Bulgur and vegetable bake

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, so let me tell you about what I made for dinner last night. It’s vegetarian, very easy, and delicious! The amounts below were enough for dinner for two of us plus leftovers for my lunch today. I have a lot of leftovers, so it could possible be stretched to 4 people. As always, I apologise for my terrible photos!

Bulgur bake

You will need:
1-2 garlic cloves (believe it or not, the photo below is a single clove)
Oil or butter for frying
125g bulgur
Seasoning/herbs/spices of your choice
1 avocado
1 yellow pepper
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
100g cheese (I used Cheddar)
Handful of salted tortilla chips

Method:

1. Chop or crush the garlic, heat some oil or butter in a small pan and then fry the garlic in the butter for a few minutes.

garlic

2. Add the bulgur to the pan with the garlic and cook according to the packet instructions. Also add seasoning/spices at this point – I used dried chilli flakes, black pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano.

bulgur

3. While the bulgur cooks, chop your avocado and pepper.

pepper and avocado

4. Place the bulgur and garlic mix, pepper, avocado, kidney beans and tinned tomatoes in an oven proof dish and stir it all together.

kidney beans

5. Top with cheese then break up a handful of tortilla chips and scatter them over the top of the cheese.

unbaked bulgur bake

6. Bake for around 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the vegetables have had a chance to heat through, then serve. You could also add a dollop of sour cream on the side of your portion – I didn’t because I didn’t have any.

bulgur bake portion
Not very photogenic, but tastes delicious!

That’s it. Easy peasy. You could easily adapt it as well… use couscous or quinoa in place of the bulgur. Use different vegetables (chickpeas or different kinds of beans like haricot, black beans, whatever you want… courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), sweetcorn). You could also add chicken or another meat (cook it first). It’s a really versatile dish!

40 before 40: progress report 2

In exactly two months it’s my birthday. I will be 36. Closer to 40 than 30. (And still childless, but that’s not a post for today.) It seemed like as good an occasion as any for another progress report on my 40 before 40 challenge. Not that I’ve achieved a great deal since March, but whatever. We’re doing this anyway.

Number 5: Read the rest of the books from the BBC Big Read that I didn’t manage before turning 35

That’s a total of 63 books, and last time I had read 5 of those. Since then I’ve read two more – Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy and The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – to give me a total of seven. Only 56 left to go then.

Number 14: Read 25 non-fiction books

I have read precisely one – Mr Briggs’ Hat: The True Story of a Victorian Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun. Yeah, I’m not great at reading non-fiction.

Number 14: Read a book published in each year of my life ( =one book each from 1983 until 2023)

Last time, I had read books from 20 years. Now I’m up to 23. You’d think this one would be easy but I keep either reading relatively recent books with publication dates between 2016 and 2019 – years I’ve already completed – or it turns out the books were published in 1978 or something, which is too early. You can see all the ones I’ve read here.

Number 16: Try 10 foods or dishes that I haven’t had before

I managed to eat two new-to-me foods in Spain! In Ronda we went for tapas and I tried oxtails. I’ve had oxtail soup before but this was my first time trying them not all blended into liquid. And in Cádiz Jan and I both tried a cold garlic soup, which is an Andalusian speciality. Both were delicious. With the one I had eaten last time around that leaves me with seven more new foods to try.

Oxtails
Oxtails and chips

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. I’m hoping to have crossed off a big chunk of the books for each year of my life by my next check in. Wish me luck!

 

40 before 40: progress report #1

St Chrischona TV tower

Since it is somehow 13th March already, which makes it exactly 5 months until my birthday and the end of year one of my 40 before 40, I thought I would give you a little progress report. Not that I’ve done much in the seven months since my last birthday, but I do have a few things to report on.

Number 2: Beat Jan at mini golf

Jan always beats me at mini golf and I was determined to beat him at least once. Amazingly, I actually managed this just a couple of weeks after starting the challenge. You can read about it here.

Number 5: Read the rest of the books from the BBC Big Read that I didn’t manage before turning 35

At the start I had 63 left to read and since last August I have finished five of them. Outlander, Trainspotting, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Woman in White and The World According to Garp.

