Category Archives: recipes

Beef Koftas with a Yoghurt Dip ad

Britmums have challenged bloggers to take the #MeatMatters Challenge to cook a quick and easy (under 30 minutes) beef or lamb dish. And as one of the first 100 to sign upto the challenge, I received a free £10 Tesco giftcard to purchase ingredients.

Recently I’ve been buying my meat from the local butcher instead of the supermarket in an attempt to reduce my plastic waste. The butcher wraps the meat in paper rather than plastic. However on my previous supermarket visit, I did find that Tesco offered to wrap deli items in paper rather than plastic, when I asked if they could put them straight in my cool-bag. This was much better than Sainsburys who had previously refused under “health and safety” grounds.

So I was hoping that paper would also be an option on the fresh meat counter in Tesco too. However I was unable to put this theory to the test, as unfortunately the counter was empty due to a “technical” issue at the store. So I had to resort to the meat aisle with all its plastic.

Meatballs

I had been mulling over a few recipe ideas involving different cuts of meat, but in the end, bearing in mind that the remit was to cook a meal in under 30 minutes, I opted to buy beef meatballs. Yes I could have bought mince and made my own meatballs, but that would have taken longer to prepare. Also the meatballs were already seasoned, saving a bit more time.

And rather than just cooking son2’s favourite spaghetti and meatballs, I decided it was time to try making something I’ve never made before, namely koftas.

Beef Koftas with a Yoghurt Dip

Beef Koftas with a Yoghurt Dip

Ingredients (serves 4)

Pack of 24 meatballs
150g natural yoghurt
2 tsp chopped mint
10g cucumber

Method

Assemble 3 or 4 meatballs onto a metal skewer, tightly together.
Repeat with all the other meatballs.
Place all the skewers onto a George Foreman grill and cook for 10-12 minutes, rotating the skewers by 90 degrees halfway through, so that all sides are cooked evenly.
Alternatively cook under a standard grill, but you will need to rotate them 3 times.
Meanwhile chop mint and dice cucumber finely.
Spoon the yoghurt into a large ramekin.
Stir the mint and cucumber into the yoghurt.
Serve, with your choice of accompaniments.
Enjoy.

Beef Koftas with a Yoghurt Dip

I chose to serve this with couscous and a simple lettuce and carrot salad. The couscous was made with stock and seasoned with turmeric, ground coriander, salt and pepper.

A very healthy meal as any fat from the meat drains out from the grill. Very tasty and so quick and simple to make. Thumbs up from all the family.

This dish could easily be made using lamb meatballs instead.

And did you know the following:

  • Beef / lamb are naturally rich in protein
  • Lamb provides four essential vitamins* that help reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Beef is a source of iron which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Lamb provides seven vitamins and minerals** that support good health and well-being
  • Beef provides eight essential vitamins and minerals*** that support good health and well-being

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This post is an entry for the #MeatMatters Challenge, sponsored by Simply Beef and Lamb. Learn more about the benefits of cooking and eating beef and lamb along with recipe ideas and inspiration here!

Disclosure. This post mentions products I purchased using a giftcard that I was sent for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #MeatMatters hashtag.

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My journey towards a Plastic Free future – part 5

It has been a little while since I last gave you an update on my progress with reducing plastic and overall waste reduction generally, so here’s my latest news.

No more junk mail

The “no junk mail” sticker on the front door seems to be working very well. The only things we now seem to be getting in addition to our post are the local monthly village magazines. That is if you don’t count items for the previous resident and I’ve been labelling those “moved away, return to sender” for years now! I’ve started considering each piece of post, as to whether we actually do need it or whether we can ask the sender to cancel. I was impressed that National Trust have started using compostable wrappers for their magazines, but even so I decided this fell into the category of unnecessary post. I’ve therefore mostly unsubscribed, although apparently we will still receive the Autumn edition due to it including AGM voting papers. Can’t say I’ve ever looked at the details of their AGM or plan to in the future either, but never mind, I’ve made a step in the right direction. Also it took two attempts to unsubscribe as apparently the request had to come from member 1 and I was member 2 in our household.

National Trust compostable packaging

However I did fail on trying to unsubscribe from the mail shots our local garden centre send out. I have a loyalty card with them and when I asked on my last visit, apparently you can’t have one without the other. She said “it’s only 8 times a year”, but that is 8 unwanted pieces of post. I did try to suggest they move their mail shots to email, and she did say that they would think about that. So I’ll just have to wait and see.

