40 articles Articles posted in Food

Making Our Own Raw Chocolate with Indigo Herbs

Indigo Herbs Raw ChocolateSince I’ve been on a ketogenic diet, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and what we should be putting in our bodies, which in turn has made me hyper-conscious about what is in the food we eat. Even on a rare “cheat” day, I’m checking labels and have still been known to shun food which are pure sugar or artificial ingredients, which is why I was really intrigued when Indigo Herbs offered to send me one of their raw chocolate kits, containing everything we need to make our own raw chocolates.

So what, I hear you ask, is raw chocolate? Well, the guys at Indigo Herbs say it a lot better than I can:

“Much of the Cacao bean’s natural goodness gets destroyed in the heating process of conventional chocolate making. Consequently the feel good factor often experienced when eating chocolate is significantly more noticeable with raw chocolate because much more of the feel good chemical compounds remain intact. The Cacao bean is naturally so rich in nutrients that when the ingredients are handled and processed at low temperatures, these micro-nutrients remain available.”

The kit was really beautifully packaged and would make an excellent gift for an health-conscious foodie, and it was so simple to make that I let Sausage and Burrito Baby help too. The instructions on the kit are really clear and concise and I think Sausage could actually have managed all by herself if it wasn’t for needing me to sort out the bain marie. We made them at the dining room table and the whole room smelled AMAZING by the time we’d finished.

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In terms of taste, the chocolates were genuinely some of the best I’ve ever tried. The brazil nuts and goji berries, combined with the slightly bitter raw chocolate flavour made them feel decadent and satisfying – there’s no way you could over-indulge on these because one or two is enough to well and truly satiate your sweet tooth. Before I cut carbs out of my diet, I had a monster sweet tooth and could eat chocolate almost endlessly, but eating a diet which consists mostly of savoury food has sort of reset my taste buds, making even the smallest morsel of sweet food enough.

Making our own raw chocolate from @indigo_herbs! One hundred stirs to mix in the agave nectar.

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Obviously, the beauty of these chocolates is the ingredients. There’s literally nothing in them which isn’t totally natural and the sugar comes from agave nectar which is a low-GI sweetener and doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar. Nutrition-wise, the chocolates have 72 calories per portion, which is made up of 4.9g carbs, 3.1g fat and 1.2g protein – perfect for someone like me who is on under 20g of carbs per day – keeping these in the fridge to have with a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up would not only be a welcome addition to a largely savoury menu but is also a real morale booster. There’s huge mental value to being able to treat yourself to something which is basically guilt-free when you’re on a restricted diet.

I’m genuinely really impressed by the kit on so many levels – it looks good, it contains everything you need, its easy to use and the results are fantastic. I’d be thrilled to receive one of these kits as a gift and also love the fact that I feel confident in giving them to my children because the ingredients are all natural. Thanks to Indigo Herbs for introducing us to raw chocolate – we’re definite converts! (Get Your Raw Chocolate Kit here)

Waitrose Party Food – A Family Review

At this time of year, one of the things that I love to do is try new food and recipes and I can usually be found watching some Christmas-themed cookery show or another, such is my obsession. However, this year I’ve decided to dial back the stress and try to have a more chilled-out festive period, which is why I was particularly interested to try out the Waitrose Party Food range. One of the main appeals is that everything that needs to be cooked goes in at the same temperature, so although you have to get your timings right, you don’t have to wait for an oven to heat or cool between cooking sessions, which made life SO much easier when prepping it all. Here’s some of what we were sent:

Waitrose Party Food

  1. Waitrose Christmas 12 Bourbon BBQ Pork Waffles 230g (£6.00)
  2. Waitrose Christmas Cheese Toasties Selection 110g (£5.00)
  3. Mixed Mini Pie Selection – Chicken & Gravy 400g (£6.00)
  4. Mixed Mini Pie Selection – Beef & Stout 400g (£6.00)
  5. Waitrose 1 chipotle 4 chilli sausage rolls (£2.49)
  6. Waitrose Party pork crackling straws 130g (£4.00)

We were also sent Christmas olives with snowballs 320g (£5.00), Waitrose Chai Spiced Chocolate Nuts 220g (£4.99) and Waitrose Maple Caramelised Cashews 175g (£4.99) but they got devoured by my lot before I could take a picture! We have a bit of a family ritual of going to my MILs on a Saturday evening and either cooking or having a takeaway together, so I took the party food with me to get some varied opinions and basically everything went down really well!

