Monthly Archives: May 2013

Midfields Granola review

I recently discovered a The Real Food Store in Exeter.  It prides itself on being “one of the one of the largest community-owned food enterprises in the country“. I picked up a couple of treats, some homemade seeded sourdough, baked on the premises, some tahini paste, and a free sample pack of Midfields Granola.

Real Food Store Purchases Seeded sourdough and tahini

Seeded sourdough and tahini

Midfields Granola

Free Granola sample

Just to clarify granola is “basically oats, with perhaps some nuts and sweetener, toasted until crunchy. Muesli contains similar ingredients, but it’s not toasted and has a chewier texture.” So now you know.

I decided to have my granola scattered over some banana soft serve for breakfast with a Matcha Orange Juice shot.  Have you tried banana soft serve (aka banana ice cream)?  It is amazing and really doing the rounds in the blogosphere! It can be found on choosing raw. Healthy enough for breakfast, it’s simply frozen bananas whizzed up in a blender.  Even my mini-chopper/processor can cope with this one.  I tend to throw in a bit of non-frozen banana to help it along though.

So, back to this granola.  My sample was the ‘original’ flavour: “A crisp golden cereal with finest Scottish jumbo oat flakes, wheat flakes, chopped almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
NO ADDED SALT”

homemade banana soft serve ice cream

banana soft serve

It certainly was crisp.  It was sweet, but not too sweet as some can be.  I added a teaspoon or so of dried cranberries for the chewy ‘mouth-feel’ which does push up the sugar content.  I think some granolas give me a dry mouth – i didn’t get that with this granola.

Midfields granola breakfast

Midfields granola breakfast

How does it stack up nutritionally?

Nutritional Information: typical values per 100g

Energy 444kcal; 1864kj
Protein 14.2g
Carbohydrate 54.9g
of which sugars 5.9g
Fat 17.2g
of which saturates 2.0g
Dietary Fibre (AOAC) 6.8g
Sodium 0.0 (14mg)

Oats are good for you, and here oats are the base of the granola.  Oats are rich in soluble fibre which (amongst other things) slows the rate of sugar absorption (read keeps you fuller for longer and balances out your sugar levels)  and have been linked to better heart health. 6.8g fibre, not bad – better than a piece of toast!

One major problem with granola is that it is loaded with sugar, usually in the form of honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, dried fruit etc.  It’s best to pick out a granola which has less than 10g of sugar per serving (about 2.5 tsp) – Result!  However, NHS Live well guidelines give the following recommendations:

Look for the “Carbohydrates (of which sugars)” figure in the nutrition label.

  • high – over 15g of total sugars per 100g
  • low – 5g of total sugars or less per 100g

If the amount of sugars per 100g is between these figures, then that is a medium level of sugars. A medium level of sugar for this one – not bad as far as granola goes!

Protein comes from the chopped almonds and sunflower and pumpkin seeds which also provide fats.  15.2g of these are the healthier unsaturated fats.  The NHS Live Well guidelines recommend that we cut down on saturated fat –

  • The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
  • The average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

In the traffic light system for saturated fat:

High = More than 5g saturates per 100g. May display a red traffic light.
Low = 1.5g saturates or less per 100g. May display a green traffic light.
Medium = If the amount of fat or saturated fat per 100g is in between these figures, that is a medium level, and may be colour coded amber.
So this granola scrapes into the medium/amber category.

The old adage says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – get some granola in you!