Number 14: Read a book published in each year of my life ( =one book each from 1983 until 2023)

So far I have read books from 20 years, which is almost half (I need 41 in total). You can see them all here. Of course I have read multiple books for some years, but only the first one counts.

Number 16: Try 10 foods or dishes that I haven’t had before

I ate veal kidneys in Yverdon-le- Bains. Admittedly by accident because Jan didn’t know the French word for kidney so I only knew I was getting veal something. But it still counts!

Number 22: Visit a new place in Switzerland for each letter of my first name

So far, I have visited four – Burgdorf, Einsiedeln, Lugano and Yverdon-les-Bains. Not in that order. I actually went to Yverdon-les-Bains first. Nothing like beginning at the end 😉

So only one thing actually crossed off but quite a few in progress. Not a bad start. Obviously I won’t be able to complete number 14 until the year I turn 40 because I can’t read books that haven’t even been published yet 😉 but hopefully I will have a few more things completed the next time I check in… whenever that might be.

Think I’ll go and eat (meal) worms

In May of this year, the sale of insects as food for human consumption was approved in Switzerland, with one Swiss supermarket chain (Coop in case you’re interested) announcing that they would be selling insect burgers. Jan got very excited when I sent him an article about the burgers and announced that we would have to try them. I was maybe slightly less enthusiastic, but I’ve always said I’ll try anything once, so…  The launch of the burgers actually ended up being delayed due to a lack of approved insects, but eventually, in August, I saw an announcement that they were going on sale. Only at select branches, as it turned out, and not at our local one. A colleague of Jan’s told him that the big supermarket behind the train station was selling them, but every time Jan went they didn’t have any. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, he came home with this:

insect burgers

I opened up the packaging to reveal a burger-like entity:

insect burger

We fried them in the pan according to the instructions:

Then served with some Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) and cherry tomatoes.

To be honest, they didn’t taste any different to a veggie burger. Jan bought a “spicy” variety (he isn’t sure whether a “normal” version exists though since he just grabbed a pack) and they reminded me a bit of a spicy bean burger a vegetarian friend used to eat when I was about 10. Would I eat them again? Probably, although they aren’t the cheapest.

Originally, this was going to be the end of this post… but then we went to the autumn fair at the weekend and discovered the same company that makes the burgers selling their insect wares there. (And if you’re squeamish you may not want to look at the next few photos…)

Not only were they selling burgers, but also “Heuschrecke” skewers – which I thought were grasshoppers but apparently it’s the general term for grasshoppers, crickets and locusts and these particular ones were actually Eurasian Migratory Locusts. So there you go. I wasn’t brave enough to try a skewer, but we ordered a locust burger each. They also had actual, real, recognisable insects to try:

While we waited for our burgers, we got a little “trial plate” of insects to share. I ate a mealworm first, thinking they looked less scary (no legs!). Considering I find giant prawns creepy with their eyes looking at me you can imagine how I felt about locusts! But I managed to eat the weird shrimps on sticks in Taiwan (scroll to the end of the linked post to see them) so after Jan ate a locust and claimed it tasted nicer than the mealworms I gave it a go. Verdict: I’m not about to start eating dried insects as a snack any time soon but they didn’t actually taste too bad. The salted mealworms reminded me of the inside of a pistachio shell (you know the bit that sometimes comes off with the nut when you take it out?) while the locusts didn’t taste of a great deal, really. Jan preferred the locusts. And for any doubters 😉 here is photographic evidence that I actually ate a mealworm (or at least put one in my mouth):

go and eat worms

After a while, the burgers turned up. They looked a lot like the mealworm ones we had from the supermarket. A bit thicker maybe? And they came with locusts for decoration, of course 😉

Again, they tasted like veggie burger and the only identifiable thing I could see inside was tiny cubes of carrot. If nobody had told me they actually contained insects I would have had no idea! At 12 francs it costs exactly the same as a beef burger does at the stands along the river in summer, so fairly normal there.

So, would you eat insects (or have you already)? Only in burger form or would you be brave enough to try the skewer? Are insects the food of the future?
And, a question for any vegetarians and vegans out there: how do insects fit in? Do you think eating a locust or mealworm burger is the same as eating a beef burger or pork chop? Or is eating insects okay? (I am genuinely interested so please no arguments/riots in the comments! Constructive criticism is, of course, always welcome – and by constructive I don’t mean telling me I’m evil for eating things with eyes!)

