Tag Archives: recipe

Chicken Fajitas with Spice pods plus giveaway

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

It has been a little while since I shared a recipe post, as I rather lost my blogging mojo lately following my mum’s death. But now that I am confined to my home apart from when I am volunteering to help the vulnerable or a quick essentials shopping trip or a daily run / walk, it seems time to take up the blogging mantle again.

I think I got my love of cooking from my mum, although it had been a while since she had been able to cook due to increasing frailty herself. As a small child, I can remember kneeling up on a stool at the kitchen table beside her and learning to make the likes of jam tarts and gingerbread men. My mum would encourage me to enter the children’s cookery section at the local WI show. And when I unwisely chose broccoli and melon as ingredients for my cookery practical exam, it was my mum who searched to locate them for me. Those were the days before such items became commonplace on the supermarket shelves all year round. And now for a different reason, they may again have disappeared from the shelves.

I’m certainly feeling rather sad about all the panic buying we are seeing currently, as I’m sure it is leading to increased food waste, particularly with regards to fresh food. So it may still be a little while before I feel ready to post again on my series of “Reducing Waste” topics.

The Spice Pioneer

However after turning down a few product review requests whilst grieving, I agreed to do a review for The Spice Pioneer, who caught my attention due to their fabulous tree planting initiative. They kindly sent me a set of their five flavours of spice power pods to try for free. The flavours, which can also all be purchased individually are as follows…..

Fajita
Chicken Lollipops
Chilli Con Carne
Katsu Curry
Peri-Peri Chicken

Spice Power Pods


So I decided to try out the Fajita Power Pod first and cook a tasty Tex-Mex dish of Chicken Fajitas, along with all the traditional accompaniments. The power pod box includes this recipe on the back. However I did adapt it slightly to include an additional vegetable, namely courgette, as due to empty shelves, I couldn’t get three colours of peppers.

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients (serves 4)

Fajita seasoning
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp oil
1 onion
3 mixed bell peppers
4 skinless chicken breasts

Method

Peel and slice onion.
Peel garlic and squeeze through garlic press.
Slice pepper, (saving seeds to sprinkle in a salad).
Slice chicken into 1cm strips.
In a large bowl, mix the fajita seasoning, garlic, oil, onion and peppers.
Add the chicken, mix to coat evenly and marinade for 10 minutes.
Stir- fry in a large frying pan on medium to high heat for 10-12 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Add more oil while cooking if needed.
Enjoy in heated tortilla wraps with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese.

chicken fajitas

I made a batch of tortilla wraps and you can see my guacamole recipe below. But I did cheat with the salsa and used a shop-bought jar. However part of the joy of power pods is the simplicity with the spices being perfectly portioned, so I didn’t feel at all guilty for cheating. In fact, I wished that I had cheated with guacamole too, as my avocado was rather under-ripe for the recipe. The power pod spice mixes aim to make cooking an easy, stress-free and enjoyable experience.


Chicken Fajitas

Guacamole

Ingredients

1 avocado
Juice of half a lime
1 small clove of garlic
Half a spring onion

Method

Cut avocado in half and remove stone.
Scoop out avocado flesh, with a fork, roughly mashing it.
Squeeze the juice from half a lime.
Peel garlic and squeeze through garlic press.
Mix together avocado, lime juice and garlic.
If the avocado isn’t that ripe, blend the mixture in a blender.
Serve and enjoy.

guacamole

I was pleased to see that the power pods are 100% natural ingredients. They are free from oil, preservatives, additives and refined sugar and are also gluten free. The products were all long-dated, best before December 2021 and they have been handmade in the UK. The boxes indicate that you can make your meal for 4 people in just 30 minutes. And they also show how mild or spicy each mix is.

The outer box was nicely sized to fit through a letterbox, so no missing a parcel if your delivery arrives when you are out. And look how well packed it is, certainly no excess packaging.

