Friday, 20 June 2014

Nearly... the... weekend...

The title of this post should be taken slightly in jest as, to be honest, I've had a pretty good week.

Busy but good.

:)

However, there has been one thing which I've been sorely missing from my working days and that's cake.
I know I'm not alone in this. just mentioning it to some of my family and colleagues during the week had advocated an array of responses such as; "oooo... cake," and "urg, thanks, now i'm hungry." Apparently people aren't massively thrilled when you just tell them ideas for what cake you're going to make when you are not directly offering them cake... #mybad #learnsomethingneweveryday

And in all honesty, I've already had #glutenfree cake this week. Getting home late on Monday, I decided that despite the slightly more pressing issue such as putting a wash on or sleeping, I was not going to sleep without cake. So banana cake it was! A completely unrefined recipe but it hit the spot (I'll be working on this).

"Buy a cake!" You say? That would be a perfectly good response and please don't think for one second that I haven't been tempted by the fudgy-looking brownies I walk past on may way to work. Because I have. A lot. #willpowerwhereareyou? #technicallynotcakebutthatsbeingpedantic
Yet, alas, except for the occasional deviance, I can't bring myself to buy "normal" cake that I know is bad for me without there being suitable occasion.

However, four days without any further cake seems to be too much. And apparently I had to share my baking-related pain with the world. #yourwelcome

If, like me, you're going to bake a cake this weekend, then you may find this article interesting. Although, there is one glaring issue I have with this article, as it naturally assumes that you will have cake leftover, which I have discovered is not always, and is often not, the case! #slicesoverrated #grabandeat

Happy #glutenfree Cake Eating! :)

So are you going to be baking this weekend?
What are your favorite types of cake?
How long is your "cake withdrawal period"?


Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sugar... in the news? Again?!

It's done it again! Sugar seems to be quite the A-Lister these days.

When I wrote my first book a few years ago, the number of articles highlighting the dangers of high consumption of sugars were few and far between, if they were visible at all. And almost always in the latter pages of the newspaper as, I should imagine, a side or filler to the main news at the time. However, now I can't seem to move for the number of health-related, sugar-vilifying news stories out there.

So when I found that I didn't even need to open the Sunday Telegraph to discover the most up-to-date sugar adventures, I though that sugar had metaphorically "arrived." It seems as though it's rather attached to it's spotlight and doesn't seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

... which seems to be the problem and point of discussion outlined in the article on page two.

The article discusses the voluntary Responsibility Deal, which aims to help people make healthier eating choices. The article in the Sunday Telegraph discusses the "Healthy Eating" pledge which certain food companies which have, apparently, voluntarily chosen to take part in this scheme but yet have, "failed to reduce the amount of sugar in some of their best-known brands."

It's worth reading through the article.

My take on it;

Personally, as I've mentioned, I've been aware of the sugar problem for years now (as I'm sure many of you have been!). I view this problem as being rooted in the fact that we have a plethora of high-sugar, high-processed foods which we eat as part (and often the basis) of our everyday diets.

This is a massive problem. We are, in my opinion, hooked on the stuff. We know excess amount of the stuff can encourage health problems and yet we can't stop ourselves.

So what to make of this?

I agree with and am fond of the suggestion that people should be informed and educated about the foods which they are eating and in a world where processed food is prevalent and viewed as necessity, I think the more information we have on these foods, so that we can make educated, healthy choices in what we eat, is incredibly important. As long as it's quality, useful information.

I don't necessarily entirely agree with reducing the sugar in certain products. Don't get me wrong. We need to cut down on high-sugar, high processed foods and I think using less sugar may well be a good idea. However, when I don't think this is a good idea is when this reduction of sugar completely changes the product.
When I create my foods I make them so that they taste good without the sugar as a main feature. Trying to replicate a certain product exactly to the T can often result in worse textures and flavors. Making something sugar-free and healthier when it is meant to be that way is different.
Plus, I like the control of knowing the ingredients I've put into something which I've made. (I do have a bug bear about eating healthily outside the house when cooking your own isn't an option though... sounds like a topic for another post).

Also, convenience encourages us to forget natural, whole foods, such as fruit and vegetables - remember those? This is what we should be eating most of the time. Other products should be a treat. A rare indulgence. So yes, we should be eating foods lower in sugar but maybe we should be focusing on healthier, more natural foods and a different  lifestyle rather than lowering the sugar in already largely artificial products - it might just be defeating the point, don't you think?

