30/07/2007

Simple fruit smoothies

Serves: 2-3

Several pieces of fruit, such as peaches, strawberries, apricots, etc (2-3 types), fresh or frozen
About 250ml pure fruit juice, either fresh or from a packet or concentrate
A few ice cubes

Method:
Put the juice in a blender (liquidiser), then the ice cubes and any frozen fruit. Wash the fruit, remove any stones or stems, and chop into smallish pieces, then add to the blender. Switch on for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth and well-mixed. Add extra juice if it's too thick and blend for a few seconds more. Refrigerate until needed. Serve in tall glasses, with extra ice and straws if liked.

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What can be better for a hot summer's day than a cold fruit smoothie? A year ago I tried looking for recipes online, but the majority of them contained either milk, or yogurt, or bananas. My teenage son gets 'glue ear' if he has any dairy products, and soya milk just doesn't taste right in a fruit drink. And he loathes bananas. Finally I was given a wonderful book - The Big Book of Juices and Smoothies - and learned that a recipe isn't really needed. You just choose fruit that you happen to have - even if it's getting a bit squashy - and add it to juice and ice. No sugar, no diary products, no additives.... just pure fruit goodness.

We particularly like smoothies made with peaches and strawberries, and freshly squeezed orange juice. When strawberries are in season, I buy a lot and open freeze them, so I can add a handful straight from the freezer to a smoothie. Four peaches and about eight strawberries gives an excellent blend.

Apricots and raspberries are a good mixture, too, in either orange juice or apple juice. Raspberries, too, can be frozen. And, of course, if you can't get any fresh fruit and don't have any in the freezer, you can always use canned fruit (in pure juice of course, not syrup) although it doesn't have the health benefits of fresh/frozen fruit.

Oh, and if your family does happen to like bananas, they make an excellent addition to a smoothie, in combination with almost any other fruit.

I tend to make a smoothie in the afternoon during the summer, while preparing our evening meal, and then keep it in the fridge for an hour or two, to ensure it gets really cold. We drink it after our meal, instead of a dessert.

One of the great things about smoothies is that you can use fruit that's going a bit soft and squashy, so long as it still smells all right and doesn't have any mould on it. I often buy bags of fruit that's on special low offer prices as it's a day or two old, since riper fruit are better for smoothies.

If you happen to have any left over, you can pour it into ice lolly (US: popsicle) moulds, and freeze. Much better for a quick snack than commercially made lollies or ice pops!

11/07/2007

Stove-top barbecue chicken

Serves 4
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 finely chopped onion
1/3 cup tomato ketchup
1/3 cup water
4 tsp vinegar
4 tsp dark soft brown sugar
1.5 tsp worcestershire sauce (optional)
.5 tsp chili powder
600g skinned chicken or turkey pieces

Method:
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan, and cook the onion until soft. Stir in all the other ingredients except the chicken and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, spoon the sauce over. Bring to the boil again then reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the meat, to coat in the sauce, then simmer for 20-30 minutes more.

Alternatively, if you have a slow cooker, you can leave out the oil; double the ingredients and place the onions and chicken on the bottom of the crockpot (make sure the chicken is fully thawed if it was frozen) then mix the other ingredients together and spoon over. Cook for an hour on 'high' and then simmer on 'medium' for 6-8 hours. This works well with boneless, skinless chicken thighs which become very tender when cooked in the crockpot.

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I'm not entirely sure why this is called 'barbecue' chicken, since it's not cooked anywhere near a barbecue. Maybe the sauce tastes somewhat like some barbecue sauces (nicer, though, as there are no artificial taste-enhancers). It's a simple meal to make in a short time, and tastes good. Worcestershire sauce unfortunately has some additives that may be migraine triggers, but if this is not a problem, add it to taste.

We usually serve this with baked jacket potatoes or potato wedges, but it would probably go equally well with rice or pasta, or even bread. Broccoli and sweetcorn go particularly well with this, but you could serve any vegetables or salad.