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Testing Pastas

I was recently sent an assortment of different pastas to  try out and so we had a pasta day in our house where I cooked up a few old favourites and a few new favourites.

One of the pastas I was sent was a fabulous filled Gluten Free Tortelloni. A Tomato and Mozzarella Tortelloni.  As soon as I saw it I thought of this delicious salad that I make from time to time.

I love Caesar salad and I love pasta. It made perfect sense to me to combine the two of them.

This is a very hearty salad, but makes for a delicious light supper. It is quick and easy to throw together.

Along with the Tortelloni I add some blanched broccoli and chopped tomatoes, red onions, baby gems, some croutons and bacon bits and a good Caesar Salad Dressing.  This is gorgeous.

*Caesar Tortelloni Salad*
Serves 4

A delightfully quick and deliciously different Caesar Salad! 

1 package of refrigerated cheese filled tortellini (about half a pound in weight)
2 baby gem lettuces
a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 of a small red onion, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 a small bunch of broccoli, separated into florets
to finish:
crisp garlic croutons
bacon bits
grated and shaved Parmesan cheese
your favourite Caesar Salad Dressing (I like Newman's own)
coarsely ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.   Drop in the tortelloni and broccoli florets.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until done, as directed on the package.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain again.  (I spread it out on a large baking sheet which I have lined with a clean tea towel.
Separate your baby gems into individual leaves, cutting any larger ones in half if necessary.  Wash and dry.  Place them into a large salad bowl.   Top with the red onion, cherry tomatoes and broccoli.  Sprinkle on the garlic croutons, bacon bits and cheese.   Toss with your favourite Caesar Salad dressing and then  grind some pepper over top.  Serve immediately.  You may pass extra croutons and cheese if you wish.  It makes a lovely light lunch!  For a heartier meal add strips of grilled chicken or beef.

Note - when using a Gluten Free Tortelloni take care to note that it does NOT need to be cooked as long as regular Tortelloni.  You run the risk of it turning to mush.  Cook only for 45 to 60 seconds. They do tend to be a bit more fragile than regular tortelloni.

Its really nice to know that people who are glucose intolerant are now able to enjoy a lot more options when it comes to eating.

  Evexia Gluten Free Tomato and Mozzarella Tortelloni are available in two flavours, Tomato and Mozzarella as well as Spinach and Ricotta.

I was also sent some of the Evexia Gluten Free Chickpea Fusilli. This has a lovely nutty flavour, and is packed with fibre and protein.  They also have a penne pasta

The Evexia range is dedicated to optimising nutritional well being. Launched late last year, its tortellini has already won gold at the Free From Food Awards 2017! The range is all suitable for coeliacs, those following a low FODMAP diet and vegetarians. The fusilli and penne are also suitable for vegans. It’s available in Sainsbury’s, Asda, Wholefoods and Ocado, with the price starting from £2.

I used the fusilli to make another favourite of ours. (Well mine, really as you know Todd is not fond at all of pasta although I do get him to eat it every now and again.)

This is a recipe that is very quick to throw together (and even quicker using the fresh pasta fusilli.)

I have added bacon to the dish because we like bacon and it goes very well with peas and cheese!

But if you wanted to keep it totally vegetarian, you could just leave out the bacon altogether and maybe add another vegetable.  There is plenty of protein in these fabulously tasty chick pea fusilli anyways!

*Fusilli and Peas, with Bacon and Cheese*
Serves 4 to 6
(Depending on appetites) 

A basic stove top mac and cheese filled with lovely bits of crisp bacon and sweet English petit pois! 

340g of uncooked fusilli (3 cups)
450ml of milk (2 cups)
1 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
240g of grated cheese mix (2 cups)
(mine was a mix of strong cheddar, gouda, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses)
120g of red leicester cheese, grated (1 cup)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper to taste
8 slices of lean streaky bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped coarsely
a mug of frozen petit poits, unthawed

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook over medium heat for about a minute before whisking in the milk.  Cook, whisking constantly, until it bubbles and begins to thicken.   Whisk in all of the cheese, whisking until it is melted.   Season to taste with cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Set aside and keep warm. 

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the frozen peas during the last minute.   Drain well and then add to the sauce along with the chopped bacon, tossing to mix all together well.  Serve immediately.

Note - Using the refrigerated chick pea fusilli, means that your pasta will be cooked in 3 minutes maximum of time, so do bear that in mind!

