Light Chicken Caesar Salad

Like many more people than you would think, I struggle with cheese. It breaks out my skin, it upsets my digestive system, it just doesn’t work. So I set out to make a no-Parmesan, low carb, delicious salad that was perfect on the go, which would satisfy even a work day lunch craving for something tasty. I know how hard it is to eat what you brought with you when it’s so much easier to go out to the deli and buy a panino or filled baguette. But we don’t squeeze into desses for wedding season that way, do we girls?!

You can make this guy with anything you like, but this particular one used my lemon garlic roast chicken, home-baked tortilla chips and roasted peperonata. I cheated with the dressing, though, because I just can’t look past Pizza Express House Dressing!

I made this using:

A few good-sized leaves of Cos or Romaine lettuce

A small carrot or half a large carrot

A 4-5 inch piece of cucumber

6-8 strips of peperonata, or sliced raw peppers

Sliced roast chicken, but any protein would work well

A small handful of tortilla chips or croutons

A smal dip bowl or splash of your favourite dressing. 

  
Slice and layer the vegetables, as you’d like, either onto a bowl or plate or into a sealable plastic container if you’re taking it out with you. Layer the chicken on top. Pour dressing into a small bowl or take our dressing container and seal with a lid or cling film pulled tightly. Wrap up or separately pack your tortilla chips so they stay crisp. And remember your cutlery! 

Roasted Peperonata

I couldn’t resist these bright little beauties in the supermarket and thought they’d make perfect chilled roasted peppers for salads. You don’t think they look much once they’re out of the oven, but sliced and stored away in the fridge, they last longer than you think and are so versatile for sandwiches and pizzas too.

The ideal way to create these is with a gas hob or blow torch in a pinch, but alas my hob is electric so I thought I would try to recreate these using my humble oven. And all is well! This would work with large peppers too; I just wanted to try it with these little ones. 

 
You will need:

As many peppers as you’d like

A tablespoon or so of olive oil

A baking tray covered in kitchen foil

An oven preheated to about 200C

1. Pour the oil onto the kitchen foil covered tray and put in the oven for around 5 minutes to let the oil heat up.

2. Remove from the oven carefully, tip the tray a little in each direction to let the oil spread out. Grab each pepper by the stalk, roll in the oil and then lay on the tray. 

3. Put the tray back in the oven and roast for at least 15 minutes – half an hour if you’re using full size peppers, checking every now and again. You want the outsides to be charred and the insides to be soft, so turn them over once they have started to blacken on top. 

  

4. When you’re happy they’re done, stick them all in a plastic or paper bag and tie or roll over the top. The idea is to create an environment for them to steam in, which will allow the skins to steam off, leaving the flesh ready to slice. 

 
5. Leave to steam for 10 to 15 minutes then start the process of rubbing away the skins. The flesh should pull apart easily as well, letting you scoop out the stalk and seeds. I find it easiest to get them skinned and tidy before laying them all out on the board to slice.

 
6. Slice and set aside in the fridge for use as you wish. You can even add some additional oil and seasoning if that’s what you like. These keep well in a container for a few weeks or longer in a sterilised jar. 

      

Home-Baked Tortilla Chips

This little discovery will change the way you eat nachos forevermore! Honestly, these are incredible! And, best of all, they are much much healthier than the corn ones you buy at the supermarket. Size, shape, flavouring and levels of oil are totally customisable – the world is your gherkin!

  
You will need: 

Plain or seeded flour tortillas 

Salt

A mixture of spices, I like chilli powder, paprika and cumin 

Olive oil

  
1. Cut up the tortillas with a pair of clean scissors, ideally into triangular shapes as far as possible. 

2. Toss the cut pieces in your chosen mixture of spices and salt.

3. Toss in olive oil and place on baking trays, ideally overlapping as little as possible. 

4. Put in the oven at about 170C for around 10 minutes, but keep checking on them as they get overdone quickly – and that isn’t good!

Serve however you want, but they’re great layered with cheese, melted in the oven, and served with salsa, guacamole and sour cream. 

Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

So last week I had a hell of a hankering for chicken Caesar salad. I decided, therefore, that with the great spring weather we’ve been having, it might be time to make salad for weekday lunches. The most cost-efficient way, it seems, to get a good batch of cooked chicken ready for the fridge, which can then be used with various different meals. I always prefer the brown meat on a chicken for eating cold so I figured a whole chicken would be the best way to go. 

  

You will need:

1 medium to large chicken

A good sized knob of butter

2 lemons

1 onion

4 or 5 cloves of garlic

Salt

Pepper

Paprika

Thyme

Parsley

1. Take your chicken out of the fridge around an hour before you’re ready to cook it. Half an hour if it’s a hot day. This helps it get to room temperature before cooking so it doesn’t get too much of a shock when you put it in the oven and to make sure your cooking times are as accurate as possible. 

