Three quick, easy and healthy recipes for the kitchen-phobe

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Cooking is not one of my strong points. Ask Mr 50Sense about my culinary skills and he’ll promptly tell you to stay well away. I burn pizza (apparently the black stuff is charcoal, not calcium deposits) and even my Weetabix ends up this hot mushy mess.

Thankfully, Mr 50Sense is a great cook, but now that he’s working full-time and I’m not, it doesn’t feel fair relying on him all the time. So, reluctantly, I’ve started venturing into the kitchen.

There are three recipes I’ve now “mastered” that are easy to cook, filling and, more importantly at this time in my life, healthy. Two use bulgar wheat, which shows I’m not very adventurous once I find something I like, and one is more baking than cooking. But I’m claiming them all as culinary masterpieces!

And even Mr 50Sense has eaten them.

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Spicy Cajun chicken quinoa

I picked this up on the BBC’s website and use it for lunches. It freezes fine. I double the amount of Cajun seasoning and usually add more veg to it – peppers, carrots and so on. Oh, and roast the onions and any veg. It makes it much nicer.

This serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning

  • 100g quinoa (I use bulgar wheat)

  • 600ml hot chicken stock

  • 100g dried apricots, sliced

  • 1/2x 250g pouch ready-to-use Puy lentils (I cheat and use half a tin of normal ones. Any idea what to do with the other half of a tin? Leave me a comment!!)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges or quarters

  • 1 bunch chopped spring onions

  • small bunch finely-chopped coriander

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

  2. Coat the chicken with the Cajun spice and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin.

  3. If you’re roasting other veg, put that on a separate tray otherwise you get a soggy mess!

  4. Bake for 20 mins until the chicken is cooked (and the veg if you’re doing this). Put it to one side.

  5. While that’s cooking, cook the quinoa in the chicken stock for 15 mins until its tender, adding the apricots and lentils for the final 5 mins. If you’re using bulgar wheat, put in a bowl and add enough chicken stock so the water is just covering the wheat (about 1/2cm of water over the top) Then cover and wait for 15-20 mins until all the water is absorbed. Fluff up with a fork. Meanwhile, add the lentils and apricots to the rest of the chicken stock and leave for 5 mins.

  6. Drain the quinoa or the lentils/apricots and put in a large bowl with the chicken. Mix together.

  7. If you don’t want to roast your veg, soften the onions in the olive oil for 10-15 mins while the quinoa or bulgar wheat is cooking.

  8. Mix everything together. Add finely-chopped coriander if you wish (I leave it out).

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Bulgur Salad with Cucumbers, Red Peppers, Chickpeas, Lemon and Dill

This is gorgeous and ideal for taking to the office. I make enough for three days – I find it goes a little soppy after that and while you can freeze it, it’s not the same.

This serves 4 for a light lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 100g bulgur wheat

  • 1 red onion

  • 1 red pepper

  • 1 cucumber

  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped fresh dill

  • 1/3 cup finely-chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 can chickpeas

  • Juice of 1-2 lemons

  • 3tbs extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 bunch finely-chopped coriander (I use it here!)

Method:

  1. Cook bulgar wheat following instructions above.

  2. Chop up all your vegetables.

  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

  4. Mix bulgar wheat and rest of ingredients. Season and add more lemon or olive oil if required for taste.

  5. Serve cold and enjoy. (Couldn’t get easier!)

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Liz Earle’s Super Menopause Tea Loaf

I adore this. It’s filled with so many goodies and really packs in the phytoestrogen thanks to the flaxseeds. I have a slice for breakfast, toasted, and it’s sooooo good. It’s also great for freezing. (Liz’s website is a great source of info for menopause and living healthily, too.)

Be prepared – you have to soak some of the ingredients for at least 8 hours. I always forget!

Ingredients

  • 4 dried dates

  • 4 dried figs

  • 4 dried apricots

  • 5 Brazil nuts

  • 6 walnuts

  • 2 tbsp flaxseeds (these are also called linseeds)

  • 150ml tea (Liz recommends Earl Grey. I use Chi Fit!)

  • 1 grated carrot

  • 1 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 150g spelt flour (try your zero-waste shop)

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 medium egg, beaten

  • 125ml soya milk

Method

  1. Either the night before or around 8 hours before you start baking, chop up the dates, figs, apricots and nuts and mix them in a bowl with the flaxseeds. Pour over the tea, cover and leave to soak. After 8 hours you have lovely, gooey fruit, nuts and flaxseeds and no tea left.

  2. Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. and line a 450g loaf tin with baking parchment. (That’s very important – a “friend” had trouble getting her first effort out of the tin…)

  3. Take the fruit, nut and seed mixture and add the carrot, coconut, cinnamon, flour, baking powder, egg and soya milk. Mix well. Very well.

  4. Spoon into the loaf tin (don’t forget the paper!) and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

  5. Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for another 30-45 minutes. I find I sometimes need to give it a little longer – insert a skewer into the loaf and if it comes out clean, you’re good to go.

  6. Lift out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

I’M ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR EASY RECIPES. LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY FOR A KITCHEN-PHOBE LIKE ME! LEAVE ME A MESSAGE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.

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