Macaroni Cheese with Butternut Squash Makes Squasharoni Cheese

Squasharoni Cheese. There it is, I’m coining it.

What more could you want from the winter than a dish of pure stodge? With the addition of butternut squash, onion, a nice bit of garlic and some herbs, you have a much healthier version of the popular classic though. And wait until you see just how orange and vibrant the squasharoni looks when it comes out of the oven!

I enjoyed this squasharoni cheese for dinner and for my work lunch the day after, saving me all that money on meal deals and expensive subs. Follow the recipe below to make your very own meal of cheesy indulgence:

Squasharoni Cheese (Serves 4)

Half a butternut squash

A couple of cupfuls of Macaroni

One onion, chopped

Five mushrooms, finely chopped

50ml of milk (soya or cow)

Bunch of fresh basil, chopped

Two cloves of garlic, crushed

Seasoning

Begin by turning your oven onto gas mark 6/ 200C. Taking the squash half, carefully remove the skin and de-seed. Chop into thin chunks and place these into the top of a steamer, or into a pan with boiling water. Into the bottom part of the steamer or into a separate pan, pour in your couple of handfuls of macaroni. Cover the pasta with water, place a lid over the top and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Leave the pasta and squash to simmer for around 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through and the squash is soft.

Into a large mixing bowl, drop in your cooked squash. Taking a blender, blitz the squash until smooth. Next up, add the sliced onion and mushroom, along with the basil, garlic and seasoning too. Stir in the 50g of milk then grating the cheese into the bowl. Finish by adding the macaroni pasta, and combining everything thoroughly.

Pour everything into an ovenproof dish, grating a little extra cheese over the top so that it’ll brown up nicely. Place into the oven to bake for 35 minutes or until golden on the top. Once this is done, serve up and tuck in.

I’ll be running the 12 Meals of Christmas to help you keep save money and that belly for Christmas. Make sure you follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date!

 

Goats Cheese, Butternut Squash and Leek Pasties

Whenever I head home, the sight of a takeaway is rare. And this is where my love for homemade food comes from. With my stepmum also being a vegetarian as well as an advocate for Riverford veg boxes, the food is rich with variety and flavour. On a recent visit back to my hometown, I came away with some gorgeous roasted vegetable pasties, and this is what has spurred me on to try my own.

Boy, were the results worth it!

First of all, there’s something about combining squash and goats cheese that takes you to another level of happy. But then, by putting this into wholesome shortcrust pastry along with onions and leeks makes it even better.

Perfect for having anytime of the day (yes, even breakfast if that’s how you roll), these pasties will keep in an airtight container for three days, meaning easy work lunches too.

Goats Cheese, Butternut Squash and Leek Pasties (Serves 2)

Ingredients

Half a butternut squash, de-seeded and with the outer skin removed

Readymade shortcrust pastry

An onion, diced

One small tub of goats cheese

A leek, chopped

Pinch of cumin seeds

Olive oil

Pinch of rosemary

Seasoning

An egg yolk

Set your oven to gas mark 6/200C. Lay the squash onto a baking tray and drizzle over the olive oil. Scatter your salt and pepper over the chunks and top this by adding some fragrant cumin seeds. Slide the baking tray into the oven for around 30 minutes. In this time, lay out your shortcrust pastry and, using a bowl, cut out three or four circles. Lay these onto another baking tray.

Once the squash has roasted up nicely, remove the tray from the oven and start placing your slices onto one half of each circle. Layer your diced onion and leek on top of this and finish with a hint of rosemary and a good dose of goats cheese. After the filling has been prepared, take the other side of your pastry and roll it over the filling, pressing down the close with a small roll of extra pastry.

Taking a brush, cover each pasty in a thin layer of egg yolk. When all of your pasties are covered, place the baking tray back into the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pasties are golden.

Serve these wintry delights up with a green leafy salad and some wholesome boiled baby potatoes for the full effect.

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Did you enjoy this recipe? I’d love to know what you thought – hit me up in the comments below.

Why Choosing the Right Pots is Important For Small Space Gardens

Do you ever get tired of eating a tomato in your salad that just isn’t quite juicy enough? Or that bland piece of broccoli on the side of your plate? When you grow your own food, you don’t have any of these problems. If you’re clever about it, you can also save money, too.

