Category Archives: quick and easy

Quick and easy recipes (not necessarily healthy), for those times that we simple don’t have the time

Soup season

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Winter is the best opportunity to eat soup, lots and lots of soup. And this is what we have been doing every evening in the past couple of weeks

I’m a fussy eater, so it’s not all kinds of soups I like, especially the ones with weird texture and chunky vegetables. 

A colleague from work passed on a brand new soup maker to me because he has “a pot, a blender and a sieve at home” and he didn’t want to add more clutter to his home. 

I wasn’t holding my breath to the soup made by a pot-blender-sieve machine until I made the first one. Actually, the second, as I thought that I was lucky with the first one.

The soup was quite tasty, but the best part was that the hard work was to select and finely chop the ingredients. Once you press start, you can do something else for 30 minutes and your soup will be ready, blended and sieved, all left to do is serve and eat. (And clean afterwards)

We have soup practically every evening during weekdays. My least favourite ones being the tomato soup (too acidic, maybe I should have added cream), a mix of mushroom, celery and spinach (needed to use the spinach, otherwise would go to the bin) and a slightly too sweet carrot-swede-onion-potato soup. 

The beauty of soups is that you can try all sort of combinations, really. Sometimes it might not work very well (like the spinach one, but it was still edible), most times it will. The only thing the manual doesn’t recommend is to put raw meat in it, but it doesn’t say anything about addind pre-cooked meat in the blender. I haven’t tried and prefer to add it at the end and keep the chunky pieces.

We have reduced the food wastage big time!

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The actual thing is basically a fancy blender. It boils the water first, then blends a bit, boils/cooks some more, blends, sieves while blending, until it stops.

The sieve is a small net cylinder in the middle of the cup, which holds the solids, while the water is everywhere. I find the capacity of the cylinder a bit small and our soups serve well 2-3 people. It’s ok, I guess, better finish it all and have that feeling that we want some more than to have left overs and risk throwing food in the bin.

 

the blender with just water. Can you see the sieve in the middle?

 
 

the ingredients go in the middle. Not too much space though.

 
 

In the middle of boiling and blending, half way through

 
 

You can open the lid (health&safety; it beeps and stops the process), but you can open the cup. Very hot and steamy!

 

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Some of the soups I cooked so far:

Potato + leeks + garlic + olive oil + seasoning. I used chicken broth as part of the water and added the chicken I cooked after it.

First day is always a mess. The food didn’t fit the compartment, it wasn’t enough soup, I made extra straight after the first batch and almost kissed my soup maker goodbye.
Lesson learned: the instructions say finely chopped for a reason; everything needs to be very small to fit in. And never ever repeat the procedure without cleaning it first.

  

Potato + spinach + carrot + garlic + onion + olive oil + seasoning + a tiny bit of courgette/zucchini (left over) and a few lardons on top

Learnings: potato based soups are very creamy but also seem to be the ones that accummulate more (burned) residues at the bottom, making the cleaning of the cup a bit of a mission. But they taste so nice.

  
 

Mushroom + garlic + onion + dried herbs + cream
That was probably my favourite as it was so unexpected.

Learnings: try without cream before. It might be good enough to save on the extra calories (I doubt it though). Also very easy to clean the blender, compared to previous days.

* I forgot to take photo *

Tomato + basil + celery + onion + carrot + garlic + stock cube + olive oil

Learnings: although it looks nice, I thought it was too acidic. Next time I’ll try with cream. 

  
  

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World Cup and another simple recipe

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And the World Cup is back (well, for a long time now)! It seems like yesterday we were all in our new home, with tiny baby Laura in our arms (she was 2-3 months old in 2010) watching a few matches with us (time difference wasn’t so bad). I was on maternity leave and could follow most of the games. My maternity leave ended yesterday, but because of the time difference, I can watch most of the games, if I want to.

So far so good, the World Cup in Brazil is not bad, despite all the negative expectations. At least from what I’ve seen on TV, the stadiums are beautifully done, people are behaving ok, most of the matches are very exciting, and there are lots of goals to keep us happy. There will always be one or two boring games, so let’s hope this WC has had its share of boredom with Ian vs Nigeria and Brazil vs Mexico.

The most interesting part of the World Cup, though, is following the comments on Twitter. I don’t follow that many people, but it’s always great fun to read what the “experts” have to say about the games. It started with the Olympics in 2012 and now I’m always looking forward the next big event to be tweeted about.

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I shouldn’t need to say this, but I am supporting Brazil. Always. We might not be the favourites or the best team, but, hey, it’s my duty to support my home team. Other than that, I tend to support whoever wins. Just so I don’t have to suffer with defeats.

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Apparently this is the best World Cup ever. I can’t tell, but I’m loving all the images of Rio on the BBC and ITV during the games. Ops, I’ve just seen Spain being sent off back home. Oh, dear, well done, Chile, but not an expected result to Spain.

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I was planning to cook loads this weekend, but I just realised I have two events to go: a kids party on Saturday and a baby shower on Sunday (instead of celebrating my birthday, I’ll celebrate a friend’s baby). So I’ll have to leave all the baking for the following weekend. After that, we are off to Croatia. I can’t wait!!

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And here is another simple and quick recipe for those days that time isn’t on our side. I adapted it from one on Tesco’s website (here) and it was really good. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the pastry from scratch, which would have been healthier, but as I said, it is for days we don’t have the time.

What you will need:

  • One savoury pastry case (photo below – the one I used. it’s quite small, but was enough for one meal)
  • 1/2 onion – grated
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 45g bacon into cubes (I used smoked lardons)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I didn’t have garlic gloves, which would have been better)
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g Gruyère, grated

Captura de Tela 2014-06-14 às 23.43.28

 

How you prepare it:

Preheat the oven at 180C.