Recent doings #21

Once again it’s that time of the month where I tell you all about what went on the one before. For August, it’s going to be a very holiday-filled one, because the first two weeks of the month were uninteresting and honestly I can’t really remember most of what I did, other than trying to cram in packing in the evenings leading up to our going away and wondering why I didn’t take the Friday off for precisely that purpose…

Anyway, let’s get to it.

whats-new

Reading. I read six books in August – or technically read 5 and finished reading one. Four were for Erin‘s reading challenge. I will tell you about all of them on Tuesday.

Listening to. Welcome to Night Vale! I actually took the audio book on holiday with me but we thought the hire car didn’t have a CD player so we listened to episodes of the podcast. Then, with only a few days left, I discovered a CD player hiding in the glove compartment. What?! So we’ve now made it through the first seven CDs and we’re nearly caught up on the podcast!

Watching. Something my dad had recorded about restoring old buildings. Before our holiday I’m not sure I watched anything…

Eating. I don’t remember what I ate before we went away. Probably lots of ice cream. On holiday I ate all the British foods I could cram in, although surprisingly no Monster Munch. Actually, very few crisps – just some Hula Hoops. I’m awful at food photography, but here’s a venison sausage with black pudding mash. Yes, it’s Bambi. And it was delicious.

venison sausage

Drinking. Cider in a multitude of flavours – the rhubarb one was nicest. I also treated myself to a can of Dandelion and Burdock and some point.

Buying. While we were on holiday I pretty much only bought food so I’m trying to think back to what I bought before that. Umm, a few books for the bonus round of the reading challenge and a T-shirt for my holiday are all I can think of.

Celebrating. My friend’s 30th birthday. She turned 30 at the beginning of the month, but had her celebration together with her mum over the August bank holiday weekend. Oh, and my birthday as well (I genuinely almost forgot about that!)

Travelling. To Britain, but you know that already 😉 We also travelled to Überlingen on Lake Constance to see Jan’s mum and her partner and did some driving around in Switzerland for my birthday.

Meeting. Fellow blogger Kezzie and her husband, who happened to be in Northumberland at the same time as us. They are both lovely, lovely people.

Admiring. Puppies! So many puppies… some literally puppies (but all dogs are puppies, right?). I swear every dog owner in England was visiting the same places we were. I even got to pet a few (dogs, not owners!).

Cross stitching. Birthday cards for my godson, another friend’s son and my little brother, as well as many, many PostPals children, plus a new baby card for a friend. I feel like every time I blink someone either gives birth or announces a pregnancy.

rocket card

As usual, I am linking up with Kristin and Gretch.

Have you been doing anything interesting recently?

10 day 10-a-day challenge

I recently read a post by Kezzie in which she challenged herself to see whether she ate 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, based on recent news that scientists say we should actually be eating 10-a-day and not 5 as previously advised.  That post inspired me to take the challenge myself and see whether I manage 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (although I was already fairly sure I wasn’t even reaching the originally advised 5!).

Coincidentally, I had read the news myself a few days before seeing Kezzie’s post and, after a discussion with Jan, ended up on the NHS website reminding myself of what constitutes a portion. Prior to that, I had assumed we were at least reaching the 5 on some days thanks to the amount of beans and chickpeas we eat, so I was horrified to discover that beans and pulses are only allowed to count as one portion per day no matter how many you eat! I had already decided then that I would need to start relying less on beans, but for the purposes of this experiment I stuck with our “normal” meals to give you an accurate picture of how we eat. So now you get to see just how awful my diet actually is…

Quick note: I’m not going to get into ridiculous fractions, so where an amount was less than 1 portion but more than half I will count it as half a portion. For instance, 7 cherry tomatoes is a portion so if I only had 5 I’ll call it half a portion.

I didn’t take photos of all my meals, so the collages are just a random selection. You can try to match the photos to the meals if you like 😉
I will also apologise in advance for the quality of my photography… I’m no good at food photos! Right, without any further ado, here we go:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Greek style yoghurt with honey and walnuts -> 0 portions
Lunch: Scrambled eggs with 5 cherry tomatoes -> ½ portion
Dinner: Tuna pasta bake containing:
– chickpeas and kidney beans (only allowed to count as one portion all together. Booo!) -> 1 portion
– Courgette -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> third of a tin, so maybe 1½ portions?

