Top Hats

Its stretching it a bit to call this a recipe. Chucking some marshmallows on top of melted chocolate, whacking a Smartie on top and calling it cordon beau cooking would be slightly taking the mick. But these Top Hats represent part of my childhood. A good part. A warm fuzzy part. And having come south of Hadrian’s Wall as an adult, I’ve come to realise that they haven’t featured in a fair amount of other folk’s childhoods. Which is such a shame.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

I produced these for one of my lot’s parties (there haven’t been many parties, but there are lots of kids, so I’d struggle to pin down the exact moment). Chatting to the adults present, it emerged that only the Scots and the Northern Irish amongst us had come across Top Hats before. They’re clearly a Gaelic creation?

So it would only be fair to share the love with others. And as they are so simple, and yet so happiness-inducing, I feel it a duty to pop these on the blog.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

On this occasion, I made them for a cake sale at school. Its Children In Need, the theme is spotty, and by jove, my Top Hats fit the brief perfectly (apart from the whole lack of cake bit, but meh). These are perfect for cake sales as they don’t take much effort to make, you can make hundreds pretty quickly if you need to, and they go down really well.


Ingredients

Makes approx. 23-24 Top Hats, depending on how many marshmallows in the packet

200g bar of milk chocolate
1 bag of marshmallows
1 tube of Smarties
mini cupcake cases

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

1. Spread out your cupcake cases on a tray.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

2. Put the chocolate in a microwavable bowl, and melt (in 30 sec bursts, stirring after each burst).

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

3. Fill each case with a teaspoon of chocolate. Don’t overfill, a little goes a long way.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

This will get a bit messy. But heh, we’re living on the edge. Leave enough chocolate in the bowl to dip your Smarties in.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

4. Place a marshmallow on top of each case-full of chocolate. Now this is important: Place the marshmallows with the smaller end down. Thus the end result will look (something) like a top hat. Ah ha, it all makes sense now!

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

5. Dip a Smartie into the remaining chocolate, enough to coat the underside, then place on top of the marshmallow.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

Et voila! Top Hats. If you can’t make these, there’s probably something wrong with you.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

Try not to eat them all before giving them to the kids/cake sale. Or just eat them all. I’ve made extra so a few won’t be missed. There is just something about a marshmallow, sitting on a bed of chocolate, with a Smartie on top to add a bit of crunch, that really hits the spot.

Top Hats - The simplest of sweet treats to make, but they look super cute and go down brilliantly with kids and adults alike! | thehecticcook.com

Happy cooking putting together!

Advertisements

Diet Friendly Sausage Pasta Bake

This super simple and quick sausage pasta bake tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn’t. Perfect for a midweek dinner for the whole family.

This Sausage Pasta Bake is such a creamy, cheesy bowl of deliciousness, you’ll never believe it’s diet friendly!

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner | thehecticcook.com

I’m such a cliche. It’s the new year and I’ve joined a diet club. This is not a new thing. I’m back at Slimming World having joined and rejoined on at least a half dozen occasions. But I’m determined this time. This time I’m going to stick with it. Really. No, really. So at the moment, meals in the HC household are of the healthier persuasion. Well, ok, I’m still feeding the kids macaroni cheese and cheese & bean pastry pie on a fairly regular schedule. But generally we’re eating stuff that can be made SW friendly like spaghetti carbonara (yes really) and pork chow mien.

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner | thehecticcook.com

To make this process a little more interesting, I’ve also discovered a couple of really good food blogs that are dedicated to Slimming World recipes. One of which is Two Chubby Cubs. Their site is full of really good recipes that not only sound tasty, but are tasty. They’re also bloody hysterical. As long as you’ve got a sense of humour and aren’t easily offended, I’d highly recommend checking them out, if only for the witty repartee. This recipe for Sausage Pasta Bake is a take on their One Pot Sausage Gnocchi Bake. I like gnocchi, but it’s easier for me to substitute it with pasta so the kids will eat it.

