Category Archives: baking

A duo of vegetarian TVP recipes plus giveaway

Regular readers may remember that I made some delicious healthy chocolate puddings earlier this year using ingredients I received free to review from Buy Whole Foods Online. I have now received some more products free to review from their online shop. This time I received two types of TVP (textured vegetable protein) in the formats of mince and chunks.

TVP (textured Vegetable Protein) or soya

This year I’ve been thinking a lot more about sustainability and one thing I’ve been focussing on, is can our family eat less meat and dairy? As an ex-vegetarian, I’ve easily implemented returning to a vegetarian diet at lunchtimes, either at home alone or in our excellent work canteen. However it isn’t so easy when catering for the whole family. My other half is very resistant to the idea plus we’re also restricted by my youngest son being very fussy about what he will and won’t eat.

I therefore decided to take two of son2’s favourite meals, namely spaghetti bolognaise and chicken nuggets and use the TVP to cook vegetarian equivalents. Last year we successfully swapped using shop-bought jars of bolognaise sauce for passata in an attempt to reduce sugar. What would he think this time?

So firstly here is my recipe for the Bolognaise.

Vegetarian Bolognaise

Vegetarian Bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 4)

100g dried TVP mince
boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
500g passata
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
250g wholewheat spaghetti

Method

Place the dried TVP in a large bowl.
Crumble the stock cube into a jug.
Pour on the boiling water and stir until dissolved.
Pour sufficient stock over the TVP to cover it.
(Any spare stock can be stored in the fridge once cool for a few days for use in another recipe).
Leave to stand for about 20 minutes for the TVP to absorb liquid.
Once the TVP is ready to use, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
Meanwhile peel garlic and squeeze through garlic press.
Add spaghetti to the saucepan and cook for about 11-13 minutes.
Gently heat oil in a wok.
Add garlic to wok and cook for about 1 minute.
Stir in the TVP.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
Stir in the passata and cook for about 8-10 minutes.
Drain the spaghetti and serve topped with the bolognaise.
Enjoy.

Vegetarian Bolognaise


And secondly the nuggets.

Vegetarian Nuggets

Vegetarian Nuggets

Ingredients (serves 3)

40g dried TVP chunks
250ml boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
1 clove of garlic
1 slice of stale bread
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Method

Crumble the stock cube into a jug.
Pour on the boiling water and stir until dissolved.
Squeeze garlic through garlic press and stir into the stock.
Add the TVP chunks to the jug.
Leave to stand for about 20 minutes for the TVP to absorb liquid and double in size.
Meanwhile tear the bread into pieces and put in blender.
Whizz the bread into crumbs.
Tip the breadcrumbs into a flat dish.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
After about 20 minutes once the TVP has doubled in size, drain off any liquid which remains.
(This liquid can be stored in the fridge for a few days for use in another recipe).
Dip the chunks in the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are fully coated.
Gently heat oil in a frying pan.
Cook the nuggets for approx 4 minutes on each side, turning once.
Serve with your choice of vegetables or salad.
Enjoy.

Vegetarian Nuggets

So verdict on the recipes. Son2 was happy with the Vegetarian Bolognaise but the Nuggets did not hit the spot for him. Son1 liked both though as did I. In fact I found the nuggets delicious with my salad. The boys have agreed going forward that we will alternate between a traditional meat bolognaise and a vegetarian version.

In fact, both these recipes are not only vegetarian, they are actually vegan, so long as you don’t serve grated cheese with the bolognaise.

Here are the links to the two products I received. They come in a range of sizes from 500g to the bulk 15kg.

Textured Vegetable Protein – Plain Chunks (TVP) 500g – made from 100% soya beans.

Textured Vegetable Protein – Plain Mince (TVP) 500g – made from 100% soya beans.

I was pleased with both these products and am now thinking up my next recipe. I did ask the boys for recipe suggestions. I wasn’t too convinced when son2 said how about in a banana milkshake but son1’s idea was to put some of the mince on a pizza. I’ll certainly give that a try as I usually make him a pepperoni pizza, whilst son2’s pizzas are already vegetarian as he won’t try anything except Margarita.

I can’t comment on cost comparison, as I haven’t seen these products elsewhere previously. It is great how versatile these can be. It is like having a blank canvas as the TVP absorbs the flavour of whatever you choose to cook it in.