The waffles were definitely a hit and the smoky, almost sweet barbeque sauce added a lovely flavour to the softness of the waffles. The cheese toasties were lovely little savoury morsels that I probably could have eaten about ten of, all by myself! My Sausage found the chipotle sausage rolls to be a tiny bit too piquant for her taste, but the rest of us loved them so just beware if you have chilli-wuss kids! The pork crackling straws were like an amazingly delicious alternative to a breadstick and went beautifully with the apple sauce, but BEWARE if you have any dental issues – they’re really hard and crunchy and only get harder and crunchier as they cool, so definitely not or anyone prone to breaking of teeth!

The only thing which was a little hit-and-miss were the mini pies – the beef and stout ones were really tasty, with a rich gravy and crisp pastry, but the chicken ones were less of a hit – not bad or unpleasant, just not really a flavour that any of us found massively appealing.

Largely, we were really impressed with the quality of Waitrose Party Food and the ease of cooking, and for a small family gathering it would be ideal as party nibbles, however I’m not sure that the individual prices would be ideal if you had more than around 10 people to feed. Having said that, people usually shop at Waitrose for the quality of their items, not in order to get a bargain, so maybe this is a moot point?

Everything was sent to us about three weeks ago, right when the family was in the middle of a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, and I was able to freeze everything which is also a huge bonus, meaning that it would be really easy to buy ahead of time and bring out for cooking closer to Christmas, and I’m actually planning to go and get us all a few bits for New Years Eve as they’re ideal for a casual evening at home with Jool’s Hootenanny and a few bottles of fizz!

Have you tried the Waitrose Party Food? What did you think? Leave me a comment below.

Think Lunch Is A Bore? Think Again, With These Fabulously Tasty Ideas

Do you find that you struggle when it comes to thinking up healthy yet interesting lunches for you and your family? Don’t fear – most of us do. Lunch is a difficult meal to put together, much more so than breakfast or dinner. It’s not as simple as just grabbing a bowl of cereal or making toast like you do with breakfast. But you also don’t tend to have the time that you have when cooking your evening meal to come up with something both tasty and inventive. This is why a lot of us resort to the huge array of meal deals that supermarkets offer, or why a lot of our children eat school dinners rather than taking packed lunches. But if you’re ready to spice up your family’s current lunch routine, take a look at the following ideas for some inspiration.

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Lunch boxes

The lunchbox is a staple of many people’s daily lives. Whether we’re making them up for our kids or taking them to work ourselves, they are a good way to ensure that we have full control over what’s going into our bodies. These days, there a variety of different styles of lunchboxes that enable us to be much more creative with what we put in them. For example, you may choose a lunch box that is simple a one-section tupperware box. Or, you may go for a ‘bento box’ style; something which has lots of different compartments. If your children are fussy and don’t like it when different foods touch each other, this is a perfect option. Make sure the compartments are varied. For example, you may have pitta bread in one, hummus in the other, carrot sticks in one and a sweet treat in the last one. This isn’t just a children’s lunch box either – it’s perfect for you to take out of the house too.

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At home lunches

If you are able to make and eat your lunch at home, you are able to exercise a little more freedom over what you can have. For starters, you can have hot food at home. But still, you don’t want to be spending more than a few minutes making your lunch, especially if you are in the middle of a working day. It can be tempting to snack on unhealthy food options if they are at your fingertips. But, there are now so many great health products on the market that there’s no excuse not to get involved. Soup, for example, is great for aiding a well-balanced diet – you can get healthy soup flavours by GLORIOUS! both online and in store.