Spice Power Pods

It is a nice touch to have a recipe suggestion on each packet, plus there are plenty more recipe ideas on The Spice Pioneer website. The power pods can be purchased individually or as a subscription. All are reasonably priced.

Do take a look at The Spice Pioneer website to see the rest of their products. They also sell a range of recipe boxes and gin infusion kits. Great gifts for foodies. Every purchase contributes to their tree planting in the Scottish Highlands, which definitely gets my seal of approval.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a starter set of spice power pods like I received from The Spice Pioneer to one lucky winner. You’ll certainly be able to cook some great easy meals 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 any of these products. I’m going to make chicken lollipops next, so check back soon to see that recipe.

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Mackerel Pâté

Today I’m sharing a very simple quick recipe for mackerel pâté, that you can make in literally minutes. I love this for a light lunch either on toast, crackers or in a sandwich. Plus it also works as a starter, if you’re entertaining.

Mackerel Pâté

Mackerel Pâté

Ingredients

2 smoked mackerel fillets (approx 150g)
75g natural yoghurt (or crème fraiche)
salt and pepper

Method

Remove the skin and any bones you find from the fish.
Flake the fish into small pieces.
Place fish and yoghurt (or crème fraiche) into blender.
Season with salt and pepper.
Blend until smooth.
Chill in refrigerator if desired.
Serve with toast or crackers or in a sandwich.

Mackerel Pâté

Voilà. As I said, so quick and easy. And delicious too.

I’d love to hear your go-to recipes when you want something in a hurry?

Now all I need to do, is find where to buy my mackerel plastic free, as I’m trying to reduce my use of plastic. I get the yoghurt in jars from milk&more. The local fishmonger occasionally has plastic free mackerel, but unfortunately not very often.

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Small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas

I know I started off the year with good intentions to keep my blog updated with all the progress I have been making towards reducing plastic, however life got in the way, but yes I’m still continuing down the sustainability path. A light bulb moment for me was that it is not only about reducing plastic. So now I’m trying to focus on the bigger picture of zero waste, carbon footprint, seasonal products and supporting local independent businesses in addition to plastic. But I find it can be hard to prioritise any one of these aspects over the others in certain situations. And I’m continually keeping in mind the mantra Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Regift, Rehome, Repurpose, Recycle, Replant, Rot.

Looking back, the last news I gave you on this topic was about our fab eco holiday in the summer. Since then I’ve joined local groups, been on workshops and things have been ticking along in the garden. I will try to find time for more blog updates next year, but for now I wanted to focus on Christmas.

At the beginning of November, the boys and I had a good sort through our 3 boxfuls of Christmas decorations, reducing what we were going to keep by about half. The remainder was sorted for charity donations, or repurposing components for crafting, recycling or eco-bricks, with minimal ending up in the waste bin. Around the same time, we sent 3 bagfuls of unused items (toys, stationery, toiletries) to school for including in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. A great way to do it, compared to preparing an individual shoebox each like we’ve done previously, when I’ve usually ended up buying some items like hats, scarves and gloves cheaply at somewhere like Poundland, since those probably weren’t made very sustainably.

So throughout the year I have been popping into charity shops, sometimes with a boxful to donate, but often just for a browse. And I’ve found plenty of gifts to put aside for the boys, especially including the themes of Dr Who, Star Wars or Marvel as I knew those would feature on their Christmas lists.

For my other half, I’ve chosen an experience, topped up with a few items from the charity shops and edible gifts. And I’ve made a large hamper for my parents of which all the contents are either handmade locally or by me. So I’ve made a couple of soup-in-a-jar mixes, turmeric latte and zero waste candied peel. See below for the recipes.

candied peel

Looking at the Amazon wish lists of other relatives, I’ve managed to swerve Amazon entirely and bought requested gifts either on the high street or vouchers. Someone else gets a membership. Another gets products I chose for her at a Tropic fundraising party, so supporting both one friend’s fundraising and another friend’s small business. And I helped the boys select edible gifts handmade by disabled people in our local community.