I was also sent a selection of the new Dell' Ugo latest Pasta Plus Range. The Pasta Plus range consists of five gorgeous fresh, filled pastas all with a delicious accompanying butter. The reason behind adding the butter is to create the perfect meal all in one without having to pick up any extra ingredients. I was sent a pack of the Goats' Cheese & Beetroot with Mint Butter and the Ricotta & Spinach Ravioli with Sage Butter. 

The Dell' Ugo Goats' Cheese & Beetroot Fiorelli with Mint Butter is a free range egg pasta filled with goats'cheese and beetroot which comes with a small pot of mint butter to toss with cooked pasta.  This specially infused mint butter has been developed to go deliciously with this filled pasta.

I really enjoyed this one.  It is filled with a mix of goat's cheese, mascaropone cheese, beetroot and beetroot relish.  No surprise here as I adore beetroot.  The mint butter went beautifully.  I did add a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese as suggested and a generous grinding of black pepper.

The Dell'Ugo Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Sage Butter, contains more of the free range egg pasta, filled with leaf spinach and ricotta cheese, and then a delicious herb infused butter made especially to go with the spinach and ricotta.

Luxurious and silky, this was also a perfect combination of flavours.  I again, topped it with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a hefty grinding of black pepper.  I also quite enjoyed this one, but of the two my favourite was the one with the beetroot. 

The same love and care goes into every pack of Dell'Ugo pasta made today, just as it did when Luigi Ugo sold his first packet back in 1929. This new range of fresh pasta has been uniquely developed by Expert Chefs using British free range eggs and the finest ingredients from around the world. ​ The butter used is  freshly churned Somerset milk. Just melt on and enjoy.

Other options available are an Asparagus and Mozarella Fiorelli with a Lemon Butter, and a Butternut and Squash Ravioli with a Garlic and Herb Butter.  All can be purchased at Waitrose/Ocado for approximately £3.99.

If I had any criticism of these at all it would be that the package is purpoted to serve two people, but only fed a greedy me.  😛

Many thanks to both Evexia and Dell'Ugo for sending me these pastas to try out!

Note - I was sent the pastas free of charge for the purpose of review, but was not required to write a positive review in return. Any and all opinions are my own.
Marie Rayner
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Heavenly Ham & Cheese Hots

Every Monday evening the members of our church hold what is known as Family Home Evening. It is a time which is expressly set aside to spend time together as a family  and will usually consist of a prayer, a spiritual thought, a fun activity and something tasty to eat.  These Heavenly Ham & Cheese Hots make the perfect "something tasty" to eat!

They are so simple to prepare and you can make them up a few hours ahead of time, brushing them with the butter mixture just before baking.

They are so very simple to make.  I buy soft dinner rolls that are attached and I leave them together, without breaking them apart.  Like one big soft roll composed of smaller rolls.

I then use a sharp serrated knife and cut them horizontally through the middle, trying to keep them as intact as possible.  The bottom half gets put into a buttered baking dish.

I spread this with a mix of mayo and ranch dressing and then begin layering on thinly sliced ham and thinly sliced cheese . . . then the top halves get put on top of everything.

A mix of melted butter, mustard, brown sugar, poppy seeds, onion powder and worcestershire sauce gets brushed over top and you pop them into the oven to bake . . .

Until they are heated through and the cheese gets all melty and the buns are golden brown and toasty.  Then all you have to do is cut them into individual sandwiches and serve.  You can do everything but brush the melted butter mixture over top well ahead of time, which makes them perfect for things like Family Home Evening!  I serve some potato chips on the side and maybe some pickles and everyone is a happy camper!

*Heavenly Ham & Cheese Hots*
Makes 12 sandwiches 

Nothing new here, just some tasty hot sandwiches that are great for pot lucks and game nights!

175g butter, melted (3/4 cup)
1 TBS creamy Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soft light brown sugar, packed
1 TBS poppy seeds
1 tsp onion powder
12 soft dinner rolls, unseparated
110g mayonnaise
110g ranch dressing
1/2 pound thinly sliced baked ham
1/2 pound thinly sliced emmenthaler cheese (swiss) 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. 

Whisk together the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, poppy seeds and onion powder. Set aside.  Whisk together the mayonnaise and ranch dressing. Set aside. 