Now, if you’re at all familiar with the Slimming World diet, you’ll most likely have heard of Quark. It’s hailed somewhat like a food from the gods. I never quite got it. Until I added it to a pasta sauce. It gives a creaminess you’d get from adding cream cheese, but without the raised eyebrows at SW class. It’s added in this recipe, but if you’re not fussed about the calories, just use cream cheese.

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner | thehecticcook.com

The sausages are your call. If you’re trying to be healthy, there are plenty of fat-reduced sausages on the market. Personally I’ve found I like Porky Lights (again, if you know anything about SW, you’ll know what a cliche that is). But use whatever sausage you like. I’ve also made this recipe with tuna and chicken, so you can be even more saintly.

This pasta bake has become a staple now in our house. It stays inline with my effort to shift the second belly, and the kids like it. If I’m ever going to succeed in cutting the flab, I need meals like this, that the whole family can eat. But even if you’re born with a metabolism faster than Usain Bolt and couldn’t give two hoots about eating healthier (I hate you, I really do), this is a really tasty dish that is well worth a go, especially for a midweek quick and simple dinner.

Ingredients

400g uncooked pasta
6 sausages, meat removed from casings
Spray oil (or a tbsp of oil if you’re feeling decadent)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (or 2 tsp garlic puree)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp basil (I use frozen chopped basil, it has all the flavour and is so convenient – dried basil is a bit of a waste of time to be honest)
salt & pepper 
75g quark
75g grated cheese to sprinkle on top (I cheat and buy a mozzarella/cheddar mix from the supermarket which is brilliant for melting on pasta bakes)

1. Boil a large pan of (well) salted water and add your pasta. Cook until soft (I don’t like my pasta al dente, so cook it however you like it).
2. Meanwhile, spray a pan with oil over a medium heat, and add the sausage meat, breaking it up as it cooks. Cook until browned through.
3. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, then add the tomatoes, basil and seasoning. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, to let the flavours evolve a wee bit. Taste, and add more seasoning if required.
4. Stir through the quark.
5. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, and then add it to the meat sauce. Stir through.
6. Pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with the cheese. Pop under a hot grill until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
7. Serve.

This will serve a large family. Simply alter how much pasta you cook, depending on the amount of people you’re cooking for. Hopefully this will appeal to most folk, whether you need to lose some poundage or are just looking for a tasty midweek supper. Give it a go this week for dinner. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Happy cooking!

Homemade Sausage Rolls

Homemade Sausage Rolls – You haven’t had a sausage roll until you’ve had a homemade sausage roll!

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

I always make sausage rolls at Christmas. I don’t know if it’s just me, but to me sausage rolls mean Christmas. We tend to have them on the big day itself, either as a light lunch or a late supper, depending on when we have the main event (this has changed over the years from early afternoon to dinner time – I like it later as it gives me the whole day to prep/eat/drink – I once drank a whole bottle of prosecco whilst making Christmas dinner….but I digress). You get some lovely shop-bought sausage rolls, but if you’ve never made your own, you’re honestly missing out. These are really tasty, and really simple.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

Let’s talk pastry. I usually buy the shop stuff. It’s good; it’s easy; it’s convenient. Nine times out of ten, I’ll use a nice block of shop-bought puff pastry. However. During a rather enthusiastic baking spell a few years back, I decided to make my own. How hard could it be? The answer is actually not hard at all. Don’t go believing the theatrics of GBBO. Making puff pastry is not particularly hard. It does take a bit of time, but most of that is to chill the pastry. So I’ve written a separate post here about making puff pastry. However, if you can’t be bothered with that just use a block from the shop.

Ingredients (makes about 24)

500g block of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
plain flour for dusting

Filling:

400-500g sausagemeat
50g breadcrumbs
sage, about 6 leaves chopped or 1 heaped tsp of dried
1 small apple, grated
seasoning
2 tbsp ketchup/caramelised onion chutney/condiment of choice (optional)

Notes:

  • Quantity of sausage meat is not exact because different shops sell it in different sized packs, so use whatever you have between those quantities (mine was 400g on this occasion).
  • The last ingredient is totally your call. Sometimes I like some extra flavour to my sausage rolls, sometimes I just like to leave them traditional. You could even split the filling and add extra flavour to one portion whilst leaving a portion plain. The choice is yours (on this occasion I added 2 tbsp of ketchup – saves having to dunk them once they’re made). 