White Asparagus Soup

“Earthier and nuttier” or “milder and more tender” and “less bitter” than its green counterpart.  After I bought my white asparagus or ‘spargel’ earlier this week, I’ve been doing some research to decide how I’m going to cook it.  Lots of recipes pair it with butter, cream or pancetta – that’s not going to happen in my kitchen.  I have to get clever.  I tried to roast a spear with garlic and lemon: not great. I don’t think I roasted it long enough and it was a bit crunchy.  Though on the plus side, Ben tried it:

B: I don’t like asparagus
E: Just try a taste. {pause} What did you think?
B: Doesn’t taste of much
E: How does it compare to normal asparagus?
B: I don’t know, I don’t eat asparagus
E: {silent}

I decided on an Emily-version of White asparagus soup.  The soups tend to be creamy: crème fraiche, heavy cream, butter, egg yolks…No thanks!  So how to make it creamy without adding cream?  I thought about going for cottage cheese or a low fat cream alternative (yoghurt, low fat soft cheese, low fat crème fraiche), but decided to keep it vegan.  So add some starch.  I thought about adding potato, but I decided on haricot beans which I had in the fridge – adds creaminess without overpowering the flavour.

Asparagus soup ingredients

Getting set up with ingredients

During my research I learned that you have to prepare white asparagus – more so than green – by peeling it and removing the woody end.  I’m used to just a clean snap to remove the woody stalk.

preparing white asparagus

peel the asparagus

Ta da!

prepared and peeled asparagus

prepared and peeled

White Asparagus soup for one

Ingredients

  • 1/2 white onion
  • 70g haricot beans
  • 150g white asparagus (prepared weight)
  • Garlic clove (optional)
  • stock (to taste) – I use Marigold low salt vegan bouillon
  • salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon

To keep it low fat, I sweated the onion without any oil.  Just cook in a non-stick pan with a splash of water if it starts to stick.  Add the chopped clove of garlic for the last 2-3 minutes.

Add the asparagus stalks, I kept the tips to add towards the end. Keep stirring to avoid browning for 5 minutes or so.

Pour over your stock, and add the haricot beans and asparagus tips.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes until all the asparagus is tender

asparagus soup all in the pan

Blend until smooth, add more stock if it is too thick for your liking.

Serve with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper and a slice of lemon.  I sprinkled with a little of the chervil I bought.

white asparagus soup

Mmm… delicious

I’ve got a couple of stalks left, and I’ve seen recommendations for eating it raw in a salad – might just give that a go 🙂

Have you made the most of the short white asparagus season?  How do you serve yours?

Fast Food: A quick stirfry

Last night I had a ‘late’ yoga class, and once every 4-6 weeks we have a deep relaxation session – which was last night.  The LAST thing I wanted to do then was go home and cook tea while I was feeling all tranquil and relaxed.  I knew about the deep relaxation, so I came up with a plan.  I toyed with the idea of just making a casserole style dinner, which we could pop in the oven, but as Ben wasn’t home either I need something I could pull together with minimal fuss.  Enter the stir fry.

I’m sure the stir fry isn’t new to anyone out there, you simply heat a small amount of oil, cook off your choice of meat (if using) and vegetables, then add noodles/rice etc, pour over some sauce. Done!  The trickiest part of this meal is preparing the vegetables/meat.

So, being all organised as I am, I had a few minutes to spare yesterday morning, so I decided to get the prep out of the way – great, all I would have to do is stir fry it all when I got home.  It really was that simple.  We had some dried egg noodles in the cupboards, so I stuck them in a pan on the hob and got to work chopping the vegetables.

stir fry veg with captions

chopped vegetables

6.51am – put egg noodles on to cook (follow

Cooked egg noodles

Cooked egg noodles

pack instructions)

meanwhile – chop up a selection of carrots, broccoli, red onion, mange tout, celery

6.56am – drain noodles and pop in a sealed container in the fridge with the vegetables in a separate container.

– done!

All over in 5 minutes (excluding the time it took to boil the kettle – but it was warm already from my hot water with lemon upon rising)

I did get into a really deep relaxation during yoga, and I was so tranquil I didn’t even want to put my socks and shoes back on let alone cook dinner (I did put my shoes and socks on – the weather isn’t conducive to bear feet yet!)

I have been known to set off the fire alarm when I do a stir fry, which is never a good thing when you live in a flat!  The thing is, I put the spices on to toast in the pan but while I am then manically chopping the veg the spices catch and chaos ensues.  Inevitably I am too embarrassed to go and sort it out so I have to send Ben to reset the main alarm switchboard in the communal entrance hall, and apologise on my behalf (probably goes more along the lines of “It’s ok, it’s just Emily cooking again!”)