And one other point to note. Don’t misread the chunks pack like I did initially. I thought it was implying that one cup of chunks would need 7 to 8 cups of water. It actually meant seven eighths of a cup, so in the end I decided it was simplest to do a 1 to 1 ratio. However that was after deciding to only rehydrate a small quantity of chunks, as I assumed they were going to massively increase in size. In fact they hardly increase at all.

Finally a mention about the packaging. As it hasn’t been that long since my earlier post, I wasn’t expecting any change yet. And true enough both of these products were again in plastic, even if it is BPA free plastic. I’m still hoping Buy Whole Foods Online will review their product packaging and switch to a paper-based solution.

I do recommend that you take a look at the Buy Whole Foods Online store. There is a huge amount to choose from.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a pack of both TVP products from Buy Whole Foods Online to one lucky winner. You’ll certainly be able to get creative in the kitchen with these.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your recipe suggestions using either of these products.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Healthier Chocolate Puddings plus giveaway

Time to share a very tasty recipe with you using a selection of products I received free to review from Buy Whole Foods Online. I was offered carte blanche to select any product from their online shop to use in a recipe of my choosing.

I found there was a great extensive range, so it was a difficult choice, but in the end I opted for cacao, almond flour and date sugar. I’ve never used any of these 3 products previously. In fact I’ve always been mystified as to what is the difference between cacao and cocoa since they look similar, so I decided that now was the time to investigate this question. I discovered that cacao is raw whilst cocoa has been roasted.

BuyWholeFoodsOnline cacao, almond flour and date sugar

Regular readers of my blog will know that in 2019, I am doing my best to reduce our household waste and in particular plastic. So I cast a critical eye over the parcel when it arrived. Thumbs up to Buy Whole Foods Online for using paper packaging to protect the products in transit. However the products themselves were all packed in plastic, which is still plastic even if the packets were labelled as BPA free. I’m sure a paper-based solution could be achieved. Even the supermarkets who have a very high plastic usage, sell most flour and some sugar in paper packets. Hopefully Buy Whole Foods Online will review their product packaging.

I had a recipe idea in mind, when I chose my products and this was to try to make a healthier version emulating those delicious hot chocolate desserts from Gü. I’m not sure if date sugar truly counts as healthy, but I’m sure it must be better than regular sugar. At least I hope so, since I am trying to reduce my use of sugar. So here is my recipe.

Chocolate Puddings

Healthier Chocolate Puddings

Ingredients (serves 4)

75g cacao powder
125g almond flour
100g date sugar
4 eggs
50 ml milk
75g butter

Method

Allow butter to soften at room temperature.
Preheat fan oven to 160 degrees C.
Grease 4 small ramekin dishes.
Beat together all ingredients.
Spoon into the ramekin dishes.
Place dishes on a baking tray.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for 10 minutes, until outside of puddings is set but inside is still soft.
Turn out of ramekins into pudding bowls.
Serve with your choice of creme fraiche, cream, greek yoghurt or ice cream.
Enjoy.

Chocolate puddings

These were delicious, although the inside is only slightly soft. I had originally intended it to be more gooey inside.

Here are the links to the three products I received. They all come in a range of sizes.

Organic Date Sugar 500g – made from 100% organic dried dates. Date sugar is far less processed than other popular sugars and retains the high fibre content of the fruit. It also has a naturally low glycemic index.

Organic Raw Cacao Powder 500g – 100% organic and fully raw. Cacao is highly antioxidant.

Almond Flour 500g (x2) – Low-carb, paleo-friendly, gluten free. They also stock an organic version.

I was very pleased with all three of these products and am now thinking up my next recipe. I can’t comment on cost comparison, as I haven’t seen these products elsewhere previously.

Wish I’d had them before Christmas, as I always make marzipan stuffed dates for Christmas and this year in an effort to reduce sugar, I tried blitzing flaked almonds with a little chopped date together, to use as the filling. It would have been so much easier to have used date sugar and almond flour instead, plus the texture would have been more like marzipan.