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (fan) / 425°F / Gas 7.

2. In a large bowl mix the filling ingredients together with your hands. Season well.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

3. Take your pastry out of the fridge. Cut it in half, and roll the first half out on a lightly floured surface to about a 42x10cm rectangle.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

4. Take half of your filling and squeeze it out into a long log shape, placing it in the middle of your pastry strip.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

5. Brush both long edges with the beaten egg, then fold one side over, followed by the second side, and seal well.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

6. Turn the long roll over so the sealed edge is underneath, and place on a tray. Repeat the process for the second roll, then place the tray in the fridge for about 10 minutes to chill.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

7. Take out of the fridge and cut each into about 12 pieces (or whatever size you like for your sausage rolls). Space out on your baking tray (I tend to spray my tray with cooking oil before placing the sausage rolls on it to prevent them sticking) and brush each roll with the beaten egg.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

8. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

If you can resist eating about 5 of these straight out of the oven then you’re a better person than me!

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

Freezing

You can also make these to freeze, which is really handy at this time of year:

After cutting them up and brushing with the egg (step 7), place them on a tray, slightly spaced apart, then place them in the freezer for about an hour. No need to cover. Once they’re frozen take them out and pop them in a freezer bag, seal and place the bag back in the freezer until you need them. When you want to cook them, place them on a tray and pop in the oven (same temps) for 30-35 minutes until golden and cooked through. No need to egg wash as you’ve already done this. Easy!

Homemade Sausage Rolls - You haven't had a sausage roll until you've had a homemade sausage roll! | thehecticcook.com

If you’ve got a Christmas party this year that you need to take a nibble to, make some of these, and I promise they will go down well.

Happy cooking!

 

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Zoodles

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Zoodles – So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is quick to make and a great low carb option.

I’m not a photographer. My photographic abilities are fairly limited. I’ve learnt a little since I started this blog, but thankfully the Husband bought a decent camera which manages to make most of my clueless photographic attempts look half decent. I have learnt something about light though. Like how artificial (kitchen) light makes everything look a bit yellow. To take decent pics of food, you really need natural light. But this is where I often come unstuck. Having (lots of) kids means that taking photos of food can be pretty impossible. They just want to get involved. Which never ends well. So I have to take pictures when they’re not around. Thankfully this is about to get easier as the girls enter full-time education (whoop whoop), but up to now I’ve had to fit this in around small windows of time, including bedtime.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

This meal fell into the ‘pictures-taken-once-kids-in-bed’ category. It was after 7pm, the light was fading fast but I was damned if I was taking yellowy-artificially-lit photos (again). So I ended up taking these in my back garden. Yup, I was one of those weirdo neighbour types, taking pictures of food on the garden table. We’re new to the neighbourhood, so I can only guess what they’ve already made of us.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

This is a dish that deserves good photography though. I came across it originally on a blog called Cafe Delights – I have changed the original slightly to suit the ingredients I had. The flavours are fantastic. No seriously, I’m not exaggerating. For what this dish lacks in carbs, it makes up in delicious creamy cheesy tomatoey sauce. I’ve attempted to eat relatively ‘low carb’, on and off, for a while. I know I feel better for reducing my pasta/rice/potato intake, I just find it hard to follow through with the good intention. However, this dish has become a staple in the HC household for the Husband and I – yup, he eats it without grumble, without carbs! You could cook it with pasta or rice if you want, leave out the ‘zoodles’ (courgette noodles – should they be coodles over here in Blighty? Or Couroodles??). The sauce is the star of this show. Either way, give this a go, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

2 larges courgettes (zucchini), spiralised*
2 chicken breasts, diced
1 tsp oil
40g sun-dried tomatoes (about 4), chopped*
1 tsp oil from the tomatoes
mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 tsp garlic paste / 2 garlic cloves, crushed
50g soft (cream) cheese
20g parmesan, grated
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 heaped tsp fresh (or frozen) chopped basil

Notes:

* I bought a fancy-schmancy spiraliser and surprisingly, I do actually use it. However, if you don’t fancy splashing the cash you can get hand-held ones, or even buy ready-made Courgetti Noodles (Zoodles) from some supermarkets.
* I find a jar of sun-dried tomatoes will keep for ages (several months) in the fridge.