Last night, when we got home:

Ben: “If I go and have a shower can I trust you not to set off the fire alarm”
Me: “Yes, I can cook a stir fry without setting off the fire alarm you know!”
and yes, we were ok (though I did have the fan on above the hob – you know, just in case)

All that aside, all I did when we go home was:

  • heat some coconut oil in a pan – I cooked the chicken breast on the health grill so I could go vegetarian
  • fry off the vegetables for 5 minutes, keep them moving
  • add the cooked noodles, give it a few stirs (add a splash of water if it starts to stick)
  • pour over sauce of your choice – you could use a bought sauce, but I just put a teaspoon of peanut butter, a few splashes of tamari sauce, and a splash of balsamic vinegar for the sweet/sour flavour

I love this kitchen tip from the Lakeland calendar I got at Christmas:

kitchen tips

Serve, sprinkled with the chervil that I bought at the weekend.

chicken stir fry

Ben will use chopsticks, but with a fork for backup

Do you prepare your evening meals in the morning?  What are your quick go-to meals when you are short on time?

Herman the Friendship Cake

Day 0 - my new project

Day 0 – my project

Ben won’t like it if I don’t get some not-so-healthy food into my blog, so I searched back over my archives (yes, I have ‘archives’ even though I’ve only been writing this blog for 3 days) for something suitable, and came up with these photos.

A while back, a friend gave me a German – or Amish depending on your sources –  Friendship Cake starter (also known as Herman) a while back.  If you don’t know what a Herman is, I guess you were living under a rock a couple of years ago when it made a big comeback.  I guess it’s a bit like the chain letters of my childhood (did you do that, there was even a chocolate one, a bit like a chocolate pyramid scheme) in that it is popular in your ‘circle’ for a while, then moves on once everyone has had a go.

The starter is a sourdough starter made of yeast, flour, milk and sugar.  The idea is that you keep Herman, a bit like a pet, feed him and grow him until you can share the starter with your friends and make a cake with your share 10 days later.  He is a bit smelly when uncovered – but I rather liked the smell: musty and yeasty.  Hmm, what does that say about me??? (And Ben for that matter!)

German Friendship Cake Day 0

Day 0 – New Home

When you receive Herman you move him into a larger home, a large mixing bowl is good, and cover loosely with a tea towel.

Herman Friendship Cake - Day 0

Day 0 – nap time

Day 2 and Day 3 give Herman a good stir.

Day 4 – Herman is hungry! Feed him up with 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well and put him back to bed.

Day 4 - multiply

Day 4 – Herman is hungry

Herman is now getting bigger, on day 5, 6, 7 and 8 give him a good stir, and put him back to bed until tomorrow.

Day 5 - stir
Day 5 to 8 – stir

Day 9 – Herman is hungry again! Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar, milk. Stir well.

Day 10 - it's multiplied

Day 9 – it’s now multiplied

Divide into 4 equal parts and give 3 away to friends – pick your friends well 🙂

Herman 4 stays with you and on day 10 you can bake a cake.

Day 10 - split into four and share with a friend

Day 9 – split into four and share with a friend

Day 10 – bake a cake

There are several recipes for the cake, and my Herman came with an apple and cinnamon recipe.  I made it for my birthday cake, so I made white chocolate and nut filled with greengage jam and cream.

To make the cake

  • 1 share of Friendship cake starter
  • 150g self raising flour,
  • 250g sugar,
  • 100ml oil,
  • 1/2tsp salt,
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract,
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon,
  • 1½ tsp baking powder,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 75g chocolate chunks (I used white),
  • 100g chopped nuts of your choice. Bake 30-35 mins in loaf tin or 20-25 mins in two 8-inch sandwich tins, and sandwich together with cream &/ thick cooked cranberries sauce .