I had to think hard about buying for someone in Canada. Previously I would have just resorted to Amazon, but this year I found Wychbury Ave, a small ethical local business who handcraft soaps and body products. Plus bonus, the owner was prepared to hand-deliver my order.

As regards wrapping and cards, this was more of a bugbear, as I already possess lots of shiny foil-paper, silver tape and glittery cards which I obviously want to use up rather than dispose of, but I can see it lasting quite a while yet. And I did save some paper from last Christmas too. I have been sending about half of my cards as e-cards for the last few years anyhow, but is this anymore eco, when you consider the carbon footprint of the servers? I also handmade a few cards, but didn’t have time for many, although I have always made my own gift tags. So it is probably going to be a number of years before this area hits my eco target. Similarly we have some crackers leftover from last year. I did better earlier in the year with birthday wrapping, using pages from our local newsletter tied only with ribbon. But at least nothing new was purchased. And any gifts that have arrived by post have been left in their packaging.

There does still seem to be a larger pile of gifts than I had hoped, but at least not many have my name on them. I’m particularly pleased that some of the family have made a donation at my request to their local food bank instead of getting me a gift.

Christmas gifts

Son2 is particularly eco-conscious, and bless him, this is what he wrote as a ps at the end of his letter to Santa – “Please try not to use wrapping paper since it may end up becoming plastic pollution“. So his presents will be loose inside a pillowcase, although I’ve tried to preserve some element of surprise by hiding the more fun items inside the clothing gifts.

And onto the catering. I’ve bought much less food. Nothing for tea, no gammon and wide selection of buffet treats. If anyone is still hungry, they can have a turkey sandwich. Yes we are having turkey for lunch, but it has been hand-reared free range locally by my friend on her smallholding. Fresh vegetables are from our local greengrocer, whilst frozen peas, sweetcorn and yorkshire puddings have been purchased packaging-free. Also no starters. And this year for the first time, we are passing on the Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, since only half the family like them anyhow, plus I am trying to reduce my sugar intake. No Yule log either. We do still have mince pies which I made using mincemeat that was handmade by disabled people in our local community.

Mince pies

We’ve had our artificial Christmas tree for many years, but when I got it out just over a week ago, I realised one of the pieces had broken when it was being taken down last year. I’ve managed to repair it, so hopefully the tree will last us at least a few more years. However only two out of four colours of our LED lights seem to now be working and I’ve discovered they sadly don’t have replaceable bulbs like our previous set did, but we are making do. So much for me stating that they would last for 50,000 hours use, when I reviewed them 6 years ago. But I’ve noticed that none of us are particularly bothered about switching the Christmas lights on, so saving energy. We’ve only ever had one strings of lights at a time, unlike some houses which seem to go overboard on both the amount of lighting and how soon it is up, in some cases even as early as November, but maybe Christmas lights will become a thing of the past in our household.

Christmas wreath

On the more natural decorative front, I cut a few sprigs of holly, ivy and pine from the garden and wove them around my willow wreath for a front door decoration. It looks a bit lopsided, but I am still pleased with it. I made the wreath early last month after volunteering to help with the willow harvest.

Making a willow wreath

And now to share my recipes. Firstly the zero-waste candied peel. I’ve been saving all types of citrus peel in the freezer, along with other bags of bread crumbs, raw vegetable scraps for stock, apple cores and vegetable peelings. My initial plan was to make my own candied peel that I could either use in cake-making or as a sweet treat. However I wished to avoid sugar, so I have used honey in my recipe instead. But as we eat a lot of citrus fruit, I seemed to have a non-ending supply of citrus peel, so the obvious idea was to gift some of the candied peel. For an additional touch, you could also dip the candied peel in chocolate.