Total: 4 portions

Day 2:
(I was in the office on this day so breakfast and lunch were purchased on the way and Jan was in charge of dinner!)

Breakfast: Chocolate croissant -> 0 portions
Lunch: “Veggie” baguette with avocado and feta -> I think it was ½ an avocado, so 1 portion
Dinner: Bread with cheese and ham -> 0 portions
Snacks: Dried apples and berries -> ½ portion
2 mini cakes -> 0 portions
Capri-Sun (contains fruit juice but definitely doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 3:

Breakfast: Nothing (naughty!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover tuna pasta bake (see above) -> 3½ portions
Dinner: Chilli con carne made with
– Kidney beans (not allowed to count because I had beans earlier in the day) -> 0 portions
– Red pepper -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> half a tin, 2 portions?
Served in whole wheat tortillas with cheese and iceberg lettuce -> hopefully ½ portion
Snacks: Sweet potato crisps (sweet potato counts as veg. but I hardly had any crisps) -> o portions
Orange juice (can only count once no matter how much you drink!) -> 1 portion

Total: 7 portions

Day 4:
(We had visitors this day and dinner was at a restaurant)

Breakfast: Toast with jam (fruity but doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Sausage roll -> 0 portions
Carrot, orange and ginger smoothie -> 1 portion
Dinner: Pizza with courgette and aubergine -> maybe ½ a portion
Panna cotta with a few bits of fruit -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 5:

Breakfast: Bread rolls with jam and chocolate spread -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Bread roll with cheese -> 0 portions
Dinner: Roasted butternut squash risotto
– Butternut squash -> 3 portions (it was a big vegetable!)
– Leek -> possibly ½ a portion
Snacks: Magnum ice cream (and I regret nothing!) -> 0 portions
Apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 5½ portions

Day 6:

Breakfast: Toast with jam -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Some just-add-water couscous thing -> 0 portions
Mango -> 1½ portions (I think)
Dinner: Corned beef hash. I always make it with baked beans, and this time I added borlotti beans as well to stretch it a bit since there weren’t as many potatoes left as I thought. -> 1 portion
Snacks: Mini packet of gummi bears -> 0 portions
Chocolate chip cookie -> 0 portions

Total: 3½ portions

Day 7:

Breakfast: Porridge (apple & cinnamon flavour, but not enough apple to count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish with potato croquettes -> 0 portions
Dinner: Pepper stuffed with a quinoa/bulgar wheat mix and feta cheese -> 2 portions
Served with salad consisting of the remaining feta cheese plus:
Lamb’s lettuce -> ½ portion
Apple -> ½ portion
Avocado -> 1 portion

Total: 4 portions

Day 8:

Breakfast: Nothing -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover stuffed pepper -> 2 portions
Orange juice -> 1 portion
Dinner: Sausage casserole containing:
Cannellini beans -> 1 portion
Carrots -> 1 portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 2 portions?
Served with sweet potato mash (counts as veg. Yay!) -> 2 portions
Snack: Chocolate brownie (and now you also know why I’m failing to lose weight…) -> 0 portions

Total: 9 portions

Day 9:

Breakfast: Chia & cashew muesli bar (contains raisins, but not enough) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish (yes, again!) -> 0 portions
Crackers with hummus -> 1 portion
Dinner: Chicken enchiladas made with;
Kidney beans (don’t count because of hummus for lunch) -> 0 portions
Courgette -> ½ portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 1 portion

Total: 2½ portions

Day 10:

Breakfast: Crackers (what? It’s a perfectly good breakfast 😉 ) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Orange juice -> 1 portion
Leftover enchiladas. I had half the amount I’d eaten the night before but I then had the other half for dinner since Jan didn’t eat his before he left for the weekend soooo….
Dinner: Leftover enchiladas. Dinner + lunch enchiladas combined -> 2½ portions
I ate my dinner enchilada with an avocado -> 2 portions
Snacks: An apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 6½ portions