 Method

  1. Mix everything together and put in a large greased roasting tin
  2. Bake 30-35 minutes at GM4, 170C (fan oven) 180C in a loaf tin, or 20-25 minutes for two 8-inch sandwich tins.
  3. When cold sandwich together with cream and jam of your choice.  If you aren’t feeling in the mood, or if you don’t have enough friends to pass the starter on to (I’m not judging!) the cake freezes well (don’t cream and jam it first though)
    Herman Friendship cake

    Herman Friendship Cake

    Have you made a friendship cake?  How do you feel about using an ingredient which has been passed among your friends?  Do you remember sending chain letters as a kid? 🙂

Mince Cobbler

Mince Cobbler

Mince cobbler, potatoes and vegetables

White asparagus and chervil

White asparagus and chervil

After a day of walking, I thought I would make a nice hearty cobbler for dinner.  But, first thing’s first, I have to show you what I bought from the supermarket.  We are lucky enough to have a new Morrisons nearby which has a funky-food department.  Now I’m sure it has a technical name, but that will have to do for now.  I like to drag Ben along occasionally of a weekend to try-something new.  So, what did I go for today?  I’d been considering trying the white asparagus for some time, but hadn’t actually gone for it.  This week it was the winner!  I also bought a bunch of the ‘herb of the month’ – Chervil.  I have no idea what I am going to do with them, but it’s a bank holiday weekend so I have time spare to do some research.

Now for that cobbler…  It wasn’t as easy as I thought coming up with a savoury scone recipe – most recipes have sugar in there somewhere. I also had to have the ingredients at home because it was 6.30 on a Sunday evening.

Ingredients

Mince

  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 125g extra lean mince
  • gravy granules, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Savoury scone topping

  • 175g plain flour – I used half wholemeal spelt flour, half plain white flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter, cold
  • 10ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2tsp dried herbs of choice – I used thyme and parsley
  • semi-skimmed milk, as required
  • half an egg (I know, but see below for what I did with the leftovers) for glazing (optional)
Mince cobbler: Stage one - sweating down red onion, celery and carrot

Stage one – sweating down red onion, celery and carrot

First sweated down the red onion, carrot and celery.  To reduce the fat in this recipe (it is extra lean steak mince though) I just used my non-stick pan and nothing more – result!

Stage two - browning the mince

Stage two – browning the mince

Add the mince and continue to cook until brown.

Mince cobbler: Stage three - make gravy

Stage three – make gravy

Add freshly boiled water and gravy granules of your choice, to create a gravy.  Make this to taste.  It will thicken in the oven, so make it a bit looser than you would serve it.  You could add wine (a nice bit of red here would be nice) or ale etc in place of the water if you fancy it.  Season to taste.

Flour and butter

Flour and butter

Chuck the flour, baking powder, herbs and butter into a food processor and pulse until lightly combined. You don’t want to process it too much or the scones will be tough.  Make sure you do pick up the baking powder – I once got confused and added bicarbonate of soda by mistake.  The scones looked beautiful, but they tasted soooo bad!  The birds wouldn’t even eat them!

savoury scone dough

Savoury scone dough

Add the vinegar and enough milk to make a soft dough.  Again, handle this as lightly as possible, get in there with your hands and press it together.  Sour milk is great for making scones, but as our milk was fresh I used some apple cider vinegar instead.  Apple cider vinegar is really good for you, it doesn’t distort the flavour of the scones though.  Gently roll it out, and use a cutter to make scones.  My dough was enough for 5 large scones, I would have made them smaller, but I couldn’t find a small enough cutter.  Don’t twist the cutter, or it will prevent the scones from rising properly.

Mince cobbler before baking

Egg washed scones

Drop a couple of scones on top of the beef mixture in a casserole dish.  Brush the scones with the egg (if using) and pop in the oven at 180C for 30-45 minutes.  The mince will be cooked by now, so you just need to cook the scones.  You will know when they are done when the scones are risen and brown.