Candied Peel

Candied Peel

Ingredients

300g mixed citrus peel (orange, lemon and grapefruit)
250g honey
water

Method

Defrost the peels.
Remove excess pith and cut into narrow strips.
Place in a saucepan of water and bring to the boil.
Boil for 5 minutes, then drain off the water.
Replace with fresh water and bring to the boil again.
This time simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the water into a jug.
Pour 400ml of the strained water back into the saucepan.
Stir in the honey and strips of peel.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the honey.
Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup.
Allow to cool.
Strain off the syrup, (you can store this in the refrigerator to make cordial drinks).
Place sheets of greaseproof paper onto all your cooling racks.
Spread out the peels in a single layer on the paper.
Place the cooling racks in your airing cupboard for 2-3 days until the peels are dry.
Store the candied peels in airtight sterilised jars.
(Optionally dip in melted chocolate).
Enjoy.

Candied Peel

Secondly turmeric latte, a tasty drink. Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so this is a great gift for the health benefits.


Turmeric Latte

Turmeric Latte

Ingredients

250g skimmed milk powder
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of black pepper

Method

Mix all ingredients together.
Store in an airtight sterilised jar.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Mix 25g into a mug of cold water.
Heat in microwave.
Enjoy.

And finally the soups in a jar. I did two variants, mild coconut curry soup and minestrone soup, but there are so many more possibilities for this. Gift them along with a tin of coconut milk or chopped tomatoes respectively.


Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

125g green lentils
125g red lentils
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp dried onion
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin coconut milk

Method

Mix together the dried onions, curry powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the green lentils.
Then the red lentils.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of coconut milk.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.
Enjoy.


Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

75g barley
75g red lentils
75g gomitini pasta
1 tbsp dried onion
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 garlic powder
Pinch of basil
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of marjoram
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Method

Mix together the dried onions, mustard powder, garlic powder, herbs, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the barley.
Then the red lentils.
Then the pasta.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of chopped tomatoes.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 45-50 minutes until barley is tender.
Enjoy.

So these are my first small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas. I am sure there is loads more I could do, so I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips for Christmas please.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Christmas.

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Macadamia Energy Bites

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

I do enjoy cooking, so I was very pleased to receive the following selection of products from Buy Whole Foods Online free to review.

Organic Carob Powder 500g
Ceylon Cinnamon Powder (True) 250g
Organic Amla Powder 125g
Raw Wild Flower Bulgarian Honey 900g
Macadamia Nut Halves, Raw 250g

I had already formulated a tentative recipe idea in my head when I chose this selection which was to make some healthy raw energy snacks.

I do like this brand and have previously blogged some TVP meal recipes and my healthy yummy chocolate puds, made using their products. However this was back near the start of this year, so I was keen to see whether they would have taken on board my packaging suggestions, as I hadn’t had any feedback.

I was also pleased to see that everything was long-dated, with best before dates of October 2020 and beyond. Even the nuts, which was quite a pleasant surprise to me.

Buy Whole Foods Online products

Now let me tell you a little about these products, especially if like me, you get confused between cocoa, cacao and carob. Carob powder is produced by grinding the dried carob pods into a powder. I have now discovered that unlike cacao and cocoa, carob is naturally caffeine-free and much lower in fat than other forms of chocolate, plus it has a naturally sweet flavour. And 2 tablespoons contains almost 20% of your fibre RDA. It is also a form of calcium, which is great news for the bones as well as the taste buds!

Amla powder is something I hadn’t heard of previously. I have now discovered that it is made from drying Indian gooseberries and grinding them down to make a powder. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and has had Ayurvedic uses for centuries.

Raw honey, unlike your average honey, is unfiltered and unpasteurised, so it retains all the precious nutrients which are normally lost through heating and filtering. Plus raw honey is a natural sweetener free from additives that other conventional honeys may have. And raw honey contains a considerable amount of bee pollen, which is a complete source of protein.

Cinnamon is a spice which I often add to the likes of cookies and buns, but it also works well in savoury dishes too. However I didn’t realise there are variations in the grade of cinnamon. Apparently this Ceylon cinnamon is the purest form of cinnamon you can buy. Packed with nutrition, there are a number of health benefits associated with consuming Ceylon cinnamon on a daily basis including anti-inflammatory properties and easing digestion issues.