2. After about 40 minutes, preheat the oven to 200C and start to prepare your bird for the oven. Pull off your garlic cloves and clean off the worst of the papery skin. Line a roasting tray with foil and skatter the garlic around, bearing in mind that it’s to end up sitting around where the chicken will eventually sit. Chop the onion into sixths or eighths and skatter that around as well, keeping one piece to the side for the cavity. 

3. Grate the zest of one of the lemons and place it in a small bowl or ramekin. Half one of the lemons and place it inside the cavity along with the last piece of onion. Quarter the other lemon and place around the side of the tray.

4. Add the seasoning and herbs to the lemon and add in the knob of butter. Carefully mash this around with a fork to distribute the flavourings throughout the butter. 

  

5. Opposite to the cavity, you will find loose skin feed under the bird inside the trussing string. Carefully loosen this out and open it up. Stick your hand inside and carefully separate the skin from the flesh at both sides of the breast with your fingers. You want to loosen this as far as you can fit your hand in, without tearing the skin. 

6. Take small amounts of the butter mixture and slide it under the skin at both sides, carefully massaging it up the way through the skin to try to cover the breast, reserving a small amount to rub on the outside. Tuck the skin back into the string and underneath the bird and rub the remaining butter all over the breast and legs. Toss over some more thyme and parsley.

  

7. Put in the centre of the preheated oven and immediately turn it down to 190C. Cook for 20 minutes then take it out of the oven, turn, and cover the breasts with tin foil. Cook for a further 20 minutes per lb, turning again halfway through before covering the whole tray with foil. 

8. Once your timer is up, remove from the oven and allow to rest. If you’re not confident it is fully cooked, stick a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh and ensure the juices run clear. If not, put back in the oven until they do when tested again. Carve if serving, or allow to cool a bit more before carving and picking the carcass. 

9. The cooking juices can be used to make a gravy or stock, but i drizzled them over the chicken to help it keep moist and full of flavour. Enjoy! 

  

Why Sundays are Made for Brunch

I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe for you today as i’m feeling extremely lazy and I still have a chicken to roast (you can have that one tomorrow, if you behave) and my Jillian Michaels workout to do and I’m struggling to move from the sunbeam I’m currently sitting in. 

Today I was in Glasgow with my Mum for shopping and so on which meant an early start (7am is ridiculous for a Sunday) then a train journey and a lot of walking. Normally, Sundays for me offer a decent lie in and a late breakfast of something that can only be called a cheat, like a bacon sandwich or eggs and buttered toast to last until dinner, so today we opted to have a lazy brunch at All Bar One in Glasgow. However, when we skipped off the train at 10am, we found that most of the shops were closed until 11. 

  

(Note, coffee photo was taken at Willows in Perth, not All Bar One, but it was just so pretty!).

No matter, we just went to brunch a little early and were entertained for a while by the South African waiter who frowned and joked with us when we said we’d prefer to wait til 11 so we could order mimosas. Eventually, we caved and ordered coffee, which came served with a shot glass of Smarties each (I’m not ashamed to say I ate both servings – note to self, don’t skip workout) before ordering Eggs Benedict at 11. Even after the Smarties, it was wolfed down, despite lacking its full complement of lemon. 

That kept me full til just about now. Is it just me, or do poached eggs and hollandaise taste much better when someone else is making them?!

  

There’s something wonderfully appropriate, for me, in the sociable self-indulgence of brunch (or even going out for a late breakfast) for starting off your Sunday. Must do it more often….

Ginger, Honey, Soy Baked Salmon

Hi everyone!

I’m finally back! I’m afraid I’ve been off the grid a bit recently preparing for a ridiculously hard pensions exam. At last, it’s over, and I can start spending my free time on things I actually like doing. Studying on top of a full time job is pretty difficult and exhausting, especially when you’re also trying to fit in your pre-summer workout whilst trying to eat fresh and healthy and not letting your home turn into a dive. 

Thankfully, I discovered this little recipe through a combination of googling and using what I had in the cup airs and fridge and it’s seen me through a good few evenings of fresh, tasty, light dinner. 

  

You will need:

1 salmon fillet per person

Marinade, also per person, so double, triple, quadruple as required 

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp runny honey

1 clove garlic

2 tsp grated ginger

chilli powder or flakes to taste, depending how much spice you like 

1 tsp lemon juice 

  

1. Grate the garlic and ginger. Mix together the other ingredients in a ramekin or bowl. 

2. If you have the time and/or inclination, put the salmon in a freezer or sandwich bag and marinate in the sauce for about 10-20 minutes. If you don’t, cover the salmon in the sauce and place it on a piece of tin foil as far ahead as you can manage. 

3. Bake at 180C for 8 minutes or so. If you don’t wrap it up, the honey should caramelise around the edges, but even if it doesn’t, this is delicious!

Serve with roasted vegetables or green beans and rice.