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Lunch on-the-go

If healthy eating is your priority, you may be conscious about where you buy an on-the-go lunch from. You only have to look at the hundreds of ingredients on the back of supermarket sandwich packs to know that they’re probably not all that good for you! If you do need to get a meal deal whilst you’re out and about, go for ones that don’t come with sauce if you can help it, and choose from any ‘lighter’ ranges. Alternatively, look out for independent delis and sandwich makers who will be able to serve you a freshly made lunch with minimal additives.

Beat ‘The Mondays’ with Marmite #MarmiteMondays

Marmite. Probably one of the most divisive foodstuffs in the UK with people either firmly in the ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’ camp and rarely in-between. However, whether you love it or hate it, the guys at Marmite have uncovered a terrifying malady which is affecting the whole country, called…THE MONDAYS! Symptoms of The Mondays are as follows and should be monitored closely:

  • Monotony
  • Overtired
  • Negativity
  • Dilly-Dallying
  • AHHHHHHH-gitated
  • Yawn-y

Here’s what the guys at Marmite had to say about Marmite Mondays:

Following years of not-very- scientific study, we found that millions of ordinary families across the nation are afflicted by a terrible made up condition.

They are victims of a Case of The Mondays – a debilitating condition that leaves those affected feeling bleurghh. A bit mehhh. Or even mweurghh on a Monday morning.

Thankfully, Marmite on toast for breakfast has been found to be our pseudo-scientific remedy. It’s anecdotally proven to help families smash through the start of the week.

If you’re suffering from this condition and want to report a case of The Mondays, call the Marmite Monday Helpline on 0800 832 1835.

Hate Mondays. Love Marmite.

Do you find yourself suffering from The Mondays? I know we do, especially if we’ve had a good weekend and don’t want it to end; that can make a bad case of The Mondays 100 times worse! Fortunately for us, Marmite is a favourite of ours. Our top five ways to eat Marmite are:

  1. Marmite on crumpets with melted cheese
  2. Marmite soldiers with a dippy egg
  3. Marmite toast on thick white bread with lashings of real butter
  4. Added to a Cottage Pie during cooking to give it a rich, savoury flavour
  5. Marmite rice cakes

Are you a family of Marmite lovers? If so, what’s your favourite way to eat Marmite? We’d love to hear from you if there’s a new and delicious way to eat Marmite that we don’t know about yet so please do leave us a comment below…not least of all to cheer us up on this slightly dreary Monday!

Our Family Lunch at Giraffe (review)

GiraffeThis summer holiday has been a bit of a culinary eye-opener for us in the Mum’s the Word house as we’ve been reviewing different restaurants each week and this week’s meal was at Giraffe. Giraffe’s strapline is “Freshly cooked food for everyone served to the sound of great music. Guaranteed to make you feel good!” so we took the girls and MIL with us again to get a good overview of how well they cater for all ages.

Technically, Lakeside is our closest Giraffe but we opted for Chelmsford for a bit of a change of scenery and I’m glad we did. It’s right in the middle of the high street and super easy to find, plus it’s right by the river which was lovely on a sunny day. In fact, it would be a really nice location for an early evening drink and dinner, so next time we go I think I’ll leave the kids at home and just go with Husband.

On the way there, Sausage (who’s recently got her first mobile phone and uses ANY opportunity for a good Google-up!) decided to read the menu to MIL to give her an idea of what she could choose and I think it made MIL a little wary, given that she prefers slightly plainer food and Giraffe’s menu is full of things with exotic sounding ingredients. However, once we got there and she had a chance to read the menu for herself, I think she realised that there were plenty of things she liked.

The kids menu doesn’t have starters but the adults ordered starters and we all ended up sharing, which is something we do anyway as we’re a bit like a wolf-pack, letting each other tuck into our grub. MIL had a garlic flatbread, Husband the chicken gyoza with sweet chilli dipping sauce and I had the Tuscan lamb meatballs.