I do recommend that you take a look at the Buy Whole Foods Online store. There is a huge amount to choose from. They currently have a special offer of 10% off everything, plus 20% off selected products, using coupon code NEWYEAR19.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway cacao powder, almond flour and date sugar from Buy Whole Foods Online to one lucky winner. Think of the yummy treats you’ll be able to bake with these goodies.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your recipe suggestions using any of these products.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Blondies

Now I’m sure almost everyone knows what type of cake Brownies are, but I’ve always been intrigued as to Blondies. I had never seen one and I guessed that they were similar, but made from white chocolate. I decided to look up a recipe to try making some and found that I was on the right track, but not quite correct. I have adapted my recipe from this one which uses pecans that I found on the Waitrose website, as the boys are not keen on pecans.


Blondies

Blondies

Ingredients (makes 16)

150g butter
150g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
few drops vanilla extract
250g plain flour
100g white chocolate

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a 21cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Chop the white chocolate into small pieces
Melt the butter and both sugars in a pan over a low heat, stirring to combine.
Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a jug, then whisk into the butter and sugar mixture along with the vanilla.
Beat in the flour.
Stir chocolate into the mixture.
Spoon mixture into the tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until risen and golden on top.
Allow to cool in the tin.
Slice into 16 squares.
Serve and enjoy.

blondies

These were delicious. I’ll certainly be making them again. And I’d love to hear about when you were surprised by a recipe.

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Coconut Haystacks

Are you often like me, wondering what to do with leftover egg white? I usually cook it as a small pale omelette, then cut it into strips and toss them in a soup. But I know there must be so many more ideas out there. Well I suddenly remembered a recipe I used to make as a child with my mum, and decided to give it a go. This was Coconut Haystacks, so called because it looked the shape of the old-fashioned haystack, that you never see any more, now that hay is just bundled in bales.

coconut haystacks

Coconut Haystacks

Ingredients (makes about 10)

1 large egg white
50g golden granulated sugar
125g desiccated coconut

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
Whisk the egg white until it is peaky.
Whisk in the sugar.
Mix in the coconut.
Scoop some mixture with an egg cup, pressing in well.
Gently tap out onto the lined baking sheet.
Repeat until you have used all the mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes until slightly golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve and enjoy.

coconut haystacks

I’d love to hear your ideas for using up egg white.

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Chocolate Courgette Muffins

I am sure most of you have heard of carrot cake, so I wanted to see what other vegetables could be incorporated into baking. In particular I wanted to focus on a vegetable that neither of the boys would agree to eat, if they saw it on their plate. I decided on courgette and knew it needed to be well hidden, to get past the point of them actually eating. Therefore a type of chocolate cake was the answer.

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Ingredients (makes 12)

100g soft brown sugar
50ml vegetable oil
160g self raising flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
1 courgette (approx 200g)
few drops of vanilla essence

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degree C.
Place muffin cases in muffin baking tray.
Grate the courgette.
Add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla essence to mixing bowl and beat together.
Mix in the grated courgette.
Sieve in the flour.
Add cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
Fold in all these dry ingredients.
Spoon mixture into muffin cases.
Bake on middle shelf of preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until well risen and springy to the touch.
Cool on cooling rack.
Serve and enjoy.

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

So then I offered the “chocolate” muffins to the boys, which were initially eagerly accepted. And waited for the verdict on the experiment. Son1 asked if he could have a second muffin straightaway but son2 only ate half his muffin. Perhaps it needed more sugar to be disguised for son2. He could only say he didn’t like it, but not why.

I then told son1 there was a mystery ingredient and asked if he could guess it. He failed to guess and didn’t believe me when I told him it was courgette. I had to show him the photos to convince him. But I’m glad to say he continued to enjoy the muffins. And I thought they were very tasty too.

I’d love to hear your ideas for hiding secret vegetables in other dishes? I’m thinking chocolate might be a good cover for either beetroot or avocado too.

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An energy boost

I have just started a new job and there is lots to learn during the training period, which I find can be quite exhausting. Especially as I have to juggle it with family commitments.  Plus it is a shift role, so a mixture of early starts, late finishes plus night shifts again, which I’ve recently had a few months break from. So I was very pleased to be offered a free energy boosting goody pack from Pharmaton.

Energy boosting goodies

I received the following products.
75ml thisworks deep sleep pillow spray
Neom Energy Burst On the Go Mist
50g Nutriseed raw Maca powder
Boots £10 gift card (to purchase Pharmaton Vitality Capsules)

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules

So on my next shopping trip, I popped into Boots to buy a bottle of the Pharmaton Vitality Capsules. This contained 30 capsules, currently at an RRP of £9.49, for which the recommended dose is one tablet daily. I decided to take the full packet before telling you what I thought of them. The packet indicates that they are clinically proven against tiredness and lack of energy. Would I find that so?