And on the food shopping front, I’m still guilty of bringing more plastic into the home than I wish. Some things we have been going without in the hope that I will soon find a plastic free alternative. But others are key to our regular weekly shop, particularly biscuits, crackers and fruit bread. I’ve been trying to bake these more often, but as I work full-time, sometimes there just isn’t the opportunity. And when I think I’ve baked a large enough box of crackers to last all week, I then find son1 has managed to polish them off in a couple of days. He’s like a bottomless pit when it comes to food. Today I made a large bowl of popcorn and he alone ate almost the entire lot in less than 5 minutes.

I’m gradually finding plastic free alternatives, so I now get yoghurt in glass jars from the milkman, along with my other deliveries. But unfortunately the milkman seems to have reverted to putting things inside plastic bags. It was all paper bags in January so I don’t know why. I keep asking the dairy to tell him that I don’t want the plastic bags, but the message doesn’t seem to have got through. I haven’t actually met him yet, as he usually delivers well before we wake up.

However some of my successes like plastic free butter and houmous have been discovered in other towns rather than my local high street. So this brings into debate, the question of my carbon footprint. I don’t feel I can justify driving over 5 miles just to buy some butter.

Plastic free butter

One trip I do plan to make further afield is to the new zero waste store which has just opened. I need to get all my containers lined up and ready. I’ve heard it even has freezers, which is excellent news as we have run out of some of our staples like frozen peas and sweetcorn. We much prefer the frozen variety to tinned.

I’ve also continued to keep a careful eye on what goes into my food waste bin. We have two of these, a small kerbside bin and an even smaller windowsill one. Previously I would always chuck everything into the windowsill one initially and then transfer it outside every couple of days. But now I’ve started putting anything like chicken bones straight into the outside bin. This way I can choose to tip the windowsill bin into our garden compost bin, along with some of the compostable paper waste I’ve been saving for this purpose. A mixture of green and brown each time, although I’m not sure how long it will take to decompose for use in the garden. But hopefully this will reduce the number of bags of compost we purchase in future.

Also I’ve made my own equivalent of marmalade, out of orange pulp saved from our juicer along with orange peel.

Zero Waste Marmalade

Marmalade

Ingredients

250g orange pulp
40g chopped orange peel
200ml cold water
50g fruit sugar

Method

Chop the orange peel into small strips.
Place orange pulp and peel in a large saucepan.
Cover with water and add sugar.
Bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer.
Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until it has thickened, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile bring another saucepan of water to the boil.
Carefully place jars in the boiling water for about 5 minutes to sterilise.
Remove with tongs.
Spoon marmalade into hot sterilised jars.
Allow to cool.
Serve on buttered toast or bread.
Enjoy.

Zero Waste Marmalade

This made about a jar and a half. Naturally I used jars that I had saved. This marmalade looks a different colour to regular marmalade and I believe that to be due to the pith also being present in the pulp. It also had a much more bitter flavour as I had used less sugar, plus the cooking time is shorter so the peel is a more dominant taste still.

So overall gradually moving in the right direction. And I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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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.

Meatballs with Mozzarella

Regular readers may remember that I hosted a ketogenic guest post from Sarah Peterson last year. I didn’t really know much myself about this style of eating previously, so did some reading up around the topic. Basically in a nutshell, it seems to be following a low carbohydrate, high fat, adequate protein diet. This inspired me to come up with the following recipe for Meatballs with Mozzarella, although I may have overdone the protein element, so not strictly keto. The recipe was mainly targeted at my other half who has been trying to avoid eating pasta. And since I regularly cook either Spaghetti and Meatballs or Spaghetti Bolognaise because the boys both love these, the no pasta request can prove quite tricky.