Starters

Giraffe - Starters

The girls took a great liking to MILs flatbread; luckily it was HUGE so we all had a bit and there was still some left at the end! It was really nice, soft in places, crunchy in places, just garlicky enough without being overpowering. My meatballs were truly delicious, lightly spiced lamb (which you’d expect to be fatty but really wasn’t) in a rich tomato sauce which was almost like a stew. Serving it with a warm tortilla was perfect as it allowed me to mop up all the sauce afterwards! Husband’s gyoza were the real star of the starters though; the dumplings were lightly fried, so they were just crispy but still soft in the middle and the nouc cham sweet chilli sauce was flavourful and sticky, just how it should be. Husband and I didn’t find it spicy but MIL found it a little hot for her taste, so if you’re not a fan of any sort of heat they might be one to avoid.

For our mains, the girls chose from the kids menu with Sausage opting for a cheese and tomato quesadilla while BB went for a chicken wrap. Husband had the jerk ribs and sweet potato fries, MIL had the chicken Milanese and I had a chilli beef burrito.

MainsGiraffe - Mains

One thing I liked about the kids menu is that it actually offered some really diverse dishes. Sure, there are burgers and fish fingers on offer but there are also noodle bowls, grilled salmon and salads. I think we’re long past the era where kids are served bland, uninteresting food while the adults tuck into a culinary delight so it was refreshing to see some nice options for kids. Sausage really enjoyed her quesadilla (she’s a huge fan of all things Mexican) and BB loved her wrap (which I had a nibble of, for science, and found really fresh and tasty), although she couldn’t eat it all.

Husband’s jerk ribs were a hit; the meat itself was deeply seasoned although both Husband and I commented that they could have stood to be a lot spicier as there was none of the heat that we usually associate with jerk, however they were still very pleasant. I’m not a fan of sweet potato but his fries were a hit with everyone else! MIL actually really enjoyed her main after being worried about not finding a dish she’d like and said that the potatoes were especially nice.

If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t a fan of my burrito. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, and it was exactly how you’d expect a burrito to be, but it just wasn’t to my taste. The sour cream was a nice addition but the mince beef mixture inside was overwhelmingly smoky and I really didn’t like the pink onions which seemed halfway between raw and cooked, but not one or the other.

Dessert was what I was REALLY looking forward to. I’ve never tried churros before but spend enough time on hipster food websites to know how trendy they are and I’ve been wanting to have them for AGES…let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed! Sausage and I both had the churros, her from the kids menu and me from the adults and we both seriously enjoyed them. The chocolate dipping sauce was really rich and almost bitter but the perfect accompaniment to the sweet, crispy dough; a very indulgent end to our meals.

Desserts

Giraffe - Dessert

MIL had ice cream (take a look at Jane’s Kitchen Miracles for the best ice cream makers) and chose one scoop each of vanilla, chocolate and cherry which was an inspired choice. The cherry ice cream tasted like actual cherries! BB had a kids brownie which came with ice cream (beware, the brownie is HOT! and will burn little mouths if eaten without caution) and polished off as much as she could manage. I think Husband was the winner again with dessert choices; not usually one for mega sweet food, he pushed the boat out and chose a banana waffle split. I cannot emphasise enough how delicious it was. The waffle was chewy and the butterscotch sauce was like a liquid Werthers Original on the plate! Husband’s one minor complaint was that the banana could have stood to be cooked just a little more.

I also need to give an honourable mention to the drinks: Sausage had decided on a “Hippy Hippy Shake” smoothie (pineapple, passion fruit, mango, banana, pomegranate juice) before we even got there and BB followed suit, both of which got polished off in about three seconds. Husband had a strawberry smash which was literally some smashed up strawberries in a glass, topped with soda and mint, and it was SO refreshing! I went for the Orchard Pig Sparkling Apple and Elderflower and enjoyed it so much that I immediately started Googling to see where I could buy more! All a really nice alternative to the usual soft drink offerings.

