As those who know me on Facebook and Instagram will be aware, I am leaving my job after almost 14 years. I have worked in a number of different roles for the same company but it finally feels like it is time to move on and try something new. So in a month from now I will be starting over. Yikes! When I announced to my team a few weeks ago that I was leaving, their biggest concern seemed to be who was going to feed them. I bake a lot for work. To make them feel better I agreed to bring something in weekly… and to take requests. I have been delving into my old faithful recipes but someone requested a carrot cake recently. I do have a carrot cake recipe but it’s a layer cake and transporting a layer cake across multiple train journeys at rush hour is not easy. Instead I decided to go for a tray bake. It was very popular and I will definitely be making it again.
I used to do loads of cooking but since we had Little O most of the food preparation in our household falls to Mr O as I tend to be trying to wrangle the little fella into bed at prime dinner making time. I decided I was definitely going to make at least one meal this week, even if it was a quick one. Enter this easy salad. Of course just as I finished making it Little O woke up and refused to go to bed for another two hours so I didn’t get to eat any until 10pm but it I enjoyed it none the less.
When I was a child growing up my mum always made our birthday cakes. She’s extremely creative and they were really elaborate affairs. There were trains, tractors, princesses, umbrellas, monsters… my brother even had one based on the band U2. I am nowhere near as skilled or patient as my mum is but I really wanted to make Little O’s birthday cake. With some help from Pinterest and a recipe from my mum that I adapted, I think I pulled off something passable that pretty much anyone with a couple of hours of spare time could manage. The sponge cake method used here is an oldie but a goodie and makes a really light fluffy cake.
I have made loads of brownies in my life and my go to recipe is always Hummingbird Bakery, but there isn’t always time for all the melting and the long cook time especially when trying to bake around a small human. Plus with all that high content cocoa dark chocolate, they’re really expensive to make. This recipe is quick, easy and a lot cheaper and they are sooo good and sooo gooey. I am definitely making these my new everyday brownies. (Disclaimer: I don’t eat brownies every day and I am not suggesting that you do either…)
I am not a fan of bananas and never have been but as I have gotten older I have started to enjoy banana flavoured things as well as things with bananas in them. Mr O hates bananas to the point of being almost phobic of them but he’s very conscious of passing on his food preferences to Little O, so recently he decided he’d like to try something with a little banana in it and requested a banoffee pie. This combo of caramel, banana and cream is a British favourite and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately Mr O’s verdict was that he could still taste the bananas and it wasn’t for him. Back to the drawing board…
Being back at work means a willing audience to try out my baking on. I didn’t do much baking on maternity leave because it’s quite challenging with a little person constantly needing your attention but also because Mr O is not particularly interested in sweet things and with nowhere to take what I have created, I end up eating far too much of it myself… or ending up chucking bits away once they’ve passed their prime. As Easter is around the corner I decided to to some themed baking for my colleagues.
Last week it was really warm so I got very excited and decided it was spring. I was so excited that I decided to buy a whole lot of ingredients to make salads. It turned out it was not spring. It was basically spring teasing us and then deciding to hold off until a yet to be named date. Fortunately even though it was cold and windy when I made this, it was still delicious so we didn’t feel too sad that we had to eat it wearing jumpers.
I really love a good quiche (plus they make good baby led weaning food) but making crusts is tedious, especially when you are trying to wrangle a little person. When I spotted this idea on the Tesco website of using tortillas to make a crust I was skeptical. I figured the tortillas would go soggy and the filling would go everywhere. I was pleasantly surprised that they actually went lovely and crispy. I have already made it twice and Mr O and Little O are big fans.
Growing up in South Africa, you wouldn’t think we were very good at wintery food. However in Johannesburg, where I grew up, while the winter days are sunny and warm by Northern European standards, the temperature drops dramatically at night and it can get very chilly. One of my favourite wintery things that my mum used to make was warm baked puddings, always served with lashings of cold custard, which Mr O finds bizarre.
When our friend N (who is also South Afircan), visited a couple of weekends ago I decided to make a classic baked pudding to warm our cockles and he confirmed that cold custard was definitely the way to go. It must be a South African thing.
This pudding is named after some chap called Jan Ellis. I have no idea who he is but it has a subtle spicy, slightly orangey flavour and it took me right back to my childhood.
A couple of weeks ago I bought some spinach and feta rolls from the bakery stall in the food market that pops up in the centre of town on Fridays and Saturdays. They were delicious but a little pricey so I decided to have a go at making my own. They were so tasty we’ve ended up having them as a quick meal on several occasions since. They’re particularly good for when Mr O is working in the evening as he can just pop one in the oven for 5 minutes to reheat and have a fresh, hot snack when he gets home.