And it’s easier than you might think. For myself, two hours gardening a week is a luxury because I’m often in five places at once. So, whether you’re a single parent with barely a couple of hours free, a busy worker or a student – in my new Small Space Garden series, I’m going to show you how you can master healthy homegrown food and a busy life.

Winter is here. As you read this, I’m 100% certain that the idea of going outside and gardening is the last thing on your mind. Yet, doing all of your preparation this side of Christmas means no hassle when the work starts picking up again and the growing season is in full-swing.

So, if you’re interested in starting your very own small space garden on your windowsill, balcony or terrace, picking up the right-sized pots is a good place to begin. Check out the video below for my guide to finding the best pots for the highest quality crops:

 

Are you starting out on your gardening journey in 2018? What are you focusing on this winter? Let me know in the comments below

How To Make A Banging Veggie Roast

Us vegetarians and vegans all know what it’s like when you first give up meat, especially on a Sunday. Whilst everyone else tucks into a big filling chicken or piece of beef, you’re often left tucking into the overcooked broccoli and carrots. During my time so far as a veggie, finding a good and inexpensive alternative to the meaty bit has been tough – but I’ve finally cracked it.

This meal is the ultimate meat-free experience. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, replace the cheese with a cashew cheese or leave it out altogether and use couscous or rich roasted tomatoes instead. And, of course, don’t be liberal with the roast potatoes!

Roasted Squash Stuffed With Cheesy Vegetables (Serves 2)

Ingredients

A large squash chopped in half with seeds and fleshy centres scooped

One onion sliced

A whole head of broccoli chopped

A clove of garlic

75g of cheese, plus extra for topping

A dash of soya or cow’s milk

A large tablespoon of cornflour

Two carrots sliced

Eight or nine baby potatoes, halved

Seasoning

 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C. Arrange your two squash halves onto a baking tray, drizzling over with olive oil, a spoonful of honey and seasoning. Place the tray into the oven and cook the squash for around 30-40 minutes.

Taking your baby potatoes, place these into a saucepan and fill with boiling water. Turn the hob onto a medium heat and keep the potatoes cooking until they begin to feel soft. Once they do, remove from the heat. Slide out the baking tray and arrange your potatoes onto one side, with the chopped carrots going on the other side. Drizzle these with olive oil, a dose of honey, breadcrumbs and seasoning before placing the tray back into roast.

When the squash is just about done, add a steamer to your saucepan and fill with the broccoli. You only want to steam the florets for 5 minutes maximum, just to get them to soften their crunch a little.

For the cheese sauce, heat up a large spoonful of butter. As the butter begins to melt, drop in a spoonful of cornflour and, at the same time, add soya or cow’s milk. Continue to stir as you add, making sure that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat once the mixture starts to thicken and then add your grated cheese.

Once the broccoli is done, slide out your baking tray and fill the squash with the florets, crushed garlic and onion slices first, topping this with the cheese sauce and then finishing off by grating cheddar over the top and sprinkling a fine layer of pepper. Add this to the oven for a further 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve up on its own and be the envy of every meateater at the table, or add gravy for an even better Sunday roast. This recipe is perfect for big student roasts, family get-togethers and, with everything cooked on one tray, catering for vegetarian guests as part of a larger roast.

Want To Start Growing Your Own Food? Here Are 3 Things I’ve Learned

Winter is the perfect time to start getting your space ready for next year. Throughout the five years that I’ve been growing my own food I’ve picked up lots of advice. Here are 3 Things I’ve Learned Through My Growing Journey So Far:

1 – Only Grow Radish If You Love Eating It

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This is a really important first point. If you’re eager to start your growing journey, don’t grow everything that someone on a blog or in a book has, especially if you don’t like it.

Start small and start with your favourites.

Whilst homegrown food can make all veggies taste miles better, you’ll still end up wasting time, effort and produce because you really don’t like certain crops.

In my case, it’s celery and celeriac and all of the aniseed-flavoured vegetables. I’m still not a huge fan of radish either and can really take or leave Jerusalem artichokes. So I don’t set aside space for any of these things, instead focusing on my favourite food. Pumpkins and squash fill the plot, tomatoes and peppers grow nice and ripe in the greenhouse and the strawberries and raspberries surprise me year after year.

Every year I treat it like my first. I sit down and plan out what I want to grow depending on what I like to eat.

However, it’s also about what is going to reward you the most. As a vegetarian, I need lots of protein and iron from my food so I choose to grow leafy greens and peas and beans over broccoli. This is because I know I can get more meals out of a pot or plot of beans than I can from broccoli. The same often applies to potatoes, which take up huge amounts of space.