Mince cobbler

Mince cobbler

With the remaining egg from the egg wash I threw together some pancakes with Ben’s Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and chocolate sauce.  I didn’t keep a record of the recipe, but it might come up again 🙂

chocolate ice cream pancakes

Chocolate ice cream pancakes

Do you like to try new ingredients?  Any ideas what I can do with my white asparagus and chervil?

“Oops Quotes”

“Shall we get a chick of tin peas on the way home?”
Emily Hawkes, 26 May 2013

Miracle Matcha Tea

I’ve tried and tried again to get into green tea.  I made a comment on Facebook, and friends came flooding to make recommendations.  People wouldn’t just let me get away with not liking green tea (I’m sorry, but it tastes like pond water!)

Green Tea has many health benefits, so as ever, I am persevering – I WILL like it!!!

  • Green tea is high in flavanols (catechins) which are thought to be the anti-cancer compound in green tea.
  • It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial
  • It is lower in caffeine than regular black tea

As Angela at Oh She Glows explains, Japanese Green Tea is generally higher in EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate – !!!!).  EGCG has the highest anti-cancer activity of all.

Green Tea Matcha Powder

Green Tea Powder

First I tried Sencha Green Tea from Asda – not bad, but I read good things about Matcha Tea.  Heralded as a superfood, it’s a Green Tea made using the whole tea leaves which are ground down to make a a fine powder. The tea plants are grown under cover to produce lots of amino acids and chlorophyll.  The benefits of Matcha green tea include:

  • 1 serving = 15 cups of normal green tea
  • can boost metabolism
  • high in antioxidants – matcha contains 70x the antioxidants of orange juice, 9x the betacarotene – converts to vitamin A – and vitamin C and B vitamins
  • raises energy
Matcha, green tea, tea pigs

Tea Pigs Matcha Tea

Tea Pigs Matcha Tea is an award winning Matcha Tea, which you add to, well, whatever you like.  Matcha is traditionally drunk whisked into hot water as a green tea.  But Tea Pigs also recommend adding it to your favourite drink such as milk, fruit juice, smoothies etc.

Green tea, almond milk, superfood

Matcha, almond milk shot

I’ve tried a couple of Matcha shots, adding half a teaspoon to orange juice or almond milk.  I think I made a mistake by adding the matcha on top of the juice and so it didn’t blend well, but it’s still really strong.  It rather reminds me of the taste of seaweed, sort of like nori.

Matcha green tea orange juice shot

Matcha, orange juice shot

The best way I’ve tried it is to blend it into a green smoothie – one I’ve tried which I like lately:
  • 1/2 teaspoon of matcha tea powder ‘dissolved’ into half a mug of freshly boiled water
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of protein powder, I used a chocolate version
  • 1 small banana about 75g
  • 1 handful of baby spinach, about 50g
  • toppings and garnishes

stick it all in a blender and whizz to a consistency you prefer.  I make it the night before and leave it to cool in the fridge overnight.

Green tea green smoothie

Green Tea Smoothie

Do you like green tea?  How do you drink yours?  How can I make myself actually enjoy the taste?  Tips gratefully received…

Salad in a jar

So, I had to give it quite a lot of thought about what would be my first post:… cake? smoothie? granola? something else sweet? but I decided to go for something healthy, but not weird-healthy (more of that to come!).

salad in a jar blog post

The last couple of weeks I have started making salad in a jar to take to work. Why?  As I will often tell Ben: “For one reason, and one reason only…because I can”.  I was in fact asked by a colleague why I was bringing my lunch in a jar rather than a lunchbox, and I couldn’t really give a satisfactory reason, but here are a few reasons why you might:

  • it’s easy to prepare the night before (or even make 5 on Sunday night for a week of lunches)
  • it looks appetising
  • – and you can get a rainbow of colours (healthy eating 101)
  • There is something satisfying about tipping it onto a plate, rather than eating from a lunch box
  • I like to think I am avoiding the BPAs in plastic containers
  • Saves on space
  • Why not…???