Spinach and feta pies
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
200g frozen chopped spinach
200g feta cheese, crumbled
150g ricotta cheese
2 sheets pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Preheat your oven to 200 C.
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil over a low heat for 5 minutes in a saucepan with a lid. Add the spinach and put on the lid. Cook until the spinach is completely defrosted and hot through (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the feta and ricotta and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Unroll the pastry sheets and cut each one into six (in half lengthwise and then into thirds). Place some of the spinach mixture in the centre of half the pastry rectangles. Don’t put it too close to the edges because you need room to seal. Brush all four of the edges around the spinach mixture of each rectangle with egg and then cover with another rectangle and press down the edges to close. Take a fork and press down all around the edges to make a nice pattern. Then use a sharp knife to make a few slashes across the top of each pie. Brush with more egg.
Place on a baking tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Makes 6 pies
What’s the smartest way to use up leftover ricotta cheese, you ask? I decided it was by making pancakes. Usually in this house we make more crepe style pancakes because Mr O isn’t really a fan of the American ones… and I have managed to cock them up royally each time I have tried to make them. These however were very easy and very delicious and definitely a good use of leftover ricotta. Plus if no one else will eat them and you can manage your greed, the batter keeps well.
About a week ago when I was in Tesco buying essentials (nappies, bread, milk), I also came across a packet of salted caramel pretzel tiffin squares. These, of course, also counted as essential so I brought them home for Mr O and I to enjoy and they were glorious. I decided to make a sort of attempt to recreate them and although my version doesn’t have a caramel element they’re still pretty tasty… and very easy.
Since Little O was born I have had a lot less time to bake. It can be tricky enough to put up essential meals without finding the time for any extra bits. However recently he’s a lot more able to play on his own for periods of time or under Mr O’s supervision so when the urge struck me on Sunday I decided to go for it. I picked this recipe because Mr O particularly likes raspberries and coconut and he’s been raving about them ever since.
Over the weekend Mr O and I invited around his best friend, Mr H, Mr H’s brother and their wives and kids to join us for a BBQ in our garden. I asked Mr O what I should make for a dessert and he said key lime pie. I have never made key lime pie and he’s never eaten it but he liked the sound of it so I took to my recipes and found one to make. It turned out to be a great success and even though we had ice lollies for the kids they all wanted to get in on the pie! If you get the chance to make this it’s packed with zesty lime flavours that are lovely and refreshing. It is worth mentioning though that there is a lot of cooling and refrigeration time so if you are going to make this you need to start relatively early the day before you want to eat it.
Crunchies are kind of like the South African equivalent of a flapjack although crunchier (hence the name) and less sweet and sticky. I grew up eating loads of these since they’re eggless and my brother was allergic to eggs as a child so baked treats he could eat were quite limited. I recently found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to make these as a snack since oats is supposed to aid breast milk production. Also they are just yummy!
Just after Little O was born my friend, Alex, her husband J and their little boy M came around to visit us. M is almost 18 months old so throughout my pregnancy (and still now) Alex is my “is this normal” go to person.
Knowing how full on the beginning weeks of parenthood are Alex kindly brought us a quiche which was not only delicious but also served as a healthy lunch for us for days! I liked it so much that I asked for the recipe. A few days ago Little O actually let Mr O hold him long enough to let me make it… with a few modifications of my own.
I decided to make this Spanish omelette because we had some leftover over new potatoes that I had boiled the night before and I didn’t want them to go to waste. Plus eggs are great for gestational diabetes and let’s face it, I love chorizo so I put it with everything. I had this for my lunch but it’s one of those meals you could have at any time of the day. It’s also delicious both hot and cold and keeps really well.
I have already made this tray bake twice because it was so easy and delicious, once for Mr O and I and then once for a pot luck Sunday lunch at N’s new house now that he has moved out of our flat. While it does take a little bit of time to make, actually throwing it together is really quick and the flavour is completely worth the wait.
I swear this is the last Lean in 15 recipe coming up for a while. I have made this a few times because Mr O loves it and although the sauce is very simple it is delicious… it will also stink out your kitchen because that’s how fish sauce rolls!
With only 4 or 5 weeks until Little O makes his appearance and I can technically eat whatever I want I have been starting to fantisise about the list of things I am going to eat immediately post labour. In the meantime I am continuing to experiment with baking things that I can eat safely. My latest successful endeavor was these peanut butter blondies that I adapted from a Peace, Love and Low Carb recipe. They are very low sugar and carb so even if you don’t have GD and are trying to stick to these principles they’d be great for a sweet snack. They are also gluten free!