There still exist individuals who are able to eat small amounts of a true "treat-food" such as a naughty ice cream or other sweet food. Should we chastise these people their small weekly indulgence for the sake of those who are not able to control their sweet tooth? I just don't agree with a dictation on how to eat. I think people should be able to make their own choices.

Inform people? Yes.
Give them the freedom to make their own choices about their lifestyle? Yes.
However, make products completely unrecognisable across the board just to slightly lower the sugar content? I'm not so sure.

Conclusion;

Educate, provide options and eat naturally.

Short and minimally sweet ;)


What do you think??

Do you think that sugar should be lowered or eradicated across the board?
Do you think that having options is good enough?
How do you feel about education on foods?

Let me know in the comments! :)



Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Easter Bunny has left the building

Easter seems so long ago today as I write this, however, the Easter bunny seems to have hung around a little longer as chocolaty surprises keep turning up in the strangest of places. The tumble-dryer having been the latest and potentially most treacherous of the lot so far (fortunately spotted before adding the clothes... and fabric softener... in case you were worried).

Easter egg hunts are the best. One of the most fun holiday traditions and age is completely irrelevant seeing as everyone turns into a kid throughout the duration anyway!

Family Easter Roast

Easter Dessert - all chocolated-out!!
My sister cooked an AMAZING roast for us on Easter Sunday. I don't think I'll ever complain about having the cooking done for me ;) However, it does tend to come with the tagline of helping with the washing up. If some genius out there could please come up with a way of cooking without the necessity of washing up afterwards I'll be extremely grateful.
So grateful I might make cake... gluten free cake :)

I should also mention that I indulged a little too much in the chocolatier things in life this Easter. Naughty. Very naughty. Hence the non-chocolatey pudding of strawberries and cream. Refreshing and healthy after the deep, comparatively dark taste of chocolate. This also makes me very excited because it means Summer is on the way! :)

Dino Eggs
However, having said that I also rekindled a love affair with the original model themselves. Forget chocolate eggs and go for the real deal. I've been seriously into eggs recently. Especially the hard-boiled kind. With it having been Easter and all this may just be a sentimental phase. However, I made up a bowl of what I'm calling "Dino Eggs" one of the mornings this week and oh my, the best breakfast I've had in ages! You know when you have a craving for a food and then it's just the best tasting thing ever?! Well, THAT. That is what happened. Never have hard boiled eggs been quite so delicious and I'm pretty much in love with them most of the time anyway.

Dyed Eggs :) Pretty

The reason I called these particular eggs "Dino Eggs" was because these beauties were our leftover dyed eggs from Easter. After peeling them, most of them retained spots of their dyed colour, mottling the whites of the eggs and well... my mind assessed the situation and decided that, "yep, they're what dinosaur eggs would look like." My mind's a colourful place. Anyway, as far as the subject of beauty in eggs goes; I think they're gorgeous! :)

So there we have it a family, fun-filled Easter weekend, which I'm fairly annoyed is over (hence my insistence on doing a brief recap post about it because if I keep talking about it then it's not over yet right?) and i'd quite like to do another Easter Eggs hunt... Maybe there's a summer equivalent??

What did you get up to for Easter? Also, any ideas on a summer variation of an Easter Egg hunt? Lastly, any idea on my query about automated washing-up from earlier in the post would be great too...









Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bunnies ahoy! (:3 (:3 (:3

When thinking of what to write in this post, I made the somewhat dubious error of consulting my sisters for a title. Naturally they committed to the cause and came up with a suitably exuberant line. Ha, I like it :)


Sadly though, I haven't learnt my lesson and seem to have now triggered off an Easter-related pun session... They're eggscellent!
Sorry.
It won't happen again (in this post)...


My Mini Lemony Cakey Hot Cross Buns

It is nearly Easter. Which in earlier years might have meant lying slumped in a chocolate-coma of sorts, hidden beneath various colorful cardboard boxes and plastic egg molds littered everywhere (not a pretty sight). Especially not such a wonderful experience when the sugar rush departs...

With an exception of the many (many... many...) chocolate eggs, hot cross buns were present around the house over the general Easter period in previous (before-predominantly-healthy-eating) years.