1. Spiralise your courgettes.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

2. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a wok or large frying pan. Add the chicken, sprinkle with a little salt and cook until pretty much cooked through (about 10 minutes).

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

3. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, their oil, mushrooms (if using) and garlic to the pan, and cook through for a couple of minutes.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

4. Turn the heat down slightly and add the cream cheese. Stir through, adding a couple of splashes of water to loosen the sauce. Add the parmesan, chilli flakes and basil, and stir through.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

5. Add the courgette noodles, stir through, then pop the lid on and gently cook for around 5 minutes to soften the courgette.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

6. Serve straight away.

Creamy Sundried Tomato Chicken Zoodles - So full of flavour, this creamy chicken dish is a great low carb option. | thehecticcook.com

Do you see what I mean about the difference in photos? The ‘action shots’ were all taken indoors whilst cooking (obviously). Hopefully though my photos won’t put you off trying this recipe. It really is fab and super flavourful.

Happy cooking!

If you fancy making some other healthier dinners why not try my Pork Chow Mein or Healthy Crustless Quiche.

Pork Chow Mein - Gorgeous flavours make this healthy pork dish a dinner favourite | thehecticcook.com
  Healthy Crustless Quiche - A delicious quiche style dish without the crust and thus the calories, but all the taste! | thehecticcook.com

 

Quick & Easy Tuna Pasta Bake

Quick and Simple Tuna Pasta Bake – A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family.

I realise this isn’t my first recipe for Tuna Pasta Bake. If I’m going to be completely honest though, this version is just as good as my other recipe, Not Just Another Tuna Pasta Bake (I was breaking the mould with that title 😛 ) and is quicker to make. I do love the other version, the cheese sauce made separately adds a gorgeous cheesy creaminess to the dish. But this version is more my go-to. It ticks every box – quick, simple and everyone eats it. And I mean ‘everyone eats it’. We sit down as a family of 6 to this for dinner, and I get 6 clean plates back. Pretty much the Holy Grail of dinners.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

But before we get to the nitty-gritty (i.e. the recipe) I need to over-share a bit. This happened today:

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

Yup, the girls started school!!! This may very well be the most exciting day of my (somewhat unexciting) life! I’m a tad happy about this.

Quick & Easy Tuna Pasta Bake

Ingredients (Serves 4 adults)

400-450g pasta
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp garlic paste (or 2 cloves of garlic, crushed)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp of dried basil)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
3 tins of tuna chunks, drained
1 small tin of sweetcorn (or frozen sweetcorn)
100g soft (cream) cheese
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Notes:

• I used 450g to serve 2 adults and 4 kids, but we eat a lot! Use what you think you’ll need.
• I add some chilli flakes as it adds an extra warmth to the dish, but it’ll be absolutely fine to skip this ingredient. 
• I love the frozen fresh basil you can buy from Waitrose (see pic below) and use it in practically every Italian dish. I’ve not found similar anywhere else. If you don’t have fresh basil, dried is fine, just ensure it’s in-date as out-of-date basil has no flavour at all.

1. Boil a large pan of salted water and get your pasta on to cook – different shapes cook at different rates, just check it (i.e. taste it) to find out when it’s done. Once it has cooked, before you drain it, add your sweetcorn in (this is really if you’re using frozen sweetcorn, to defrost it, but it’ll make no difference if you’re using tinned)

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

Drain the pasta and return to the pan.

2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan gently warm the oil and add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes but be careful not to let it burn.

3. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil and chilli (if using), then the tuna. Stir and let cook gently for a few minutes. This isn’t cordon bleu cooking (and nothing is cooking from raw in the sauce), so timing is fairly flexible.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

4. Add the soft cheese and slowly let it melt into the sauce whilst stirring. At this point, preheat your grill to medium.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

5. Add your sauce to the cooked pasta (in the big pan is a good idea), mix it all together then pour the lot into a large dish. Top with cheese and pop under the preheated grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

Once you’ve removed this from the grill, serve it straight away. I’m sure it would reheat, but I’ve never had any left to test that theory.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

This is apparently so tasty that Alice was eating it off the floor whilst uttering the words “…pasta on the floor is so yummy…’. Erm, ok. Lovely child. Seriously though, if you were paying me money for this recipe (which considering its simplicity is, let’s face it, unlikely) I’d be tempted to offer money back guarantees if your family doesn’t like it. So let me know either way 😀

Happy cooking!

If you like this recipe you might also like my Sausage Meatball Spaghetti and Cheats Tuna Pie.

Sausage Meatball Spaghetti - Super simple midweek dinner that the whole family will enjoy | thehecticcook.com Cheats Tuna Pie - a really simple dish that goes down well with the kids | thehecticcook.com

S’mores Dip

S’mores Dip – Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate; a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion.

I first discovered S’mores Dip on Pinterest. Then my friend Marisa made it at a barbecue last year. That was it. I was in love. What’s not to love? Digestives; good. Melted chocolate; good. Gooey marshmallow; good. And the clincher? It’s the most friggin simple dessert to make. Like, really simple. This isn’t a recipe. I won’t insult your intelligence. It’s just a ‘fling-it-together-and-watch-the-magic-happen’ type affair.

It’s so good I’ve made it twice in the past week. On this occasion it was at our friends barbecue (hence the pics – sorry guys!). I originally wanted normal sized marshmallows but the online shop gave me the mini ones. No biggy. It worked just the same. Quantities will really depend on the size of your dish. Mine are a guide, but to be fair, it doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be awesome regardless. Believe me.


Ingredients

about 300-400g milk chocolate
about 100g marshmallows
digestives

I told you exact quantities are not required.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

  1. Break up the chocolate into the bottom of a microwavable dish. You need a decent layer. You want a good amount of chocolate with each scoop.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

2. Pop this in the microwave and heat in 30 sec bursts, stirring in between – the stirring is important, I managed to burn some chocolate the first time I made it, duh.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

3. Top with marshmallows. Again, don’t be stingy.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

4. Pop this under a medium grill (not too hot, you want the marshmallows to have a chance to melt before they burn) and keep a close eye. I erred on the side of ‘very toasted’ in order to ensure the marshmallows had melted. The darker bits taste the best anyway (notice I’ve avoided using the word burnt, ahem).

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

5. Serve alongside broken up digestives and let everyone dig in.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

You can make this in the oven – just break up the chocolate fairly small into an ovenproof dish, top with the marshmallows and shove in a medium hot oven (about 180°C) for about 10 minutes (but keep a close eye and remove before the marshmallow goes black!).

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

This is possibly one of the simplest desserts you can make, and its a proper crowd pleaser.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

Perfect for the likes of a barbecue, where everyone can just dig-on-in. Even the kids. It might will get messy, but heh ho.

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

Even The Husband likes this gooey, ridiculously sweet, dessert. And he’s a fussy pants 😉

S'mores Dip - Crunchy biscuit dipped into gooey marshmallow covered melted chocolate, a really easy go-to dessert for any occasion | thehecticcook.com

Happy cooking!

Healthy Pork Chow Mein

This Pork Chow Mein is not only healthy, the gorgeous fusion of flavours make it super tasty too.

I’ve already ‘Face-bragged’ so now I’m going to ‘Blog-brag’ – I’m just back from a weekend away. A whole weekend sans children (trumpets, fanfare). The Husband did the necessary childcare letting me escape for 2 whole nights (he’s a keeper). I went to see one of my best friends in the whole world – she knows way too much about me to piss off now. We drank copious amounts of alcohol, ate diet-unfriendly food, and spent an afternoon wandering around Ikea. We know how to live. It was awesome. So now I’m home feeling refreshed, and ready to take on the world – well my kids at least. I’ve already broken a couple of nails trying to scrape stickers off the new rug thanks to Lucy. But even still, I am a happy-mother-of-four-including-triplets.