Aside from a couple of very minor glitches, I think our Giraffe experience was really positive. The staff were incredibly polite and helpful (activity sheets and crayons for the kids are ALWAYS a winner) and the actual setting of the restaurant was really pleasant. We enjoyed the food and all commented that it’s definitely somewhere we’d eat again. Thanks so much to Giraffe for being the place that I finally lost my churro virginity. I’ll remember it forever…

Strada – A Date Night Gem

It’s not often that Husband and I go out for dinner, just the two of us…in fact, I’m struggling to think of a single time it’s happened since Sausage was born, so when Strada asked if the two of us would like to come along for dinner, I got very excited! Our nearest Strada is at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock and it’s right next to the lake, so it was the perfect setting for a relaxed evening meal.

We were given the choice of where to sit and although it was the hottest day of the year so far, we chose to sit inside – the outside area was already filling up when we arrived a few minutes before 6pm and by the time we left it was absolutely heaving, whilst inside was almost empty, so we definitely chose well. We got situated and were brought our drinks plus a jug of water for the table, which was much appreciated in the heat.

I wasn’t drinking alcohol because a) I was driving and b) I’m on strong antibiotics for the hideous tooth situation so I opted for a San Pellegrino Limonata, which is basically the most refreshing thing on the planet. Husband had a glass of Primitivo, a full-bodied red (which I said smelled like Christmas in a glass!) and although it was on the pricey side, Husband was impressed enough to be looking it up on the internet on the way home to see where he could get a full bottle for me to try when I’m able again.

So, onto the food!

Because Strada is Italian, I wanted to go for things which I felt were quintessentially Italian, so for starter I opted for the bresaola while Husband went for the antipasti, both of which were incredible. The beef carpacchio part of my bresaola was so, so tender and flavourful and the combination of parmesan, rocket and balsamic reduction were to die for. Husband’s antipasti (which I may have sampled…!) was just perfect; little nibbles of different flavour and textures, cured meats combined with the freshest pesto and mozzarella – I almost wish I’d opted for the same.

Strada - Starters

For our mains, we both decided that we were in the mood for seafood after such a meat-based starter so Husband had the sea bass while I had the seafood risotto. I’m going to make a confession here; I’ve never actually tried sea bass before…until now. The fish was served with thyme roasted fennel and herby potatoes and was a perfect choice for a hot evening as it was light and summery but full of flavour. The bass was served ‘canoed’, which meant that it’s gutted but left on the head, so there were still a lot of bones in it, which made it a little bit of a faff to eat, but Husband didn’t mind; it’s just worth bearing in mind if you aren’t a fan of bones.

Strada - Mains

Seafood risotto is one of my favourite dishes and it’s not something I’ve ever been brave enough to cook myself so it’s always a treat when I have it in a restaurant, but it does mean I’m quite fussy about it. Strada’s seafood risotto was really top notch. The risotto itself was creamy and absolutely packed with tiger prawns, mussels and squid and had the slightest kick from a hint of chilli, a very welcome element to cut through the creaminess a little. The seafood was all very well cooked (I’m often a bit wary of squid as it can be rubbery, but this wasn’t rubbery in the slightest) and the fresh parmesan which was grated over the top at the table added a lovely edge to the overall flavour.

Strada - Dessert

Dessert was an absolute delight. I opted for the tiramisu because I’m a bit of a fan of anything coffee flavoured while Husband opted for the golden polenta cake. My tiramisu was exactly as you’d expect it to be; sweet and soft with a strong coffee flavour, the perfect end to the meal for me. Husband’s polenta cake was probably the exact opposite of my dessert in many ways; grainy and textured rather than soft and creamy, zesty and spiced opposite my rich and velvety, however we both agreed that it was one of the nicest desserts we’ve ever tasted, and promptly came home to find a recipe so that we can try making it at home!

In terms of the bill, by my calculations it would have come to £67.60, which included three courses each, Husband’s large glass of wine, my two soft drinks and a bowl of marinated olives for the table, which I really don’t think is too bad at all. There is also a “Classics” menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95 or three courses for £13.95 every single day between 12pm and 7pm, which means that you could effectively have a three course meal for two for under £30.