The first 2 days didn’t go too well with me getting a bad headache overnight. The packet does warn that headaches may be a common side effect. But after that, things improved and although it is difficult to say with any certainty, I feel that overall I was probably more energised. During week 4, I did my first night shifts in several months, and I felt that my body adjusted back better afterwards.

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules contain a special blend of vitamins and minerals, including the unique G115 ginseng extract. The idea is that they work with your body’s natural metabolism to relieve fatigue and restore vitality, and also help keep you stay mentally and physically alert. They can be taken every day for up to 12 weeks. (For the relief of temporary periods of fatigue. Always read the label).

And of course I tried out the other goodies too.

thisworks deep sleep pillow spray

The pillow spray is great. You just spray it on your pillow and the top end of your duvet. Then smell the delightful fragrance of lavender, vetivert and wild camomile as you drift off. Lavender is one of my favourite scents so this was perfect for me.

Neom Energy Burst On the Go Mist

The Neom mist has a lovely fragrance too and is 100% natural, but it comes in a very tiny bottle. I can’t see the size details on the packaging, but I’m guessing 5ml, so it won’t last me long. I’ve already used over half of it. Basically you spritz it above you or on your wrists, then supposedly breathe in through your nose for a count of 7 and out through your mouth for a count of 11. However I found that I couldn’t breathe for anything like this length, so I’m just doing it as slow as I can manage.

And finally the organic maca powder. I had never heard of maca, so I had to do some research. I found that the Incas have been cultivating it for 1000s of years in the high Peruvian Andes, boosting their energy at such a high altitude. More details on Wikipedia. The packet says to add 1-2 teaspoons to your smoothies, shakes, juices and healthy bakes. Well I decided to use it in my not quite so healthy chocolate cookie recipe.

Double choc chip cookies with maca

Double Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients (makes about 13)

200g butter
200g plain flour
50g cocoa
1 heaped teasp maca powder
120g soft brown sugar
1 egg
few drops vanilla essence
1 tbsp milk
100g chocolate chips

Method

Preheat fan oven to 170 degree C.
Grease 2 baking trays.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the egg.
Add the vanilla essence.
Sieve in the cocoa.
Add the maca powder.
Sieve in the flour.
Mix together.
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Mix in milk if mixture is too stiff.
Spoon balls of mixture onto the baking trays.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve and enjoy.

Double choc chip cookies with maca

Delicious. Everyone gave these the thumbs up.


And here are some more simple tips to help you make the most of your day and get your energy levels back.

  1. Stay Hydrated

It seems obvious but make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. According to the Natural Hydration Council, dehydration can reduce the ability to concentrate and impact cognitive and physical performance. NHS choices recommend that you drink at least 1.2 litres of fluid a day which is roughly 6-8 glasses of water. The best way to remind yourself is to keep a glass or bottle on your desk and set yourself a target amount to drink by the end of the day.

  1. Eat right

Make sure that you eat the right foods at the right time. It is tempting to reach for high fat, high sugar products when you are tired but these will leave your energy levels crashing, making you feel irritable and still hungry. Keep a pot of nuts such as almonds or cashews at your desk for when you need an energy boost.

  1. Get a good sleep

According to the national Sleep Council, your bedroom should not be an extension of the house. So don’t use the bedroom to eat, watch TV, work or talk in – the bedroom should be used for sleeping. Plan a consistent sleeping schedule by trying to get the same amount of sleep every night and at similar times. Move all screens out of the bedroom and try to avoid staring a bright screen an hour before bed, as the light keeps your brain awake leaving you struggling to drift off.

  1. Move it

If you feel your concentration failing, don’t reach for another coffee or sugary snack – get moving! Even low intensity exercise like a brisk walk around the block at lunch can help reduce the feeling of fatigue.

I’d be interested to hear your top energy boosting tips.

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Disclosure. This post includes a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Marble Cake

When one of my regular readers recently let me know that she was trying out my chocolate cake recipe, it got me thinking that it was time to try out something new too. And since I sometimes end up buying a marble cake at Lidl, I decided that I would try to bake one, something I’ve never tried before.