So this recipe is a really old Slimming World recipe I came across yonks ago. I’ve followed Slimming World intermittently for the past 6 years. I really rate it as a diet-plan, I just can’t seem to follow it. Oh well. But this is a recipe I make a lot. It has a nice lightness to it, but is still really filling. You can use any meat you like. I often use chicken, but on this occasion had pork in the freezer. Beef would also work really well.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp white wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, crushed / 4 tsp garlic paste
1 heaped tsp ginger paste
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
600g pork loin steaks, thinly sliced
4 dry egg noodle nests
1 tbsp oil (I used groundnut, but use whatever you have in the cupboard; vegetable, sunflower etc)
stir-fry veg of choice
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

It looks like quite a few ingredients, but it honestly takes no time to make, so don’t be put off.

1. Mix the light soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and 5 spice in a bowl.

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

2. Add the pork and leave to marinate for around 20 minutes (use the time to chop your veg).

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

3. Cook the egg noodles according to the packet instructions. I’ve stated a quantity, but use as many noodles as you think you need, depending on the appetites you’re feeding.

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

4. Heat the 1 tbsp of oil in a large wok. Add the pork (including the sauce) and cook over a medium high heat until almost cooked through (about 5 minutes).

Note:

The only thing I’ve changed from the original recipe is the 1 tbsp oil. Slimming World use the spray oils you get, which are ‘syn’ free, to reduce calories . Use whatever you’d rather – 1 tbsp oil is 6 syns. 

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

5. Add your veg – I used carrots, courgette, pepper and mushrooms – and cook for a further 5 minutes (or until the veg is as cooked as you like it).

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

6. Add the cooked noodles to the wok, plus the oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and sesame oil (this was in the original SW recipe and counts as 2 syns, so 1/2 syn per person). Stir through (2 forks are good for this) and cook for a further few minutes until everything is piping hot.

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

Pork Chow Mein | thehecticcook.com

7. Serve straight away.

Pork Chow Mein - Gorgeous flavours make this healthy pork dish a dinner favourite | thehecticcook.com

This is a really good dish to make on those weeknights when you don’t have much time, but fancy something healthy. You can change the quantities of meat and noodles to satisfy any size of appetite, and still keep it pretty healthy.

Pork Chow Mein - Gorgeous flavours make this healthy pork dish a dinner favourite | thehecticcook.com

Happy cooking!

 

Pork Chow Mein - Gorgeous flavours make this healthy pork dish a dinner favourite | thehecticcook.com

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:42]

Mars Bar Slice

Mars Bar slice – really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

The plague has come to the HC house. The plague I tell you. Well a crappy virus at least. My little germ factories (aka the children) brought it home originally. They all fell ill, one after the other, then both the Husband and I came down with it too. He’s been away with work though. I’m not sure what is worse. Being ill away from home, or being ill with 4 children to look after. I, at least had the cavalry (my mum) for a couple days which helped a lot. But all-in-all, it’s been a fairly miserable week for all of us.

So what could possibly make the week a little brighter? Well, lets start with this Mars Bar Slice. This is so friggin simple, but so ridiculously tasty. I can’t have this in the house as I tend to sneak a square every time I go into the kitchen (and I practically live in the kitchen). Aside: Does anyone else have to covertly eat sweet things, without their kids catching a whiff? – usually at the barest crinkle of a wrapper, or opening of a tupperware my 4 kids are on me like a pack of hyenas.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

This has become my favourite treat to take to parties and barbecues. I can throw it together in a morning, it’s so bloody simple, and yet folk seem to love it. It’s a crowd pleaser.