Fry the onion in the olive oil until brown, then add the garlic and the bacon and cook until bacon fat has melted. Add the courgettes and spinach and cook for 5 minutes. Put this mix into the case. Mix the cream and the beaten egg and season (I added a pinch of salt, as I didn’t find any pepper). Pour the mixture on top of the courgette/spinach and add the granted cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and turn the oven up to 200C and bake for another 5 minutes (check not to burn).

What I loved about this dish is the flexibility of adding any toppings I like – almost like a pizza. It’s a great way to add vegetables in our meals. For fussy children, you can even blend everything together and have a creamy vegetable topping.

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Done!

Bruges, sleepless nights and banana cake

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We spent last bank holiday in Bruges (weekend of 24/25 + Monday 26) and I was hoping to write a post about it the day after we got back. As you can see, it didn’t happen.

The trip was great, the place is so so beautiful (even Laura was sad to come back home), but our accommodation wasn’t great and I ended up having a sleepless night, which ruined the following day, which ruined the rest of the week.

Speaking of sleepless nights, sleep in our house seems to be a roller coaster. Some days good, other days bad. Beatrice is not too bad, I am ignoring some of the cries in the middle of the night (because it is not a proper cry, it is more a “dream” and she falls asleep within seconds. I do tend her when she is really crying, which was the case yesterday, 1st June, when she didn’t sleep at all) and we have great nights when I only go to her once. I can live with that. On the other hand, miss Laura has been a pain, sleeping in our bed since too long now. Again, I can live with co-sleeping, BUT I cannot live with someone kicking me through the night. The night after we got home (after a sleepless night, remember?), she kicked me three times: on the face, on the breast and on my ribs. Not a gentle kick, a Bruce Lee kick, that left me in pain the whole of the following day. If you want to see me deadly angry, just mess up with my sleep.

And because I cannot return the kids to wherever they came from, what do I do? Call Supernanny? Sleep in the living room? Run away? No, I stuff my face with things that are not good for me and will make me overweight again eat. Within 6 days, we had two banana cakes (very yummy) and a creme caramel. Oh, well, I think I’ll have to resume the diet once my mum goes back, next Saturday.

So, what’s with the banana cake? We had a few bananas that were nearly going bad and I was sick of throwing bananas in the bin so I googled a banana cake recipe and found this one here. But I had to adapt because I didn’t have certain ingredients, so here is (are) my version(s) of it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil – I quickly melted it on the microwave
  • 150g caster sugar – I also tried with muscovado sugar and the result was good
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 190g flour (2nd time I used 150g of flour and 50g of ground linseed, as I had loads at home and don’t know what to do with it)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 30g of preferred chopped nuts (I used pecan the first time and mixed nuts the second)
  • 60ml coconut milk

Method:

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin. Mix oil, sugar and vanilla.
  2. Add the mashed bananas, mix well.
  3. Add the egg, mix well.
  4. Stir in the flour and the milk. And finally add the baking powder.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin. Optional: sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar to give a crunch topping (I did that the 2nd time but didn’t like the result that much).
  6. Bake at 180 C until a skewer comes out clean. (it took me about 45 minutes)
It was the first time I  baked a banana cake and it was so yummy that I didn’t wait it cool. As a result, I had to bake another one two days later (because more bananas were going to waste and because I was stressed with something else).
Our window view in Bruges

Our window view in Bruges

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn't take that long though)

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn’t take that long though)

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Party food

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I got the recipe for the cheese bread from here, after researching on Brazilian websites. The recipe is all in English, so I won’t write it here, but it is worth mentioning that I changed it slightly. Instead of either using tapioca flour or sour cassava flour, I used half of each, after reading a comment somewhere from a girl saying that the original recipe uses both. And because I don’t use vegetable oil at home anymore, I replaced it with coconut oil. If you read the recipe, you will see that they say that pão de queijo should be crunchy on the outside and hollow on the inside. Well, I disagree – I like it chewy on the inside, and this is exactly like it!

Now… I made pão de queijo using this recipe twice. The first time, I could shape it into balls and it was alright. The second time, I tripled the ingredients and the result was a liquid dough, which I couldn’t shape at all. So I put it in cupcake cases. The result was yummy, but I was very stressed.

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Cheese bread – not as round and beautiful as they should be, but as yummy as they can be

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Cheese bread

The recipe of the hot dog bun came from this video; I just shaped it differently:

I don’t have a bread machine, so everything was done by hand. And I kneaded it for about 15 minutes or more. Oh, and I doubled the ingredients as well.

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Mini hot dog – they were delicious just after baked, but also quite yummy the following day

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I baked about 50 buns

The pie is very simple and quick to make and it’s great for a last minute lunch or party food. The original recipe was taken from here (Portuguese) and the translation is below.

Pastry:

3 eggs

13 tablespoons of flour

1 and 1/2 cup of milk

1 tablespoon of baking powder

3 tablespoons of cheese (option)

A little less than 1/2 cup of oil (I used coconut oil)

Salt to taste

Filling:

You can use your creativity here. We cooked chicken tights with onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato passata, salt and other stuff, removed bones and that’s it. You can also use tuna, cheese and ham, pork… Great to use leftovers.

Mix all ingredients in a blender – add baking powder at the end. It will be a very runny mixture. Pour half of it in a tray, then add the filling (make sure you spread it very well) and finally cover with the remaining of the pastry. You can sprinkle cheese on top (some people like to put sliced boiled egg or olives), but it’s totally optional. Bake for about 40 minutes (at 180 degree celsius) and eat it.

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This pie was the next day’s lunch

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For the party, we had two chicken pies and they were all gone. Hubby didn’t even get to try it.