Meatballs with Mozzarella

Meatballs with Mozzarella

Ingredients (serves 4)

800g pork mince
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 egg
50g breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic
500g passata
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
150g mozzarella

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degree C.
Beat the egg in a large bowl.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add mince, breadcrumbs and half of the oregano.
Stir together.
Form into 12 large meatballs.
Squeeze garlic through garlic press.
Cut the mozzarella into 12 slices.
Gently heat oil in wok.
Brown the meatballs in batches in the wok, removing them to a plate.
Add garlic to wok.
After 1 minute, add passata and plum tomatoes to the wok.
Roughly chop the plum tomatoes in the wok.
Add balsamic vinegar and rest of the oregano.
Season with salt and pepper.
Return the meatballs to the wok.
Cook until the sauce reduces and thickens.
Spoon into a baking dish.
Top each meatball with a slice of mozzarella.
Bake on middle shelf of preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
Serve and enjoy.

Meatballs with Mozzarella

So verdict on these. They hit the spot for my other half, but the tomato was too dominant really for the boys. Looks like we will need to cook some spaghetti too in order to soak up some of the sauce for the children, in which case I would probably reduce the meat content.

Meatballs with Mozzarella

I’d love to hear your ideas for meals where pasta can be added at the end to some portions only. And how you then bulk out those portions without pasta?

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My journey towards a Plastic Free future – part 4

Another update on my progress with waste reduction. This week I’ve been focussing on reducing  what goes into my food waste bin. So I’ve been saving the likes of orange and grapefruit peel and zest, potato peelings and the pulp from my juicer. Some of these are waiting in the freezer still, but so far i’ve enjoyed a nice refreshing cup of grapefruit tea and used orange pulp in my soup. And we’ve had potato peel crisps, apple pulp pancakes and a grapefruit cake. All including stuff that i would have previously just binned.

Zerowaste cooking

Here’s how to make the grapefruit tea and the potato crisps. I won’t be blogging the soup recipe, as most of my soups are just whatever is to hand in the fridge at the time. So this one besides orange pulp, also had some outer leaves from a cauliflower, a carrot, some savoy cabbage, leek, garlic, quinoa, stock and turmeric. But I will try and share the cake and pancake recipes at a later date.


grapefruit tea

Grapefruit Tea

Ingredients

Peel from 1 grapefruit
1 litre water
1 tsp agave nectar

Method

Tear the grapefruit peel into small pieces.
Place in a large saucepan with the water.
Bring to the boil.
Turn off the heat and cover saucepan with lid.
Steep for 1 hour.
Pour into a jug through a sieve.
Stir in the agave nectar to sweeten.
Reheat if desired.
Pour tea into mugs.
Serve and enjoy.

Grapefruit Tea

I did have quite a bad cough at the time I made this tea and found it quite soothing for that too.


potato crisps

Potato Crisps

Ingredients

Peel from potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt

Method

Preheat fan oven to 200 degree centigrade.
Tip the potato peels onto a baking tray.
Drizzle oil over the potato peels.
Sprinkle the salt over the potato peels.
Turn the potato peels several times until they are well coated in the oil, making sure they are spread well out over the tray.
Cook in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until crispy and starting to brown.
Serve and enjoy.

Potato Crisps

I’ve also been cooking more things from scratch, that I would previously have just bought at the supermarket, which I haven’t managed to find not in plastic. So I’ve baked crackers for the first time and made my own humous, as these are items that we eat a lot of in our household. Recipes to follow in due course.

houmous

#plasticfree crackers

And a few more wins on the packaging side. I’ve discovered Two Farmers crisps which come in compostable packets. I had to order 24 packets online, so they are taking up rather a lot of space in the cupboard, but I’ve since heard that my local zero waste store is going to start stocking them. Result, as I’ll be able to buy in smaller numbers, once we finish munching our way through this lot. The only other product I know in compostable packaging is Wallaroo fruit snacks, so I would love it if you could point me in the direction of any other brands who do this please.

Two Farmers crisps

Also you may have heard me complaining recently about the pointless plastic wrappers on cucumbers. I’ve now found a local greengrocer who stocks baby cucumbers with no plastic. Unfortunately they do work out significantly more expensive, but I had to bite the bullet, as cucumber is son2’s favourite vegetable. I plan to try my hand at growing my own later in the year. Wish me luck with that, as I’m not very green fingered. Overall, I’ve noticed that my grocery bill is definitely higher by me trying to avoid plastic. Luckily I can afford this, but it will be very hard for those on a tight budget.

baby cucumbers

And it is frustrating when things don’t go to plan like the other day when I ordered a cardboard box of wonky potatoes from the milkman. Apparently it was out of stock, so he substituted it with not one but two plastic bags of potatoes. And disappointingly it is not the first time that I’ve experienced a plastic issue as regards fruit and vegetables from the milkman. I ask myself should I buy all my vegetables at the greengrocer instead, but then would they be too heavy to carry, as I walk there. Trying to minimise use of car unnecessarily, so it is a difficult balance to choose between.