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

Ingredients

175g self raising flour
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa
vanilla essence
3 tbsp milk

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a loaf tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the eggs.
Add the vanilla essence.
Sieve and mix in the flour and baking powder.
Divide mixture between 2 bowls.
Mix cocoa into one bowl.
Mix milk into same bowl.
Spoon alternate mixtures into the tin.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 50 – 60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Cut into slices.
Serve and enjoy.

Marble Cake

It looked and tasted delicious. I love the swirly way it looks. No wonder it is named marble cake. Just like the pattern of a glass marble.

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

I’d love to hear what cakes you enjoy baking?

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Oreo marshmallow fingers

Last month I took part in the Britmums Oreo Cookie Challenge and was delighted to be one of the winners. Taking part inspired me to try to come up with an Oreo recipe, especially aimed at son2 who is huge Oreo fan.

Oreo marshmallow fingers

Oreo marshmallow fingers

Ingredients (makes about 7)

25g butter
1 packet of Original Oreos
100g mini marshmallows

Method

Tip the Oreos into a large freezer bag.
Crush the Oreos with a rolling pin.
Gently melt the butter in a large pan.
Add the marshmallows and stir until melted.
Stir in the crushed Oreos.
Spoon the mixture into a loaf mould, pressing well into the corners.
Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Remove from mould and cut into fingers.
Serve and enjoy.

Oreo marshmallow fingers

Son2 was very pleased with these, but with hindsight, it would have been better to bake a double batch, as they were all gone too quickly.

I’d love to hear your ideas for Oreo recipes.

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When is a Gingerbread Man, not a Gingerbread Man?

When it is a Reindeer!

Now I can’t take the credit for this idea as I’ve seen multiple images on the internet of a gingerbread man cutter being used upside down to create reindeer biscuits. I thought this was a great idea that my boys would love, so I decided to give it a try. I made my standard gingerbread recipe and then decorated them all as Rudolph.

Reindeer gingerbread biscuits

Reindeer Gingerbread Biscuits

Ingredients (makes about 30 biscuits)

350g plain flour
1 teasp bicarbonate of soda
2 teasp ginger
1/2 teasp cinnamon
125g butter
100g soft brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup

Black writing icing
Few drops of red food colouring
50g ready to roll white icing

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 deg C.
Grease and line baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring.
Add the dry ingredients.
Mix to form a stiff dough.
Roll a ball of dough to 5mm thickness, then use gingerbread man cutter to cut out biscuits.
Place on the lined baking sheets.
Continue to cut out until all dough used. (Number will vary according to size of your cutter).
Bake the biscuits in the oven for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden.
Leave to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then move to a wire rack.
Once cool, they can be decorated.
Use the writing icing to give each reindeer biscuit 2 eyes.
Place ready to roll icing in a small bowl.
Use your hands to squeeze it to make malleable.
Add enough food colouring to mix to a red ball.
Form into small balls, approx 1cm wide.
Then press an icing ball onto each reindeer for the nose.
Serve and enjoy.

Reindeer gingerbread men

Son2 said that only one should have had a red nose and that I should have made Dasher, Prancer, Dancer, Cupid, Comet, Donner, Vixen and Blitzen too. However we all agreed they were a tasty seasonal Christmas treat.

I’d love to hear what Christmas goodies you enjoy baking or eating?

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Lemon Bars

My goto recipe for lemons when baking is always a lemon drizzle cake. So I decided it was time to try something different.

lemon bars

Lemon Bars

Ingredients (makes 12)

125g plain flour
100g butter
50g icing sugar
2 eggs
1 lemon
200g granulated sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
icing sugar to decorate

Method

Preheat fan oven to 170 degree C.
Grease a 20cm square baking tin.
Mix the 125g flour, butter and icing sugar together, to form a dough.
Press dough into tin and bake for about 20 minutes until starting to turn golden.
Meanwhile grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze the juice.
Tip zest and juice into a mixing bowl.
Add eggs, granulated sugar and 2 tbsp flour.
Beat together.
Pour over hot base and return to oven for about 25 minutes until set and golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Dust the top with icing sugar.
Cut into slices.
Serve and enjoy.

lemon bars

lemon bars

Delicious. Now to find a few more tasty lemon recipes. I’d love to hear what you bake using lemon?

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