Kathy at Healthy. Happy. Life. makes these recommendations:

Layering Salad Jars:

1) BOTTOM – dressing/liquid
2) Heavy ingredients that hold up well when submerged in dressing – beans, cucumbers, radishes, onion..
3) Heavy items that you may not want directly touching the dressing when stored.
4) Leafy greens/light ingredients that take up a lot of space – spinach, kale, chard, arugula..
5) A small amount of heavy accent items – nuts, seeds, dried fruit, croutons, accent spices
6) TOP – colorful ingredients to perk up your taste buds when you pop open the jar – fruit, edible flowers, herbs

So, the image above is my first attempt at a salad in a jar.  I didn’t weigh or measure anything, just took what was in the fridge and ‘ran with it’.

Bottom up:
* cucumber (seeds removed) with green olives and chopped dill
* romaine lettuce
* chopped radishes with sunflower seeds and freshly ground black pepper
* soya beans

Once I tipped it out I sprinkled over some crushed Fudge’s Spelt crackers (they weren’t meant to be crushed but there was an accident on my journey to work)

So, I started with some cucumber.  I removed the seeds to prevent it from going ‘mushy’, then added a giant green olive chopped up, and snipped some dill – dill and cucumber are great together, and the dill adds a freshness when it’s tipped out (the bottom ends up on the top).  I piled on some romaine lettuce – romaine is great See these nutritional tips from Incredible smoothies:

Here are some surprising nutrition facts about this wonderful smoothie (and salad) green:

1 – Protein. Believe it or not, romaine lettuce is 17% protein with 7.7 grams per head. It is also a complete protein! That means that it has all 8 essential amino acids, 9% RDA of some and up to 26% RDA of others.

2 – Calcium. One head of romaine has 206mg of calcium (about 21% RDA). Blend it with calcium rich fruits like papaya and oranges and you’ll get more calcium than a glass of milk!

3 – Omega-3s. One head of romaine lettuce contains 44% RDA of Omega-3 essential fats. Forget the tainted fish oils, reach for some leafy greens instead!

4 – More Vitamin C Than An Orange. One head of romaine contains 167% RDA of vitamin C while an average sized orange contains only 92%.

5 – Iron. One head of romaine contains 6mg of iron, which ads a significant source of iron to the diets of vegetarians and vegans.

6 – Romaine Lettuce is Rich in B-vitamins: Thiamine (B1) – 38% RDA, Riboflavin (B2) – 32% RDA, Niacin (B3) – 12% RDA, Pantothenic Acid (B5) – 18%, Pyridoxine (B6) – 36 %, Folate (B9) – 213%!

7 – Water. One head of romaine provides 16% of your daily water needs with about 20 ounces of water per head!

8 – Rich Source of vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and K. As with most leafy greens, romaine is super rich in beta-carotene with 1817% RDA per head and has 535% RDA of vitamin K.

9 – Low Levels of Oxalic Acid. If you have problems with calcium oxalate kidney stones, romaine lettuce might be a good choice for leafy greens since it is very low in this anti-nutrient.

10 – Mineral-Rich. Don’t let the lighter color of romaine lettuce fool you. This not-so-dark leafy green is rich in minerals. One head contains copper (33% RDA), magnesium (22% RDA), manganese (42% RDA), phosphorus (27% RDA), potassium (33%), selenium (5% RDA) and zinc (13% RDA).

WOW!  I added some chopped up radish for colour and sprinkled with sunflower seeds, then weighed it all down with some soya (edamame) beans from the freezer.  Ben bought me these after I insisted I didn’t need to put anything else in the freezer, and I’m glad he did – they are lovely and so handy to just take a handful out of the freezer for a snack, or to add to lunch.

It was yummy, so much so that I have made about four more salads in a week – I’ve gone for different ingredients depending on what I have.

WELL DONE if you stayed with me until the end!

picture merge saladsHave you tried putting salad in a jar?  What ingredients would you like to see go into a salad in a jar?

“Foodie Quotes”

“Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself” Michael Pollan