Keeping the rolls as much in one large piece as possible, cut the in half through the middles.  Place the bottom half (halves) into the prepared baking dish.  Spread with the mayonnaise mixture.  Lay the ham slices evenly over top.  Place the cheese slices over top of the ham and place the tops of the rolls on top of the cheese.  Brush the butter mixture all over top, pouring some down the sides of the dish, etc.  Use it all up. Cover lightly with foil. 

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until golden brown and the cheese has melted.  Cut into individual sandwiches to serve.  Serve hot!

These actually work very well for any type of get-together.  Game nights.  Bon-fire night.  Halloween.  They are so tasty, you might be tempted to have a get-together just so you can make them!  Bon appetit! 

Marie Rayner
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Smoked Sausage & Cabbage Skillet Supper

I confess most Sundays when we get home from church I am absolutely starving.  It will have been at least 8 hours since I have gotten up and probably about 6 since breakfast so about that time I could just about eat anything.  If I have been smart and planned ahead, I will have dinner waiting for us in the crock pot.  If I haven't, I will have to resort to looting the cupboards and refrigerator to see what I can come up with quickly. You might feel the same way any day of the week actually, especially if you have been out working or shopping all day! You want something to eat and you want it now!

I had a grandmother who could make a meal out of just about anything.  I'm happy to say I have inherited her ability to do the same thing.  I had a package of smoked sausage in the refrigerator, a white cabbage, a bag of new potatoes, and some onions in the cold storage beneath the stairs.

I chopped up the cabbage along with some onion, in nice large chunks, and then I cut the smoked sausage into half moons.  I peeled the new potatoes and popped them into a saucepan of lightly salted water and brought them to the boil. (If you are really feeling lazy you don't need to peel them, just wash them really well.)

I heated a splash of light olive oil in a skillet and then threw in the smoked sausage, browning it all over.  I scooped it out to a bowl, and added the cabbage and onion to the pan, along with some seasoning and garlic. I stir fried this until it was crispy tender.  In the meantime the potatoes were boiling.

Once the vegetables were crispy tender, I threw the smoked sausage back into the pan and added some vinegar and mustards, an almost Germanic touch. By the time the flavours had all melded together nicely,  the potatoes were done and ready to drain.

I tossed them with some butter, seasoning, a bit of dried parsley flakes and voila!  Dinner was ready.  A meal fit for a king . . . and ready in not much more than about half an hour.   I'd call that a result!

*Smoked Sausage and Cabbage Skillet Supper*
Serves 4
A  wonderful  autumnal supper.  Simple, easy to throw together and quite, quite delicious!

2 pounds of smoked Sausage, fully cooked,
cut in half and sliced into half moons
1 TBS olive oil
1 medium head of white cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
1 large cooking onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp grainy mustard

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.   Add the smoked sausage.  Cook and stir over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onion, cabbage, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper to the pan.  Toss to combine.  Cook and stir for about 10 minutes, until crispy tender.  Add the vinegar and both mustards, along with the browned sausage.  Cook and heat through for a further couple of minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required.   Serve hot with some boiled new potatoes and crusty bread.

I love simple meals like this, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, I know you are too.  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake

This is one casserole I make that Todd doesn't mind eating pasta in. Probably because it is off-set by plenty of broccoli, chicken and cheese!  And of course there is that tasty sauce!

This is a bit different than most chicken and broccoli casseroles out there in that you are not going to be using sour cream, mayonnaise or creamed soup.  Everything here is totally un-processed and I might add very yummy!

I use whole wheat pasta because I am a type 2 Diabetic and whole wheat pasta is more diabetic friendly and considered a healthy carb, or low GI.

I also tend to use low fat cheese and milk in this. There are plenty of other flavours going on that you won't miss the full fat versions of anything.  Trust me on this.

But of course, if you are not bothered about fat, calories or glucose, by all means use full fat ingredients and regular pasta!

Myself, I am rather fond of it just the way it is.  I quite like whole wheat pasta.

The sauce is very simple . . .  a simple bechamel, cream type of sauce, flavoured with garlic and Dijon mustard.  There are also some herbs, seasoning and of course cheese.  Don't be tempted to use the already grated cheese.  They add a starch to it to keep it from sticking together and you won't get the same velvet  texture to your sauce. I always grate my own for just this reason. This time I did use a mix of white and orange cheddars, mostly for colour.

*Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake*
Serves 6 
Cooked chicken along with whole wheat pasta, and our favourite vegetable, broccoli, bake together in a delicious cheesy sauce!  

500g whole wheat pasta shapes (1 pound)
two chicken breasts, cooked and coarsely torn up
2 cups broccoli florets
2 TBS butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 TBS flour
450ml milk ( 2 cups)
salt and black pepper to taste
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp Italian herbs
1 tsp dry parsley flakes
245g grated strong cheddar cheese, divided

Preheated the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a large shallow casserole dish.  Set aside. 

Cook the pasta according to the package directions to al Dente, adding the broccoli florets the last two minutes of cooking time. Drain well and rinse. Toss together with the  chicken in a bowl. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the garlic and cook stirring over medium low heat without browning until quite fragrant.  Whisk in the flour and Dijon mustard.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  Whisk in the paprika, parsley flakes and Italian herbs.  Stir in 3/4 of the cheese and stir to melt. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Pour this mixture over the broccoli and chicken, tossing together to coat.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining cheese over top. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until heated through and bubbling.  Let stand 5 minutes prior to serving.

A few notes: 
  • Low fat ingredients can be used successfully
  • Recipe can successfully cut in half
  • Leftovers freeze well. (I freeze it in single serving size containers.)  I thaw before re-heating in the microwave.  This makes for a quick meal when on the run.
  • You can put this all together the day or evening before, cover and chill and then just bake it when you are ready to eat the day after.  Uncover and allow the chill to come off prior to baking. About 15 minutes at room temperature will do it.  Its a great make ahead meal!

I usually use This Recipe for poaching my chicken and I poach it the day before I am going to use it.  You can also use leftover cooked chicken.  I often cut this recipe in half, but this time I cooked the full version because I wanted to put some in the freezer for quick and easy meals when I get rather busy!  I hope you will give it a go.  I think it is something your family will really enjoy!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Oaty Apple Crumble 4 One

 Being a type 2 Diabetic and having a husband who can eat whatever he wants without gaining an ounce.  We are a bit like Jack Sprat and his wife I suppose.  Todd actually has a difficult time keeping weight on and I have a difficult time keeping weight off.  I am always hungry and he rarely feels hungry at all. Total opposites.  The challenge for me is making sure that he gets enough calories and treats to keep him happy and making sure that I don't put weight on in the process!

When it comes to desserts, I try to downsize them as much as possible.  This one today would not be too bad for me actually as it is not really high in sugar and if I used whole wheat flour, that would be better, but today it is all about creating a delicious dessert for my honey bun that he can enjoy all to himself! 

I find it quite easily actually to cut recipes in half or quarters.  For the most part they turn out very well for me, and the Oaty Apple Crumble for One is the perfect example of just such a recipe!

It takes only one apple  . . .  which I peel, core and chop and then mix with a blend of a tiny bit of sugar and plenty of spice.  Cinnamon, ground cardamom and ground cloves.  Just a touch of cloves because Todd loves them.  The flavour of clove is very strong though so be quite judicious if you add them.

The topping is buttery, sweet and oaty. I love the addition of oats in crumble toppings. They impart a wholesome nutty flavour and I love the extra texture they give.

This is the perfect dessert for just one.  You can top it with whatever floats your boat . . . a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, perhaps some whipped cream, or pouring cream  . . . 

Or like Todd with some warm custard.  He is a custard fiend.  He loves it with all his desserts.  He is so very British in that love!  I think Brits are born with custard in their veins.  Myself,  I prefer vanilla ice cream, but then again what is ice cream, but  . . .  frozen custard!

*Apple Crumble for One*
Serves 1

The perfect dessert for one person.  Todd loves this and I don't have to worry about being overly tempted as there is just enough for him to enjoy and no more. 

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch each salt and cloves (optional, but Todd likes them) 

For the Topping:
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
1 TBS old fahioned oatmeal
2 tsp plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1 TBS butter

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Have ready a small lightly buttered ramekin or other oven dish small enough to hold just one serving.  

Toss the apples together with the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, salt and cloves.  Put into the ramekin. 

Rub together the topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle evenly over top of the apples. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the apples are softened and the topping is crisp.  Serve warm with your favourite topping. (Ice Cream, Custard, Whipped Cream, pouring cream, etc.) 

You can also easily double this to feed two people.  Just saying . . .  Bon Appetit! 

Marie Rayner
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