There are still quite a lot of products that I haven’t come up with a plastic free answer yet. A few of the key ones for us are cheese, creme fraiche and frozen peas. A friend told me that one of our local butchers stocked large blocks of cheese that you can get a piece cut off. So I duly went along, only to find the cheddar block had already been cut up and the pieces packaged into plastic.

So it is still a bit one step forward, two steps back, but overall I’m happy with the change. And I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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Cheesy Courgette Chips

Do you struggle like me to find ways that your children will eat vegetables? As they both love my chicken nuggets and turkey dippers, I thought that I would try something similar with courgette, a vegetable that is on their black-list, to see what they thought. It is also a great way of using up leftover bread. I’ve always made my own breadcrumbs, but now I’ve started to save all the leftover bits of bread in a bag in the freezer for this purpose, in an effort to reduce food waste. We do end up with quite a few crusts, as son2 won’t eat them, always insisting they are cut off the edges of his sandwiches.

Cheesy Courgette Chips

Cheesy Courgette Chips

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)

1 large courgette or 2 small courgettes
1 or 2 slices of stale bread
40g cheddar cheese
1 egg
25g plain flour
salt and pepper
30ml sunflower oil

Method

Chop courgette into batons.
Tear the bread into pieces and put in blender.
Whizz the bread into crumbs.
Tip the breadcrumbs into a flat dish.
Season with salt and pepper.
Grate the cheese.
Mix grated cheese into the breadcrumbs.
Crack the egg into another flat dish.
Beat egg with a fork.
Shake flour onto a chopping board.
Coat the courgette in flour.
Then dip in the egg, coating thoroughly.
Finally coat in the breadcrumbs.
Gently heat oil in a frying pan.
Cook the courgette for approx 4-5 minutes on each side, turning once.
Serve and enjoy.

Although I enjoyed these, unfortunately the boys didn’t, so back to the drawing board.

Cheesy Courgette Chips

I’d love to hear your ideas for ways to introduce vegetables to your kids. And do they enjoy them?

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Braised Red Cabbage

Until a few months ago, I had never tried making this, but it really is a tempting dish for winter and such a vibrant splash of colour on the plate too. Previously I always used to buy it from Cook, but so pleased that I can make it myself now, as I’m aiming to buy less ready-made products. I’ve now made it several times, including as one of the side dishes for our Christmas dinner.

Braised Red Cabbage

Braised Red Cabbage (serves 4-6 as a side dish)

Ingredients

half a red cabbage
2 rashers of bacon
1 medium onion
1 eating apple
2 tbsp olive oil
75ml balsamic vinegar

Method

Chop the red cabbage into small chunks.
Cut the bacon into small pieces.
Peel and chop the onion into small pieces.
Gently heat olive oil in a large saucepan.
Add bacon and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add onion and cover saucepan with lid.
Cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile peel and core the apple, then cut into small pieces.
Add red cabbage, apple and vinegar.
Cover saucepan with lid again.
Simmer gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Serve hot as a side dish.

Braised Red Cabbage

This tastes delicious. Real comfort food for winter.

Also this can be made ahead of schedule if desired, and will keep for a few days in the fridge. It can then be reheated.

I’d love to hear about your favourite comfort foods?

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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.

My journey towards a Plastic Free future – part 1

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to make a different New Year’s resolution this year to my usual fitness targeted one, although of course I still want to focus on that too. This time it is a biggie in my opinion, to try to do my bit for the planet by leading a more sustainable and eco lifestyle, reducing waste, in particular plastic. My other half laughed at me, saying my actions won’t make a difference, but I think every little helps. He said that if I am really sincere about this, then I need to get rid of my car and avoid flying. Something to think about, but right now I need my car to get to work.

I plan to regularly share my progress here on my blog and hopefully inspire others to take action too. I started thinking about this towards the end of last year, so I was pleased to receive a kindle copy of No More Plastic from my sister for Christmas, off my wishlist. I’ll try and write a separate book review on that, but it has certainly given me plenty of food for thought.

