Bean, Pasta and Bacon Soup (Minestrone)

Afternoon All!

I popped over to my parents this weekend and my mum had made (what we call) minestrone soup. It was absolutely delicious! We used to have this all the time when we were younger and I had completely forgotten about it. It is full of beans, vegetables, pasta and bacon. It is a fantastic chunky soup that keeps you full and satisfied. I thought this was a recipe I had to try myself as not only is it healthy and well balanced, it is also highly economical!

My partner is a carpenter and is always working outside. In the winter months, he loves sometimes hot for lunch to warm him up! I took him home a bowl that my mum had made and he absolutely loved this. So I thought, perfect! I will make a batch and he can heat it up in the mornings, whack it in a flask, and enjoy a tasty, hot lunch.

I don’t always make the healthiest choices when it’s lunchtime when I have nothing prepared. I will often go for something instantly satisfying and usually lacking in anything vaguely nutritious! So with this sitting in the fridge ready to go, I can pop it in the microwave and voila! A hot, healthy and delicious lunch for one.

img_0019

Ingredients:

Olive Oil
4x Cloves of Garlic
1x Large Onion
1 pack/300g of Smoked Bacon
1x Large Carrot
Couple of Sticks of Celery
2x Cubes of Beef Stock
2x Tins of Chopped Tomatoes
150g Macaroni (or any micro shaped pasta)
1x Tin of Kidney Beans
Dried Rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Cheddar or Parmesan to sprinkle on top at the end!

Method:

  1. Place a large saucepan on a low to medium heat and add a generous splash of olive oil.
  2. I love garlic so I have opted for 4 cloves, but you can add as many as you wish. Chop finely and add to the oil.
  3. Then finely chop the large onion and add to the oil and garlic.
  4. Let the garlic and onion sweat so it becomes translucent and then add the bacon. I always think the finer/smaller the bacon is sliced, the better. Remember this is a chunky soup so it will not be blended at the end.
  5. Then peel and finely chop the large carrot. Add once the bacon is lightly cooked.
  6. I’m not a huge fan of celery but I can never really taste it in soup (so don’t get put off basically). Once again, finely chop a couple of sticks and add to the saucepan.
  7. Allow to simmer for a while until the veg starts to soften.
  8. Then add 2 cubes of beef stock (I usually wait to add the boiling water until all the other ingredients have been added).
  9. Add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes and 1 tin of washed and drained kidney beans.
  10. I then added approximately 150g of macaroni pasta. My mum usually makes this with the tiny shell pasta but I couldn’t find this at my local supermarket. As long as it’s a small pasta – the shape doesn’t really matter!
  11. I then added enough boiling water to generously cover all the ingredients. I always think the amount of liquid you add is dependant upon how far you would like to stretch the soup. I like to keep the soup on a low heat for an hour or so and just add more water as and when needed. I tend to have the ingredients covered by about 1cm of water. As the soup cooks the water can often evaporate and the pasta will absorb some of this, so just keep an eye on it and add more as and when.
  12. Add your seasonings to taste (keep it simple with salt and pepper and a bit of dried rosemary). Once again, the seasonings are completely down to you 🙂
  13. Once your pasta is cooked, give the soup a taste and add more seasoning if required. I then turn off the heat and let the soup cool down naturally before pouring in to a large Tupperware container. Obviously if you would like to enjoy this fresh, serve up and enjoy with a couple of slices of buttered bread and a sprinkling of cheddar or parmesan. Yum!

This soup will easily provide 8-10 servings so this will keep me and my partner sorted for lunch for the whole working week. And it gets tastier each day as the flavours develop! I store this in the fridge but it is also fine to freeze.

Share and enjoy and if anyone has any feedback or pointers I would love to hear 🙂

 

Advertisements

Yummy Sultana Scones

Morning All!

Today I decided to get up early and make some super easy sultana scones to take to my grandparent’s house today. Once a week, my mum, aunt, cousin and grandparents get together to have lunch at one of our houses. This has been coined ‘Lunch Club’. It has been one of the things I have been most looking forward to since going on maternity leave. Last week, they all so kindly threw me a baby shower and spoiled me with gifts for the baby and essential supplies for myself.

This week we are going to my grandparents’ house for Lunch Club so I thought I would get myself out of bed first thing and make some fresh sultana scones to take along for everyone.

This is only the 3rd time I have ever made scones so if you’re a bit of a pro when it comes to baking, this will probably all sound very amateur. If, like me, you’re a newbie to scones and baking… enjoy!

The following made 15 decent sized scones:

img_0495

Ingredients:

500g Self Raising Flour
70g Golden Caster Sugar
150g Sultanas
95g Butter
250ml Whole Milk
3 Eggs
2 1/2 Tsps Baking Powder

Method:

  1. First thing I always do is remember to pre-heat the oven. I put mine to 200 degrees celsius on the fan setting.
  2. They always mention cold hands, chilled bowl for making scones. At the moment I am a human radiator so I washed my hands with super cold water to help take the heat out of my hands.
  3. Place the self raising flour, baking powder and cubed butter into a mixing bowl and crumble the butter with your (cold) fingers into the flour. Do this until all the butter has mixed in with the flour. It should be quite fine and crumbly but try not to overwork it.
  4. I then added the sultanas and golden caster sugar to the mix and stirred with a rubber spatula.
  5. In a measuring jug I whisked together the eggs and milk until combined. I then added the eggs and milk to the mixture and stirred in. Make sure you hold back a small amount of the egg and milk combo as you will need this to brush the top of the scones before placing them in the oven.
  6. Once all the ingredient are combined in the mixing bowl, turn the mixture on to a well-floured surface and knead very lightly. If you think the mixture in the bowl is too dry with lots of flour sitting at the bottom, just add some more milk to combine these remnants.
  7. Roll out the mixture until it is about 2cm thick. If you are the sophisticated/organised type, you will probably already have a circular cutter knocking about in the kitchen drawer somewhere. I, however, do not so just improvised with a glass. In the past I have just divided the mixture into equal portions and then hand roll into a scone-like shape! It’s all about how they taste at the end of the day right?
  8. I placed them onto a greased baking tray and then brushed the top of each with the remaining egg and milk solution. Once again, I am lacking in certain kitchen utensils (a brush!) and just used my fingers to dab the solution on top of each. Seems to have done the job!
  9. Place in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 15-17 minutes until beautifully golden brown on top and well risen. To double check they are cooked all the way through, use the failsafe method of popping a knife through and see if it comes out clean. If it does, you’re good to go. If not, pop them back in for a couple more minutes.
  10. Leave them to cool or enjoy warm (either way they are great!). If you’re feeling extra indulgent, whip out some clotted cream and jam and smother generously.

 

I love cooking but I am completely out of my depth when it comes to baking. Watching The Great British Bake Off is like watching something in a foreign language sometimes. But making scones was a lot easier than I thought – so if I can do it (and I have never even baked a cake before) you can most definitely do it!

Share and enjoy and if you have any tips on making scones even more easier or delicious, I would love to hear them!

The Hospital Bag

Mother’s Bag

img_0009

Face Wipes
Feminine Wipes
Maternity Towels
Maternity Pads
Deodorant
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
2x Flannels (for *ahem* top and bottom)
Body Wash
Shampoo and Conditioner
Disposable Knickers
Breast Pads
Towel
Nursing Bra
Drinks and Snacks
Phone Charger
Oil or Lotion
Lip Balm

Still to Pack:

Slippers
Loose fitting clothes to leave hospital in
Socks
Birth Plan and Maternity Notes
Lightweight Dressing Gown
Spare Knickers
Open Fronted/Buttoned Sleep Shirt or Nightie

 

Baby’s Bag

img_0013

Baby’s Clothes:

Selection of Sleepsuits and Vests
Scratch Mits
Hat
Special Leaving Hospital Outfit (non-essential but adorable!)
Cardigan

img_0016

Baby’s Supplies:

Nappies
Muslin Cloths
Baby Wipes
Cotton Pads
Starter Pack Milk (as a back up)
Blankets
Car Seat (and Isofix)
Travel Changing Mat

This is not a definitive list but it is a combination of online lists and the advice of other recent mothers. I’m sure there are a number of things I have forgotten so feel free to suggest other items!

Hope this helps any other expectant mothers packing their hospital bags for the first time 🙂

Mediterranean Gnocchi

img_0003

Gnocchi with tomatoes, olives, capers, mozzarella and basil

This is my go-to meal when I am feeling lazy. It’s packed full of flavour but unlikely to be low on calories!

Ingredients:

Gnocchi
Passata
Garlic
Olive Oil
Capers
Black Olives
Mozzarella
Fresh Basil
Chilli Flakes
Dried Rosemary
Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Put your water on to boil and heat olive oil in a separate pan on a medium heat.
  2. Chop your garlic. I absolutely love garlic so I used 3 large cloves. This can be chopped as roughly or finely as you wish. It’s all down to personal preference.
  3. Add the garlic to the hot oil and wait until lightly golden brown.
  4. Then add your passata. Use as much as you wish (I used about half a small carton for the two of us).
  5. Add your seasonings of salt and pepper. If you’re not big on spice you can leave the chilli flakes or add a minimal amount. I love the dried rosemary for that extra  flavour.
  6. Then add your black olives and capers. Once again this is all down to personal preference. Add as much as you like. I love them so always go overboard!
  7. Your water should have come to the boil by now. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and within a couple of minutes this will be ready. Read the instructions on the pack if you haven’t cooked gnocchi before but as a general rule it only takes a couple of minutes! Once it floats to the top this usually means it’s ready.
  8. Keep an eye on your sauce and turn down the heat to allow it to simmer.
  9. Once the gnocchi is ready – drain.
  10. Check your sauce for seasoning and if you’re happy combine the gnocchi and sauce. Mix well to ensure it is covered evenly.
  11. Serve up and then top with torn/chopped mozzarella and fresh basil. Enjoy!

What I Achieved Today

If you are also expecting your first born, you will more than likely have been bombarded with the well-intentioned advice of so many other experienced mothers.

Not only have I learnt so much from these ladies, I have also started to worry about things I had never considered before (I am yet to decide whether this is a good or bad thing). I am currently 33 weeks pregnant and still have a million and one things to sort out before the baby arrives. We are due to move house in May (2 months after the baby is due) so I have not embarked upon the exciting task of planning and decorating a nursery. As a result, it still doesn’t feel very real that I am due to become a mother in about 7 weeks time! I really need to get that hospital bag packed…

One thing I have vowed to myself though is to make sure I feel as though I have achieved something everyday. So many people have mentioned how essential it is to get out everyday once the baby is born as you will slowly go insane otherwise! I don’t doubt this for a moment and want to commit to this mantra now.

Therefore, I will I ask myself everyday, “What have I achieved today?”. In order to stay on track, I will keep a to-do list for each day and commit to completing most things on it. This may sound highly unrealistic after the baby arrives but let’s not forget, the goal for the day can be as simple or impressive as I choose. I’m sure there will be days where the goal is to get washed and dressed and bother with my make-up!

Today my goal was to set up a blog, walk the dogs and sort through all the paperwork in the house. I set up the blog so I think that will do for today 🙂

See you tomorrow for more to-do list updates!