So, what have I learned? Well, nothing that I didn’t already suspect: most of the time I fail to get up to 5 portions, never mind 10! I actually managed 5 portions 4 times (less than half the days *sigh), and all of those days were actually over the 5 (although once it was only over by half a portion!). I came closest to 10 portions on day 8 – should have replaced that brownie with an apple 😉

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I drank more juice this week than I usually would because I bought for breakfast when we had guests and I needed to get it used up, so apart from on day 3 (when I had a small carton) every day that I had juice I would normally have had one portion less. Usually I tend to shy away from juice because I feel calories that are used for drinks are wasted calories (mostly I drink water and tea – the tiny bit of milk in tea doesn’t make much difference to my calories). Juice is an easy way to get an additional portion though, so maybe I should consider drinking juice every day and getting extra exercise to make up for it? I do sometimes drink smoothies

So, what can I do to improve my fruit and veg intake? Well, apart from consistently drinking a glass of juice, I need to replace some of my pulses with other vegetables since I now know hardly any of them are allowed to count. There goes my lazy tuna pasta bake that doesn’t require me to chop any vegetables *sigh*. I could also replace most of my snacks with fruit – in February I ate an apple with almond paste most days, and that’s something I should probably try to get back into. An apple a day and replacing half the beans in meal with another vegetable would add two an extra portions and hopefully push those days that I do exceptionally badly at least up to the 5 mark! Finally, during these 10 days I ate leftovers for lunch three times (because Jan had forgotten to take them to work with him – which is why I ended up being left with 2 day old tuna pasta bake!). So another idea would be to make enough dinner for both of us to have some the next day and have leftovers for lunch more often instead of shoving some fish in the oven or eating a convenience meal containing few or no vegetables.

Do you eat 10 portions of vegetables a day? Would you be willing to take this challenge?

Check out Kezzie’s post for an example of someone doing a much better job at healthy eating 😉
And if you’ve actually read all this please feel free to award yourself a virtual gold star!

Avocado and Sheep’s Cheese dip/spread

Good morning! I hope those of you who celebrate Valentine’s day had a good one? We don’t really bother with it (except that one time Jan felt bad about ignoring our anniversary and got me flowers. This year I got chocolates for our anniversary, so not Valentine’s gift ;-)) so it was just a normal day. We both worked, then I did laundry and cooked. Jan came home at around 7:30, I ate at around 8 (he faffed around on the laptop doing work stuff and only ate the food I had placed in front of him half an hour later! Standard.) then we played Scrabble, in English, and I lost both times. How is he better at my native language than I am?! I had almost all vowels for most of the second game so I’m claiming that as my excuse! I did give him a chocolate heart in the morning and he shared it with me after dinner, but that was the extent of our “celebrating”.
Anywaaaay… you didn’t come him for an entirely uninteresting account of a random Tuesday in my life! Today I wanted to share a recipe with you, although it has so few ingredients/steps that calling it a “recipe” almost feels like an exaggeration… Remember that time I made pancakes with avocado and goat’s cheese spread? Welll, I liked the spread so much that I decided to make it again, only this time use it as a dip. And with sheep’s cheese, because that’s what I had. If you like avocado, goat’s/sheep’s cheese and garlic, you will love this. If you don’t like one or more ingredients or you’re vegan, I apologise. Come back another day for a post that might interest you.

dip

Above you see an awful photo of dip. Apologies! There’s a reason I’m not a food blogger. Anywaaaay…

You will need:
1 avocado
1 pack of sheep’s (or goat’s cheese) – give or take
1 clove of garlic
Seasoning of your choice (salt, pepper, etc.)

Take all your ingredients (except the seasoning), place them in a container and mash them all together with a fork until mostly smooth. Season to taste – I used a little bit of salt, a LOT of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Serve with raw vegetables for dipping, or spread on pancakes (or crackers… or toast). Or just eat it with a spoon if you feel that way inclined 😉

We had it alongside bell peppers stuffed with bulgur wheat (part of the sheep’s cheese went in the bulgur mixture, but if I wasn’t using the cheese for other things I would have put the whole block in the dip).

dippepper

Et voilà – world’s easiest recipe showcased in world’s worst photo (seriously guys… how do you all photograph food so well?!)