No More Plastic by Martin Dorey

Plastic pollution seems to be heading out of control. There are huge islands of plastic rubbish in the oceans, hundreds of miles across and growing rapidly. What a frightening thought.

UK supermarkets currently generate 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year, so I started by signed the Greenpeace petition to UK supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic packaging. When I went to do my supermarket shopping this week, plastic was in the forefront of my mind, so I was very disappointed to come home with only 7 plastic free products out of a £70 shop. This was at Sainsburys, so I shall see if I can do better at any of the other local supermarkets. I was too early to visit the deli counter which doesn’t open until 9am, but I did some research by asking a member of staff if I could bring my own box for deli purchases. Sadly the answer was no, due to health and safety. Sounds crazy since it would be my food in my box!

#plasticfree groceries

I understand that so far, Iceland is the only UK supermarket chain to pledge to remove plastic packaging from their own-label goods. This should be achieved by 2023, but you can read how they are progressing so far here. Yes I know that it is still a few years off, but they certainly seem to be taking the lead on environmental issues, having already removed palm oil from their own-brand by the end of 2018. Pity I don’t have an Iceland branch locally.

Another thing I try to avoid is food waste, so when I ended up with too much cucumber recently, due to son2 temporarily not eating it, after having had two teeth extracted, I decided to experiment with cooking some. I’ve never cooked cucumber previously, but I thought I would try it in soup.

cucumber soup

Cucumber soup

Ingredients (serves 1)

half a cucumber
1tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 medium potato
1 small onion
1 large cube of frozen chicken stock
2tbsp single cream
approx 200ml boiling water
oregano
salt and pepper

Method

Peel and slice the cucumber.
Peel and chop onion and potato into small pieces.
Peel garlic and put through garlic press.
Gently heat oil in a saucepan.
Add garlic and onion to pan and allow to soften.
Add water, stock and potatoes.
Add cucumber.
Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
Cook until potato has softened.
If necessary, add extra water.
Roughly mash with potato masher.
Mix in cream and cook for another minute.
Serve and enjoy.

cucumber soup

I couldn’t persuade son2 to try it, as he doesn’t like soup, but I found it really delicious. Lovely comfort food. Just what I needed as I have a bad cough at the moment.

And whilst at Sainsbury’s, I bought a couple of perpetual advent calendar box kits, reduced to 30p each, although unfortunately plastic wrapped. But this is with the aim of reducing plastic long-term, as the boys insist on chocolate filled advent calendars each year, which of course contain a lot of plastic. Now I’ll be able to make my own chocolate shapes using the plastic moulds saved from last year’s calendars, and pop them in these advent boxes.

advent calendars

This is my first tiny steps on my journey towards being plastic free and zero waste. Obviously I have a huge way to go yet. And I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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Creamed Spinach

I decided not to buy any sprouts for Christmas dinner this year. I’m the only one in the household who eats them anyhow and I’d already had some at the works canteen Christmas lunch. But as I headed to bed on Christmas Eve, thinking about the cooking preparations I had already done, I just fancied the idea of something else green on the plate. Too late to purchase a few sprouts now, I decided to resort to spinach from the freezer. I was planning to see if I could make my own version of the creamed spinach side dishes that I have previously enjoyed at Italian restaurants. Hopefully it was not too ambitious to try to make something new on Christmas Day, when I already have a packed schedule of running, then cooking planned for the big day.

So this is what I came up with. I only made a small quantity as I was cooking lots of other side dishes too.


Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach

Ingredients

200g frozen spinach
15g butter
15g wholewheat plain flour
100ml crème fraîche
30g cheddar
salt and pepper

Method

Defrost the spinach in a sieve above a bowl, at room temperature, a couple of hours earlier.
Once defrosted, use a fork to squeeze the liquid out of the spinach, reserving this for later use.
Grate the cheese.
Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Stir in the flour to form a paste.
Stir in the liquid squeezed from the spinach.
Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the spinach and crème fraîche.
Stir in the grated cheese.
Serve hot as a side dish.

Creamed Spinach

It tasted delicious, and son1 thought so too. What a result as he certainly wouldn’t have touched a sprout, but he had seconds of this.

I’d love to hear what dishes you have added to a menu at the last minute?

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