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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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Family Fever

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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Homemade sugar-free Cranberry Sauce

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to reduce my sugar intake, but of course that is going to be much more difficult over the Christmas period with all the tempting seasonal goodies. I wrote a note on my amazon wishlist, requesting everyone to not buy me any sweet treats, as I usually seem to end up with a lot of fudge and chocolate gifts for Christmas. I am hoping they respect my request. I still plan to indulge on Xmas pud, mince pies and Xmas cake, all with the regular sugar hit. I’m not ready to skip sugar entirely.

In the past, I’ve always bought a jar of cranberry sauce, but I took a look at the listed ingredients and saw it was only 45% cranberries, with the second highest ingredient being sugar followed by water. So I put it back on the shelf, thinking it was one trimming we could skip.

However when I spotted fresh cranberries for sale at our local farm shop, I thought why not give them a try. Son2 immediately asked for one, as he is very fond of dried cranberries, so I gave him one before trying myself. Big mistake, as we found they are quite bitter raw. I was quite surprised and checked our dried cranberry packet for comparison, at which point I discovered that those are sweetened with apple juice concentrate. I never realised that before.

So I knew that I would need to sweeten the cranberries with something, but not sugar. So the following is the recipe I came up with.


Sugar free cranberry sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

200g cranberries
zest and juice of 1 large orange
30g agave nectar

Method

Wash the cranberries.
Grate the zest of the orange and squeeze the juice.
Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Heat gently for about 5 more minutes until all the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
Allow to cool.
Serve with turkey.

Sugar free cranberry sauce

This can be made ahead of schedule and will keep for a few days in the fridge. It can even be frozen and then defrosted.

It tasted delicious, with the orange flavour really complimenting the cranberries. So much nicer than a shop-bought jar. Pity that fresh cranberries are only seen in the shops at this time of year, as this sauce would make an ideal substitute for jam.

I’d love to hear what food preparations you do ahead of Christmas?

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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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Scallops or Chicken with Tagliatelle

Due to the likes and dislikes of my children, I sometimes struggle to come up with new meal ideas that we will all enjoy. And I don’t particularly wish to eat the same tried and trusted recipes, week in, week out. So I decided to experiment with making 2 variants on the same meal, either scallops or chicken with tagliatelle. The scallops were for son1 and me, whilst son2 who is very unadventurous could have chicken, oblivious to the fact that his had been cooked alongside the scallops.

Scallops with Tagliatelle


Scallops or Chicken with Tagliatelle

Ingredients (serves 3)

1 200g packet frozen scallops
1 chicken breast
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
75ml chicken stock
150g frozen peas
salt and pepper
200g tagliatelle

Method

Defrost the scallops.
Defrost the chicken stock in a jug.
Squeeze garlic through garlic press.
Cut the chicken into small pieces.
Squeeze the juice from the lemon.
Add lemon juice to the jug of stock.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
Gently heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a wok.
Add chicken to wok.
Add tagliatelle to saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile gently heat other tbsp of olive oil in large frying pan.
Add garlic to frying pan.
After 1 minute, tip lemon juice and stock mixture over garlic.
Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Once chicken is almost cooked through, add scallops to chicken.
Turn scallops over after approx 3 minutes.
After approx another 3 minutes, tip sauce over chicken and scallops.
Add peas and cook briefly until peas are hot.
Drain tagliatelle and stir into wok.
Serve and enjoy, ensuring scallops are not on plate of anyone who doesn’t want.

Both boys gave me the thumbs up, so a good result.

Scallops or Chicken with Tagliatelle

Obviously this could be cooked with either chicken or scallops only. But I’d love to hear what recipes you cook multiple variants on.

Chicken with Tagliatelle

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Swede and Bacon Gratin

Swede is often ignored for recipes and just served on the side mashed, either on its own or with carrot. But let me share this delicious main course recipe, which I served with crusty homemade bread and salad. And it is very good value too, since swede is so reasonably priced.

swede and bacon gratin

Swede and Bacon Gratin

Ingredients (serves 2)

350g swede
2 cloves of garlic
300ml milk
30g margarine
2tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper
3 rashers smoked bacon
A handful of grated cheddar cheese

Method

Peel the swede and dice into approx 1-2cm pieces.
Peel the garlic and push through a garlic press or finely chop.
Put the diced swede into a bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes.
Grill the bacon until crisp and cut into small pieces.
Drain the swede and put into a saucepan with the milk and garlic.
Bring to the boil and cook over a fairly gentle heat for about 10 minutes until tender.
Lift the swede out of the milk with a slotted spoon and place in an ovenproof dish with the bacon.
Leave the garlic in the saucepan.
Whisk the margarine and flour into the milk. Whisk it quite vigorously to avoid lumps, and bring back to the boil to thicken.
Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the swede and bacon.
Mix around to coat everything with the sauce, then top with the grated cheese.
Cook in a preheated oven at 200 degrees centigrade, 180 fan for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
Serve and enjoy.

Could be served as a side dish either. For vegetarians, substitute the bacon with onion.

I originally posted this recipe on Gourmandize.

I’d love to hear your ideas for recipes using swede? It is such a reasonably priced vegetable, but so often over-looked.

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