Before we start on the actual making of this slice, we need a serious chat about chocolate. Now I love most kinds of chocolate. I’m not really a chocolate snob. For baking I’ll use the supermarket own stuff because it is really tasty, cheap, and has no real distinctive flavour. As much as I love Cadbury, I find it’s unique flavour can be a bit overwhelming on certain cakes and traybakes. So more often than not, I would recommend using an unbranded milk chocolate. However. In this case I cannot over stress the need to use Galaxy chocolate to top this Mars Bar slice. Obviously both Mars Bar and Galaxy are the same brand, so using the same chocolate to add a thick chocolate coating to the top of the Mars Bar slice, properly takes them to the next level. It may sound insignificant. It is not. That is all.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Ingredients

9 Mars Bars, cut into small slices
170g unsalted butter, cubed
1tbsp golden syrup
170g Rice Krispies
390g Galaxy chocolate

Note: I use 9 Mars Bars because you can buy a pack of 9. If it’s cheaper to buy two packs of 4, that will be fine. The amount of Mars Bars can be variable, just don’t vary too far from 9 as you want your Mars Bar slice nice and chewy. Also, I use the 390g bar of Galaxy, hence the random quantity.

1. Melt the Mars Bar slices with the butter in a large bowl in the microwave.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

I do this in 30 second blasts, stirring in between. The Mars Bar will remain a little lumpy due to the nougat, but as long as all the butter is melted, you’re done. Add the syrup and stir in.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

2. Add the Rice Krispies and mix well.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Don’t do what I always do and forget that I need to use a bigger bowl.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

3. Once the mixture is mixed thoroughly (really mix it to ensure all the cereal is coated with chocolate), flatten the mixture into a lined tray. I use a 9″ square silicon tray, so I don’t have to line it. I find this is a good size for this amount of mixture.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

 

Refrigerate this for at least an hour to harden.

4. Break up the chocolate for the topping in a bowl, and melt it in the microwave (again, 30 second bursts).

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

 

Pour this over the tray of Mars Bar slice, sprinkle with some sprinkles to decorate if desired (who doesn’t need sprinkles in their life?), and pop back in the fridge to firm up – but not too long as it’s easier to slice if not rock solid.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

 

Slice and eat serve.

Mars Bar slice - really simple, incredibly tasty treat made from Mars Bars and rice cereal | thehecticcook.com

This tends to lose its ‘crunch’ the longer you keep it. So don’t keep it too long. Eat it. Eat it all.

Happy cooking!

 

Moroccan Meatballs

An alternative take on classic meatballs, with a Moroccan twist. A simple and quick meal, perfect for midweek, that will add some spice to your cooking repertoire without slaving over a hot stove for hours.

Christmas has come and gone, and the goose is still fat. Oh dear. Anyone else ready to cut their wrists this January? I have limited willpower at the best of times, but during the festive season, what little willpower I do have, ups and scarpers off on holiday. So here we are (again), trying to lose some poundage. This means that baking in the HC house is out-of-bounds, and dishes are of a much healthier persuasion. No cheese sauces; no pastry; limited carbs… Bloody dull, but when needs must (cries silently into her vegetable soup…).

I’ve made a deal with myself to get blogging more frequently this year, so for about the first month at least, my servings will be on the less calorific side – I can usually manage a month, then it all goes pitifully downhill. Watch this space. So no macaroni cheese; no cheese & bean pastry; no homemade pizza etc etc. You’ll know the diet is over when pudding starts reappearing.

This is a recipe I’ve been making for many years. It’s nigh on impossible to find low fat lamb mince, so if you’re being religious about your healthy eating you might want to buy some lamb leg steaks and blitz them in a food processor. I’m never that religious (can we start to see my problem?) so regular lamb mince does just fine. These meatballs are a lovely Moroccan twist on the usual, and a really quick and simple dish to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4 adults)

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp clear honey
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
50g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
500g lamb mince
cous cous to serve

1. In a large pan heat the oil, then add the onion and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft and golden.

DSC_0222

 

2. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the ground cumin, the honey, lemon juice, tomatoes, stock cube and 300ml of boiling water. In most recipes I would tend to use bottled lemon juice as I always have some in the fridge, but this recipe requires zest, so only a real lemon would do.

DSC_0223

3. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer, uncovered whilst you prepare the meatballs.

DSC_0225

4. In a bowl moisten the breadcrumbs with the milk – I often have a small bag of breadcrumbs at the bottom of the freezer but on this occasion I didn’t, so had to blitz a piece of bread. I tend to also freeze the ends of bread for times like this. Saves waste too.