Macadamia nuts are something that I buy on an adhoc basis for snacks. Ideal as they are high in protein, fibre and healthy fats. But I’ve also now discovered that they are great for creating your own macadamia nut butter. That is something I’ve never tried yet.

So let me share my Macadamia Energy Bites recipe with you.

Macadamia Energy Bites

Macadamia Energy Bites

Ingredients (makes 10 – 12)

125g macadamia nuts
2 tbsp carob powder
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp amla powder

Method

Grind the nuts in a blender.
Tip ground nuts into a mixing bowl.
Mix in the carob, cinnamon and amla powder.
Mix in the honey.
Break off walnut-size amounts of mixture and roll into small balls.
Serve and enjoy.
These may be stored for upto a week in the fridge.

Macadamia Energy Bites

These were absolutely delicious and didn’t last long. I used half the macadamia nuts in the recipe, so there is only enough left to make one more batch. After that, I need to come up with some more recipe ideas for the other products, particularly the cinnamon, which is a huge packet. I’ve got about a year to use 250g, when a small spice jar usually lasts me about that length of time. I’ll have to see if the boys like cinnamon toast. I used to eat that quite regularly, but haven’t had it in years. So please hit me with your recipe suggestions.

The honey is one standard size extra large jar, but all the dry products come in a wide range of sizes from 50g to the bulk 25kg.

Unfortunately no change in the packaging as yet. Apart from the honey, the products are all in plastic, even if it is labelled as BPA free plastic. I’m still hoping Buy Whole Foods Online will review their product packaging and switch to a paper-based solution. Or the fact that some of them can be purchased in sizes upto 25kg, maybe they could start selling those via bulk stores, so we could take our own containers to fill.

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 the same selection of products as I received from Buy Whole Foods Online to one lucky winner. You’ll certainly be able to make some tasty treats 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 any of these products.

I’ve subsequently seen the most beautiful recipe for Rose and Almond Nougat on the Marvellous Mrs P blog, which I’m wondering how well it would adapt to using macadamia nuts. I’ve got a rose bush in the garden and had been considering the possibility of using the rose hips to make a cordial, but had never considered the potential of the rose petals.

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Organic Cacao Butter Buttons recipes plus giveaway

Cocoa butter (also known as cacao butter) is well known in skincare for its moisturising properties but did you know that it can also be used in the kitchen. I didn’t so I was intrigued when I saw it listed as one of the products that Indigo Herbs were looking for bloggers to review.

Once I realised that it is a raw by-product in the cocoa Industry which can be used to make my own sugar-free chocolate, I immediately applied. I’ve always loved chocolate and I have tried to convince myself that it is good for me, due to the iron content, as I easily get anaemic. However over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to reduce my processed sugar intake, but chocolate is one of the areas I’ve particularly failed to reduce. Nearly every visit to my local Co-op, I still come back with a bar, patting myself on the back because it is fair-trade and wrapped in foil and paper, ignoring the high sugar content.

Cacao butter buttons

So I was very pleased to receive a 500g packet of Indigo Herbs Organic Cacao Butter Buttons free to review.

Cacao has been harvested from the bean for centuries and dates back at least to the days of the Mayan, Inca and Aztec cultures. It has many health benefits. Cacao is the highest wholefood source of the mineral magnesium, an important mineral for heart health, which is rather lacking in most modern diets. It is also a valuable source of iron and an extremely antioxidant-rich superfood. Plus raw cacao is a great mood enhancer due to the abundance of feel good phytonutrients it contains.

The packet states that these organic buttons are 100% vegan, a natural source of healthy fats and an excellent source of essential fatty acids. On opening the packet, the aroma was absolutely divine, like a rich dark chocolate. And here is a birds-eye view into the packet. You can see that they look very similar in appearance to white chocolate chips, but that is where the similarity ends as these buttons are sugar-free. They are smooth to the touch, and melt easily over hot water.

organic cacao butter buttons


I currently have lots of apples and blackberries to put to good use, so I decided to come up with a recipe using these.