A couple of years ago I made my first attempt at replicating hot cross buns. However, as many of you will know, when it comes to recreating (or attempting to recreate) classics, striving to create an identical article can sometimes stand in the way of what could be a beautiful dish by trying to get every single aspect of the bake in question as a clone of the original.
Though again, as many of you gluten-free/ grain-free experimenters will know, getting a glutenous "stretch" to products like breads and buns can be rather difficult considering gluten is absent.
However, these come very close.
They don't have the "stretch" of a gluten-bake but they're damn-near and pretty damn tasty!! (:3

For my Easter baking I've created Mini Lemony Cakey Hot Cross Buns. (though I've been calling them Cakey Cross Buns for short! :)

With a cake-like taste and texture, these buns hit the spot for my Easter craving for baking and provide the same taste I remember from the Hot Cross Buns of yonder year. Yet, of course, without the refined sugar, gluten or grains.

Without further ado, here is my recipe for my Cakey Cross Buns.

Mini Lemony Cakey Hot Cross Buns

(Cakey Cross Buns)

Grain-free, gluten-free, refined sugar free, paleo, primal

Makes approximately 10 mini cake-buns

Ingredients

100g ground almonds
2 eggs
25g butter (at room temperature)
50ml coconut milk
50ml water
2 tablespoons coconut flour
25g currants
2 tablespoons honey
10ml fresh lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1/4 bicarbonate soda
Large pinch sea salt

1 teaspoon apricot jam (no added sugar variety)
1 teaspoon coconut flour

Making and Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan assisted oven)
  • Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper
  • Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the ground almonds, butter, cinnamon, ground mix spice and 1 level tablespoon of coconut flour
  • Blend the contents of the bowl with a hand blender until well combined but not completely smooth (the texture should still appear slightly grainy)
  • Add the honey, coconut milk, water and lemon juice to the bowl and stir-in to the mixture, using a spoon
  • Add the second level tablespoon of coconut flour and bicarbonate soda and stir-in to the mixture until incorporated
  • Finally mix-in the lemon zest and currants
  • Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes
  • Take a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and place on the lined baking tray*
  • Add a second rounded tablespoon of mixture next to the first, so that they are just touching
  • Repeat this method, forming a second row when you get to the sixth tablespoon of mixture so that you are left with two rows of mini hot cross buns
  • Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the buns have turned slightly golden brown on the top and when you press very gently they feel fairly firm to the touch, not wet (they will be quite delicate at this stage so don't press too hard or else you may end up with a giant fingerprint in the middle)
  • Once cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool
*When doing this, I use two tablespoons and scoop the mixture from one to the other to make a smoother, rounder shape to the mixture.

Decorating
  • Once cooled, use the apricot jam to make crosses across the tops of the hot cross buns. To do this; take small amounts of the apricot jam on the knife and rather than spreading, dab the jam into lines to make the crosses
  • Take small pinches of coconut flour and sprinkle only in the places where you have placed the apricot jam - this can be quite fiddly so take small pinches and don't rush it otherwise you can end up with flour covered buns - however, the good news is they still taste great if this does go slightly awry #learntfromexperience

Let me know if you try my recipe out - I'm on twitter and facebook too in case any of you have photos of your Easter creations whether they be this recipe or other Easter creations (:3

Enjoy the Easter Baking!! (:3


mmm... (:3

Friday, 20 December 2013

Back to Natural Eating in Surrey Life December 2013 issue :)

The December 2013 issue of Surrey Life magazine is filled with vintage Christmas ideas, festive foodie tips and beautiful photos of scenery around the Surrey.

 
The cover alone is enough to make me feel Christmassy and it just gets better inside.

Although I particularly recommend having a look at a certain article (I may be ever so slightly biased!) as I'm delighted that my book, Back to Natural Eating, has been featured in this Christmas issue! :) x

Thursday, 14 November 2013

It's not Christmas... yet. And a Sausage and Bean Stew


It's about this time of year that I get silly excited about Christmas. I know, Halloween's just passed. I apologise for my younger-than-acceptable mental age.

However, none of this means that I want shops to start playing Christmas tunes. No, not yet. Save that for December. It's still November. I blame this reason for the fact that I am incredibly disorganised when it comes to buying Christmas presents. I tend to save all the shopping till the last minute and then complain and whine about how busy it is the last few days before Christmas. Wondering why on earth there are so many people rushing around town and how they could be so disorganised, leaving it till the very last minute to get it together. Meanwhile, doing exactly the same thing myself and planning out how to wrap all my hypothetical presents the morning of the actual day... #sittinginmyivorytower.