DSC_0228

To the breadcrumbs mix in 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon, the lemon zest and the mince. Season well.

DSC_0231

5. Shape this mix into approximately 32 small meatballs and drop them into the simmering sauce. Cover your pan and simmer for about 5 minutes.

DSC_0234

DSC_0235

6. Remove the lid and simmer for about 10 minutes more (timings are fairly flexible here, you can leave it to simmer for longer, just keep an eye that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much – if it does, add a little water and pop the pan lid back on).

DSC_0240

7. Prepare the cous cous by adding hot stock to the cous cous in a bowl, and covering it with clingfilm for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Definitely use stock to make your cous cous, otherwise it’s fairly tasteless.

DSC_0237

DSC_0243

8. Serve your Moroccan meatballs on a bed of cous cous.

Moroccan Meatballs - a gorgeous alternative using the spices of Morocco | thehecticcook.com

On that note, I’m off out tonight so the Husband and the kids are getting pizza 😛

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]

Macaroni Cheese

A step-by-step guide to cooking this simple and delish family staple.

My girls turned four at the weekend. Four! Woo bloody hoo!! Four just seems better; more independent; almost human. Life is definitely getting easier. Let’s not get carried away, it’s not easy. Three young children constantly asking questions, wanting your attention simultaneously, fighting and squabbling over trivia. But we’re getting there (fist pumps the air).

We had a bit of a get-together to celebrate. I cooked some stovies and made a cake. The kids played pass-the-parcel (20 friggin layers of paper). And the adults drank wine. We didn’t take many photos, but the Husband took some of the girls blowing out the candles on their cake.

The Hectic Cook | thehecticcook.com

That’s the best one. Seriously. We do have 3 daughters. What’s that saying about if you want something doing right…?

Talking of my kids (seamless link), macaroni cheese is one of those dishes they get a fair bit. It’s an old faithful. Plus I always have the ingredients in the cupboard. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this recipe. Many of you will have your own recipe, it’s a classic, and you’ll possibly make it differently. But this is how my mum taught me to make macaroni cheese. So this is how I do it.

DSC_0393

Ingredients (Serves 2 adults / 4 kids)

200g macaroni
30g butter
30g plain flour
300ml milk
80g grated cheddar cheese, plus a little extra for the top
White pepper (optional)

Note:

These quantities can be easily doubled.

1. Cook the macaroni (or whatever type of pasta you wish/have). I find I have to add the macaroni to a boiling pan of slightly salted water, then give it a stir every few minutes to stop it all sticking to the bottom of the pan. It’ll take around 15 minutes.

DSC_0388

2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese ready to go before you start to make the sauce, then there’s no fear of sauces burning.

3. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir to fully incorporate (to make a roux).

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Let this cook for a few minutes to cook the flour.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

4. Start to add the milk. I tend to add a bit at a time and stir it into the roux. Use a whisk to stir your sauce as it’ll get rid of any lumps that might arise, but take a spoon once around the edge of the pan after you’ve added all of the milk in case there’s some solid mixture lurking at the bottom.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken. This should all be done on a medium heat, and don’t leave it for any length of time as the sauce will burn to the bottom of the pot fairly quickly (if WW3 breaks out in the living room whilst making the sauce, just let them get on with it).

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

5. Once the sauce has thickened, take your pan off the heat and add the cheese. The amount of cheese is subjective. We like our macaroni cheese fairly cheesy, so 80g works for us. But add some and taste. Work out for yourself how cheesy you like it.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Stir in the cheese until it has melted, then add a little white pepper if desired (I often leave this out because if I’m heavy handed with it, the kids aren’t happy). Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce and transfer to a heatproof dish. Top with some extra grated cheese.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

6. Pop this under a hot grill for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top has melted and started to turn golden.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

And serve.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

I love the simplicity of macaroni cheese. And yet it’s bloody tasty. You can serve it with sausages; with fish fingers; stir through gammon or bacon; or eat it blissfully on its own. However you serve it, just one word of warning. Don’t save leftovers. Second day macaroni cheese is totally boggin’.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

 

Happy cooking!