Apple and Blackberry Traybake

Apple and Blackberry Traybake

Ingredients (makes 16 slices)

100g cacao butter buttons
300g cooking apples
100g blackberries
250g almond flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
25g date sugar
200ml oat milk

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degrees C.
Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Boil a saucepan of water and then turn off.
Melt the cacao butter buttons in a bowl placed in the pan of hot water.
Meanwhile peel, core and dice the apples.
Stir the almond flour, baking powder and date sugar into the melted cacao butter.
Mix in the oat milk.
Stir in the blackberries and chopped apples.
Spoon the mixture into the baking tin.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for about 40 minutes, (until a skewer comes out clean).
Cool on cooling rack.
Cut into 16 pieces.
Serve and enjoy.

This was very tasty and shows how cacao butter can be used in a non-chocolate recipe. However the texture was rather soft, so it would probably have been better to serve this as a pudding rather than as cake. I’ve deliberately kept the recipe vegan and gluten-free, but you could easily adapt it.

Apple and Blackberry Traybake


And of course, I wanted to try my hand at making my own homemade chocolates. Having been tempted to taste one of the buttons straight from the packet, I knew I was going to have to sweeten the cacao somewhat, but to keep it reasonably healthy, I wanted to add as little of the date syrup as possible, so I gradually added 5g at a time, until discovering that 20g was optimal.

Homemade Chocolates

Homemade Chocolates

Ingredients

50g cacao butter buttons
35g cacao powder
20g date syrup

Method

Boil a saucepan of water and then turn off.
Melt the cacao butter buttons in a bowl placed in the pan of hot water.
Mix in the cacao powder.
Stir in the date syrup.
Spoon the mixture into moulds.
Place moulds in fridge for an hour.
Gently press chocolates out of moulds.
Serve and enjoy.

Homemade Chocolates

Wow. Thumbs up. These yummy treats both tasted and looked amazing. A nice slightly bitter dark chocolate flavour. I shall definitely be making these on a regular basis. I used moulds which I had repurposed from advent calendars and Easter, but you could alternatively make a bar.

A 500g packet of Indigo Herbs Organic Cacao Butter Buttons currently retails at £12.99 and is also available in 250g or 1kg sizes. They have a long shelf life being dated best before December 2020, although mine will be long gone before then. Unfortunately there is no mention of the cacao being fairtrade. Perhaps that is something that could be looked into.

I also want to talk about the packaging. Regular followers of my blog will know that I began this year with the aim of reducing my household waste, in particular plastic. I’ve gradually broadened this to think of the whole carbon footprint in terms of my purchases and trying to buy more organic and more local products with low food miles. So the buttons get a big tick for being organic. I know the cocoa bean doesn’t grow in the UK, so can’t do much about the fact of the cacao coming from Peru. Just got to accept that. It is the same with other products that I intend to continue purchasing like bananas. One of the things I plan to look into going forwards is how I personally can offset my carbon footprint of these products having been flown halfway across the world for my consumption, with a view to contributing to some environmental projects.

So back to the packaging. Unfortunately there is no mention on the packet of how to dispose of it, which is information I would like to see all food packaging display. I think it looks like either a plastic or a mixed material, probably not easily recycled. It seems reasonably robust, so I will probably be able to repurpose it temporarily as a freezer bag. But what about after that? How about selling them in glass jars instead, or even better loose though refill stores.

I couldn’t actually work out where my nearest stockist is as there seems to be a glitch with that page. Every store on the map seems to currently be listed with a Bristol address.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a 500g pack of cacao buttons courtesy of Indigo Herbs to one lucky winner. Think of all the tempting treats you could make with this.

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

And you may see my other giveaways here.

Right I’m off to browse the Indigo Herbs website to see what other products they sell. It is thanks to them that I previously discovered my love of chia seeds, something that I now use almost daily. You may check out my chia seed review here.

