red chilli, sliced and de-seeded
Pinch of garlic powder
2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 Tpsn. Fish Sauce
1/2 cup thinly sliced meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or a handful of prawns)

Method

I don’t really have too much of a method for this one, its usually just me throwing it all in and hoping for the best.

In a small pot, bring your stock to the boil.
Once bubbling, add the thinly sliced meat of choice and let it cook in the stock for about 5 minutes to make your broth.
Add mushrooms, spring onion, carrots, garlic and fish sauce and let fuse until mushrooms are soft.
Add rice noodles and cook for about 5 minutes.
At this stage, do a taste test and see what you want to add more of, garlic, chilli flakes, salt, whatever.
Once you’re happy with the flavour, throw in the fresh chilis, bean sprouts, bok choy and soy sauce and let them warm up for about a minute or two.
Transfer from the pot to a bowl and dig in.
My mouth is actually watering writing this, I think I know whats on the menu for me today!

Clo’s Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients

250 ml Passata
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
2 clove Garlic, crushed
1 medium brown Onion, finely chopped
1 punnet Field Mushrooms
2 Carrots, diced
1 Red Pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Mixed Dried Herbs
½ Tbsp. Chilli Flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Heat the olive oil on a pan and add both your onions and garlic.
Once they begin to brown, add the carrots, mushrooms and peppers and stir continuously.
As the veg starts to soften, pour in the passata and mix it through.
Reduce the heat and let the sauce bubble for a couple of minutes.
Add your seasoning and balsamic vinegar at this stage and stir through evenly.
Leave the sauce to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
This sauce goes great over Zucchini Pasta as well as regular pasta and you can pour it over some turkey meatballs too.

If you want to make this a mince Bolognese, add your mince before your vegetables and cook through before continuing with the rest of the instructions.
When I’m making a mince Bolognese, I crumble a beef stock cube through the mince as it’s browning for some extras flave.
I usually use either 500 grams turkey mince of 500 grams lean beef mince.

This sauce stores really well so you can use it for a few days or freeze some off for next time.

Avocado Spaghetti

All i can say about this dish is, try it – now!

Ingredients

1 Avocado
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 Cup of Fresh Basil
Juice of 1 Lemon
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Frozen Peas
1/2 Cup of Cherry Tomatoes, halved
250 grams spaghetti
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Put a pot of water on to boil and add spaghetti to cook for 8-10 minutes or follow packet instructions.
Using a food processor or Nutribullet, add avocado, garlic, basil, lemon juice and parmesan together and whizz until smooth.
When spaghetti is cooked, drain and return to the pot.
Add the avocado mix and stir until evenly mixed throughout.
Add frozen peas and stir for about a minute or two until the have cooked through.
Toss through the cherry tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve piping hot.
Good isn’t it? Let me know what you think!

This is enough for two people to share but don’t feel too bad if you keep it all for yourself!

 

Pesto Hey Presto!

Pesto is one of those inventions that, to me anyway, is truly life changing.
It’s just so damn good!
A pretty recent foodie phenomenon, this simple mix of ingredients transforms an everyday dish into something elegant and exotic, never mind frickin’ gorgeous.
The best part is, pesto is ridiculously easy to make and here I’m going to share with you some of my favourite pesto flavours.
I use my Nutribullet to make my pesto but you can use a pestle and mortar or a regular food processor or blender either, whatever is available.

Basil Pesto

1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 large knob parmesan
2 clove garlic
Large dash of olive oil
Lemon juice from ½ lemon
Small handful of pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for some crunch
Salt & Pepper to taste

Spinach Pesto

1 cup baby spinach
1 cup fresh basil
1 large knob parmesan
2 clove garlic
Large dash of olive oil
Lemon juice of ½ lemon
Small handful of pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for some crunch
Salt & Pepper to taste

Red Pepper Pesto

4 halved and roasted red peppers
1 cup fresh basil
2 clove garlic
Large dash of olive oil
Lemon juice of ½ lemon
Small handful of pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for some crunch
Salt and Pepper to taste

Literally just throw all of these ingredients into your appliance and whizz it all up until it reaches the consistency you like.
Toss through pasta, zucchini pasta or rice, serve as a dip with fresh bread or crudités or coat a salmon or chicken fillet before baking.
There are so many ways you can utilise pesto so get creative and have some fun with it.