Nope, I was excited about Halloween, now I want a month off in November and then to start thinking about Christmas in December.

That is what logical me says.

The more excitable, slightly holiday-crazed side of me however can only extend logic to this; "Dear goodness, the first mince pies are out in shops. It must be Christmas."

So yet again, I apologise. I realise I'm one of those annoying people at this time of year but I just can't help myself. I will try to keep it repressed so you don't have to read about my abundance of Christmas cheer until December. I guess it's a very fortunate thing that my blog doesn't have speakers linked to it otherwise my incessant Christmas related humming may very well drive you to the edge.

Anyway, instead I will be focusing my energies on Autumn/Winter warming foods.

The second thing I wanted to get out of my system is I find this time of the year can be difficult to eat sensibly. I tend to find that Summer brings about fresh salads, cooling drinks and it's easier to grab whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Making meals quicker and easier. Autumn and going into Winter however, is a different story. The colder weather makes me yearn for warm, filling foods. Nutrient dense foods served heaped up in comforting bowlfuls. Cooler weather also means nostalgic comfort foods are on my mind. The sweet treats associated with Halloween and the spiced cookies and pastry heavy foods associated with the event-occurring-in-December-which-I-am-not-going-to-mention-until-December (maybe that's even more irritating?!).

So as a congratulations for making it through this post mostly unscathed by tinsel and glitter, here is a recipe to plant us firmly in the spirit of Winter-related celebrations.

Sausage and Beans Stew

Remember to remove the Bay Leaf before eating!
Sausage stews make me think of coming home after a long day. Pulling my boots off, leaving them discarded by the door, alongside my gloves, scarf and coat. Curling up on the sofa with a steaming bowl of Sausage and bean stew nestled in between cupped hands.


I don’t eat beans often but when I do, they have to taste good. Pairing them up with this classic combo makes for a hearty stew with a flavourful sauce. Making it a fab meal for a casual night-in or a hearty get-together with friends.
Serves 4
 
Ingredients
 
Good quality sausages ( I used 8)
1 can of cooked mixed beans*
1 can beansprouts*
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste (I started out with ¼ teaspoon and add more bit by bit if required)
Sprinkle of white pepper
½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
1 bay leaf (remember to remove before eating)
Generous sprinkle of dried oregano
About half a jar of tomato passata (about 300ml)
2 onions
200g white mushrooms
1 green pepper
Coconut oil
 
How to make it;
·         Deseed the green pepper and chop into strips
·         Finely chop the onions
·         Peel and slice the mushrooms
·         Squeeze the sausage meat out of its casing in thirds into the saucepan
·         Add the chopped veg  and sausage meat to a saucepan with a teaspoon of coconut oil and allow to gently sauté over a low heat
·         Add the drained beansprouts, salt, white pepper, mustard powder, ground mixed spice, dried oregano and balsamic vinegar to the saucepan and give a good mix
·         Once the sausage has slightly browned and the veg has significantly softened, add the tomato passata and mix in.
·         Boil the kettle and add water to the saucepan until the sausages and veg are covered
·         Bring to the boil for a couple of minutes and then turn down to a simmer
·         Place the lid on the saucepan and allow to simmer for a further 40 minutes
·         Once the sausage meat has cooked through, serve in bowl whilst still hot with fork or spoon (or like me, a spork :) )
·         Enjoy!!

*If beans and beansprouts aren’t your thing then you can replace these with other types of veg, such as; boiled new potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas or other green veg.

Let me know what you try in the comments section!

x

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Wealden Times - Midsummer Fair 2013

Good Thursday everyone!

This year I've been invited to do a cooking demonstration at the Wealden Times Midsummer Fair.

Can you say AH?! I'm very excited but at the same time, feel like I've subconciously allowed a butterfly garden to set-up home in my stomach.

I'll be cooking recipes from my book "Back to Natural Eating" and my second up-and-coming book.

The fair takes place on the 6th, 7th and 8th June 2013 and my cooking demonstration is on Thursday 6th June 2013 at 10am.

I hope I'll see a few of you there -  it looks like a fun few days and I'm excited to be a part of it!