I’d love to hear your recipes using cacao.

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

My journey towards a Plastic Free future – part 8

Latest update on reducing our plastic usage and other waste. Although I’ve baked my own crackers quite a few times now, I was very pleased to discover some crispbread packaged in paper in a nearby village. Son1 can polish off the crackers so quickly, that it is good to have something in the store cupboard again.

crispbreads

I’m now a regular customer at the local independent shops, so I felt able to challenge the greengrocer when I popped in early one morning and saw him chopping off all the outer leaves from the cauliflowers. I asked why he was doing that and he said customers prefer them like that. Well I’m a customer and I would prefer them left on, but I felt my request fell on deaf ears. So it remains a choice between a cauliflower with leaves in plastic from the supermarket, or a plastic-free cauliflower minus leaves from the local greengrocer. I would use the outermost leaves in soups and stock, the next ones in I would steam and the innermost ones I would eat raw in salads. I also asked what would happen to all the wastage. Apparently it goes for the pigs to eat.

And here’s a recipe I promised to share for apple pulp pancakes, made using the pulp from my juicer.

pulp pancakes

Pulp Pancakes

Ingredients

250g apple pulp
25g melted butter
2 eggs
125ml milk
200g plain flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method

Melt the butter in a jug in the microwave.
Add all ingredients except oil to a large bowl.
Beat the ingredients together to a batter.
Gently heat oil in a frying pan.
Pour pancake size spoonfuls of batter into the frying pan, to make about 3 pancakes at a time.
Cook for about 2 -3 minutes until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes.
Turn and cook the other side for about 2 minutes until golden.
Repeat until all batter has been used.
Serve either warm or cold, either plain or with your choice of topping.
Enjoy.

These are delicious and can be made with other types of pulp. They also have no added sugar, just the sweetness from the pulp.

pulp pancakes

I mentioned previously that I had saved some seeds to plant. Initially it was just ones like melon, butternut squash and pepper to avoid them ending up in food waste. But then I thought, well why not also try saving a few of those that you would typically eat like tomato. Well I can report that I’ve had mixed success. The tomatoes and peppers came up but no luck initially with either melon or butternut squash, so I had to plant some more of those, which happily did germinate. Of course the real proof of success won’t be until later in the year, as to whether I actually manage to harvest anything from them.

growing seeds

I’ve also bought a few packets of seeds including cauliflower, which are now at the seedling stage. So hopefully I’ll be harvesting my own cauliflowers later and avoiding the chopped off wasted leaves issue.

And on the topic of seeds, which ones can be roasted to eat? I’ve only ever roasted pumpkin seeds. I regularly buy melons, peppers and butternut squash. Anyone know if I could roast any of those seeds?

I’ve never particularly had green fingers but I’m gradually enlarging the area that I started as a vegetable patch last year. Certainly hard work digging as there seem to be so many weed roots. Only managed a few carrots, tomatoes and one pumpkin last year, so hoping for better results this time round. Very pleased with the “reduced to clear” stickered chive and mint plants from the supermarket that I planted in the autumn. They are flourishing marvellously.

mint and chives

I’m always experimenting with chopping up various greens from my garden into my salads, not only chives and mint, but things like carrot tops and beetroot leaves. Recently I tried radish leaves but they were rather bitter, maybe the taste will grow on me. I’ve been wondering about dandelion leaves, as there are lots of those growing here, so I was very interested to read Becky’s blog post on Dandelion Tea Benefits & How to Make Dandelion Tea. I shall certainly have to give some of these suggestions a go.

Also I made a suggestion to the cafe at work a few months back that they reduce waste, by offering the coffee grounds to employees for their gardens and I’m pleased to say that they finally implemented my idea last week, so I’ve brought a couple of bagfuls home. Just drying it out first, but I plan to use some of it as a mulch around the plants and some in my compost bin. That is a much longer term project but slowing filling with a mix of grass mowings, leaves, fruit and vegetable waste plus torn up butchers’ paper. But don’t think I’ll have any compost ready this year.

coffee grounds

coffee grounds

And I found another crowdfunding initiative to help fund plastic-free organic dry shampoo from KiteNest. See details here. I’m enjoying making a small pledge to these campaigns.