With Small Space Garden launching officially next year, I’ll be offering guides on some of the best crops that you can grow for nutrition as well as for quantity and ease.

2 – Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

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It can be easy, as I found out, to grow a ton of plants in the first year, yet when it comes to maintaining the plants, you’ll find yourself swamped. With only a couple of hours to spare you want to keep only a few really productive crops at first.

If you’re a single parent, work over 40 hours a week or you’re busy in other ways, most plants will cope very well with just one watering a week. Unless the weather is scorching, you can leave them in peace most of the time. With some tomatoes you’ll need to pinch the tips out and stake the stems to support and encourage fruit. I’ll be creating several handy guides for tomatoes next year, so watch this space!

3 – If You’ve Only Grown One Leek This Year, It’s Still An Achievement

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One of three leeks I managed to grow this year

Weather, slugs and poor seed stock can make growing your own a bit of a nightmare. Whilst slugs and the weather can be controlled to some extent, there is always something else around the corner. What is important to remember for any budding grower and gardener is that even the one tomato you’ve harvested from the ill-looking vine is a powerful thing.

Growing your own food isn’t just about the harvest – although that is very important. It’s also about the power and the independence. The connection with the earth and with nature, no matter how big or small. By nuturing a plant through to fruit, you have taken control of your food and you have engaged with the whole process. Trust me, the world looks like a very different place! After all, gardening is cool and growing food that you can eat and cook meals with is even cooler.

What have you learnt on your allotment, garden or balcony this year? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

Healthy Breakfast Apple Muffins

 

How many of us, rushing to get to work, forget to eat our most important meal of the day? Porridge is a faff, cereal and milk isn’t portable enough to eat on the way to work and expensive smoothies are completely out of the question. Well, like all things in life, plan ahead and you can both perform at your best and not be eyeing up a horse by the time your lunch break arrives. Even better still, this recipe takes only an hour out of your week and you can enjoy the rewards throughout.

Healthy Apple Muffins

 

Ingredients

150g of whole-wheat flour

50g of oats

½ teaspoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of vanilla

1 egg

75g of butter

75g of honey

2 apples grated

1 apple sliced with skins kept on

 

 

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The Cooking…

Turn the oven onto Gas Mark 5/ 180C.

Grab a cake tray and place your muffin cases into the slots.

Measure out your whole-wheat flour, baking powder, oats, cinnamon and salt and add these to a large mixing bowl. Next, cube your butter and drop this into the bowl. Using only your fingers, gently combine the butter into the flour. Once the mixture begins to resemble breadcrumbs, make a well in the centre of the mixture and add your egg. Taking your spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg, following the figure of eight to ensure that air gets into the batter.

Next, add your grated apple, honey, vanilla essence as well as the chopped pieces of apple. Stir these into the batter carefully again, making sure that you don’t rush the mixing. When this is done, transfer your batter into the cases and slot the cakes into the oven for around 35-40 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the knife comes out clean. As the muffins cool, add a little drizzle of honey over the tops to give your cakes even more flair.

Pack into an air-tight container and the muffins should keep for a week. Enjoy as a healthy alternative ready to get you on your way in the morning.

 

youngground reviews: Café Kino

Bristol is the spiritual home of alternative culture. From veganism to multiculturalism, it leads in so many ways. For non-meat eaters who live in Bristol, the city is a haven of alternative food. For those who live outside of the city, a pilgrimage to Bristol is well worth it.

Every corner and every street in the city has a new and exciting eatery to tempt you in. Instead of having to rely on the small box on the side of a menu offering a salad or a bog-standard veggie burger, us meat-avoiders can sit down and eat a meal that is as full of love and passion as any top-quality steak.

Stokes Croft is a densely-packed feast of treats. Along with the bright graffiti and fantastic pockets of music and rhythm deeply engrained into the street’s identity, each restaurant and café you pass holds its own inspiring menu and decor.

Café Kino is a pioneer in vegan thinking. The eatery and café’s ethos is all about community. And this sense of a big community is only reflected in their rich menu. From a selection of non-dairy milks to go with your coffees and teas to vegan cheese to top your chips and your burgers, Kino has considered the tastes and interests of everyone. There are no traces of meat anywhere on the premises, of course. Whilst that may turn off those kings of beef, by taking out that most common of ingredients you’re left with a menu that challenges, inspires and excites.