I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.

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My journey towards a Plastic Free future – part 7

It has been a while since I last gave you an update on how things are going with trying to reduce waste, in particular plastic. I felt I suffered a setback whilst we were on holiday recently. It seems much more difficult when you out of your own zone. Things started going wrong from when we stopped at the services for a meal en-route. We all opted for different fast food outlets and my other half was the only one who got his meal on a china plate with proper cutlery. So thumbs up to Harry Ramsdens for that. The rest of us ended up being served with disposable tableware. I don’t see why they couldn’t all follow Harry Ramsdens lead.

We were doing a house swap to the Wirral and our host had written a note regarding what could go in the recycling bin. Basically cans, glass, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard. So much more limited than what we can recycle at home. No plastic trays, yoghurt pots, etc. I had heard previously that recycling varied from council to council, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this restricted. And no food waste bins either. Although we had a lovely holiday, sadly I sent significantly more to landfill that week than usual. And of course, I didn’t know where to shop locally for least plastic waste, especially when we had to dash straight to the supermarket on arrival to buy a cabbage to feed their tortoise. We opted for Morrisons, but no plastic free cabbages in sight. I later found out that sadly the local greengrocer had closed down permanently, so no options for fruit and vegetables other than the supermarkets.

water bottle

Also I was very saddened when taking part in a race in beautiful countryside to see single use plastic water bottles discarded littering the route. Several issues come to mind here. Firstly bring your own reusable bottle to carry with you. The run was only 10k and it was a cool day. I didn’t need to hydrate whilst running at all, although admittedly my time was almost twice that of the leaders. Secondly if you do take a bottle from the water station en-route, hold onto it until the end of the race and then recycle it. Obviously not viable for a marathon when you will need to hydrate multiple times, but fine for this kind of distance. And thirdly, perhaps the race organisers could consider other options to plastic bottles, such as compostable paper cups. The goody bag was another area that could be reconsidered, as it was one of those plastic drawstring bags. How about a cloth bag instead.

And here’s a recipe I promised to share for grapefruit cake, made when I was thinking of ideas of what to do with grapefruit and orange peel. The recipe also requires grapefruit juice as well as the zest. Since I had eaten the whole grapefruit, I used bottled grapefruit juice, which I have been buying from the milkman anyhow. But you could squeeze the juice from the grapefruit for this recipe.

Grapefruit Cake

Grapefruit Cake

Ingredients

100g date sugar
Zest of 1 large grapefruit
100g greek yoghurt
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50ml olive oil
3 eggs
50ml milk

And for glaze
20g date sugar
50ml grapefruit juice

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a loaf tin.
Grate the zest from the grapefruit.
Mix together yoghurt, date sugar and grapefruit zest in a large bowl.
Whisk in the eggs.
Sieve in the flour and baking powder
Mix in the olive oil and milk.
Spoon mixture into lined tin.
Bake on middle shelf of oven for about 30 minutes, testing that a skewer will come out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile mix together date sugar and grapefruit juice for glaze.
Make holes in top of cake with a skewer.
Pour glaze over cake slowly, allowing to soak into holes.
Serve and enjoy.

Grapefruit Cake

Grapefruit Cake
I’ve got bagfuls of citrus and vegetable peelings in the freezer. I tend to pop a handful of vegetable peelings in for crisps whenever I have the oven on. But more recipe suggestions for these would be very welcome. I’ve also been saving seeds out of melons, peppers and butternut squash. Wondering which of these can be eaten or would they grow, if I try to plant them?

And finally I’ve just helped crowdfund for Plastic Free, Tree less, Natural, Toilet Paper from Ty Mor. See details here. I’ll let you know what it is like once it arrives.

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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.

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.