Slightly political note: linking back to Kino’s community ethos, this also applies to the wider world. With demand for meat increasing at an alarming rate, those quality steaks are going to become rarer. By looking at alternative cuisine based on pulses, grains, nuts and soya, we can continue to enjoy rich-quality food at much cheaper prices.

And boy, was the burger I ordered delicious! Again, not an ounce of cheese in sight. Kino do offer vegan cheese to top your food. However, I really didn’t miss the cheddar once I tucked into my meal. Whilst cheese has become an essential ingredient for everything, my burger matched any cheesy quarter-pounder and the beautiful, flavoursome tomato salsa I layered on top of my burger took the definition of a vegan burger to new heights.

Meat-obsessives: be a little more open-minded and give Kino a try. You can go one day without meat. To my fellow non-meat lovers in the UK and beyond, Kino alone is enough to make the journey to Bristol.

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge Begins

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge begins

Yes, it’s finally here. Spring is only just around the corner and the chance to save money, introduce fantastic flavour and live a healthier lifestyle are all within your grasp. I’ve created a little introduction which can find below:

I’m challenging all of you who are reading this now to have a go at growing at least one edible plant this year. Here on my blog and on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll be posting daily sowing updates and videos, hints and tips, recipes and more to encourage you all to have a go yourselves. You don’t need a garden, you don’t even need an outside space – a windowsill is often enough to grow some delicious salads.

I don’t just want to witter on to you for 6 months though – this is a conversation that all of us can join in and come away from feeling inspired. So share your pictures, ask questions and get growing!

Let’s start this growing revolution!

Cost-cutting Curries: Sag Aloo

Don’t you just hate it when you’re craving an Indian but you only have £5 to your name?

Well, it may surprise you to know that you can make several of your Indian takeaway favourites with very little effort and without blowing the bank.

My sag aloo goes perfectly with this recipe.

Behold, my video recipe for sag aloo – one of our all-time favourite Indian sides. It takes no more than 20 minutes to make, is full of yummy flavours and will cost you barely anything. The potatoes here are dirt cheap, the spices can be used again and again and sag aloo is also a great way of using up that leftover spinach you have in your fridge that goes off tomorrow.

You can bulk make this dish eating it alongside a delicious curry tonight, storing it for a couple of days in the fridge and taking it to work with you instead of buying that meal deal.

Why not give my simple recipe a try and let me know how you get on?

Jazz Up Your Lunch – Quality Quiche

Sure, we’re in the middle of winter and you’re still trying to lose all of that weight from Christmas. Every now and again, however, we all deserve to indulge ourselves. Sometimes, the urge to buy a pie, pasty or anything else with fatty pastry overcomes us and we end up resenting it. There is a simple solution though: make your own quiche.

Quiches are the best. They combine delicious pastry with cheese and egg to make something that not only fills you up, but makes you feel good for a long time after too. Of course, by making your own quiche, you can also create something 100x healthier than one from the supermarket. Oh, don’t worry about making pastry if you don’t have the time – just pick up some ready-rolled shortcrust pastry instead like I’ve done below.

Here are some of the best vegetarian quiche combinations:

Pepper, tomato and goat’s cheese

Broccoli, garlic and Stilton

Onion, mushroom and cheddar

Mushroom, pepper and mozzarella

Quality Quiche

  • 1 roll of shortcrust pastry or savoury tart case.
  • 5 eggs
  • 150ml of double cream
  • 75ml of milk
  • 140g of Mature cheddar cheese
  • Vegetables of your choice, chopped
  • 100g of the topping cheese of your choice

Step One

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180C. Grease a tart case and roll out your shortcrust pastry or remove the packaging from your tart case.

Taking a large jug, beat your 5 eggs together. Add the cream and the milk, as well as some seasoning and any herbs or spices (cayenne pepper, paprika and chopped chillies work fantastically as spices and basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary for herbs.)

Step Two

Add your grated cheddar to the base of the quiche and then layer over the vegetables of your choice. Finish by pouring over the egg mixture, grating a little more cheese over the top and then placing into the oven. Test every so often to make sure that the egg is solid but wobbles slightly when you shake it.

Step Three

The quiche should keep for three lunchtimes. Alternatively, keep it as a dinnertime treat. Either way, you’ll save some money on the meal deals and canteen food, as well as keeping things a little healthier as well.