The thing I liked about Strada is that their menu isn’t ridiculously massive, but each dish they do, they seem to do VERY well. I also like the fact that they have dishes which are very traditionally Italian, but they also do dishes like burgers and plainer pizzas, so dining with a fussy eater needn’t be a worry. The one and only area where I would mark them down SLIGHTLY was the cost of drinks – Husband’s glass of wine was £8.15, which is a little steep in my opinion, but we often find the alcohol to be higher priced in chain restaurants, so I guess it’s to be expected. Other than this minor thing, we had a really lovely evening; the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, stopping by to offer their suggestions while we were perusing the menu, the setting was really pleasant and the food was enough to make Husband say “we’re definitely coming back here again!”.

Thanks to Strada for having us – we’ll be back soon!

Family Lunch at TGI Fridays (review)

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Last week we were invited along to TGI Fridays to sample their food and get involved with their summer kids challenge, where they can complete three activities for a free ice cream sundae, as well as being in with the chance to win a family holiday. As we’ve done in the past, we took my lovely MIL with us to give us her opinion on the food, so that you get a well rounded view from a two years old up to a…person who’s a bit older than two (it’s rude to divulge a lady’s age, after all!).

We planned our lunch around a trip to Ikea because the restaurant is right by our nearest store, but we were done with our shopping an hour earlier than planned. However, a quick call to the restaurant and they were more than happy to accommodate us earlier than our original booking, which was a lovely bit of positive customer service. As we were seated, the girls were presented with an activity pack and they also had someone making balloon animals, which delighted my two no end.

The Food

We took a little while to choose as there was so many tasty looking dishes on the menu. In the end, we all shared a starter of potato skins loaded with cheese and pulled pork, then for our mains both girls went for a hotdog and chips from the kids menu, MIL had a Classic American burger, Husband had the chicken and shrimp with with creamy mash and seasonal veg, and I had the FRIDAYS® RIBS in BBQ sauce with a skewer of spicy grilled shrimp.

We all really enjoyed the starter; the pulled pork was really tasty with the accompanying sour cream and one large serving was enough to allow us all to have a taste without ending up too full before our meals. The girls hotdog and chips were actually HUGE portions; there are two kids menus to choose from, one for smaller peeps and one for the bigger kids. The hotdogs came from the bigger menu and although we knew it would be way too much food for Burrito Baby, she had her heart set on having a hotdog. They were really tasty and well cooked, and both girls really enjoyed them.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit of a greedy so-and-so and often have eyes too big for my belly, and when we eat I often go for the biggest meal on the menu. I erred on the side of caution on this day and went for the half rack of ribs instead of the full rack and I’m SO glad that I did! Along with the fries, onion rings and prawn skewer it was MORE than enough food for me, even with my huge appetite. The ribs were incredibly tender and the meat melted away from the bones, while the accompanying fries were probably some of the best I’ve ever tasted, with perfect seasoning.

Husband, on the other hand, wasn’t massively impressed with his food. He said that his chicken was moist and well cooked but was a tiny portion and the shrimp were okay but the sauce was basically just sugar syrup. He did say that the mash was tasty but the veg wasn’t to his taste – his “seasonal” veg was basically pan fried broccoli and bell peppers, which seemed a slightly incongruous addition to the meal.

The real winner of the day was MIL; she chose the Classic American because she wanted something quite simple but she actually described it as “probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten”. She had the same well-seasoned fries as me and thoroughly enjoyed her meal. I’ll be honest, by the time we’d finished our starter and main we were all FAR too stuffed for afters so the girls didn’t manage to enter the challenge, but it’s a great idea for kids, especially to get them active after consuming a huge meal!

The Bill

One things which I felt was a slight downer was the cost of drinks; Husband had a pint of Samuel Adams and it was £5.28 per pint; obviously it was early in the day so we weren’t there for a boozy experience, but it would have seriously bumped the bill up of we’d both been out for an evening. As it stood, a shared starter, two kids meals, three adult meals, a pint and a half of Samuel Adams plus a Coke Zero for me and a mini milkshake for the girls and our bill came to £79 – definitely not the most expensive meal  but more than the average we’d usually spend on a casual lunch.

In terms of the actual service we received, I genuinely can’t fault it. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, our food order was taken and served promptly, our table cleared straight away and we didn’t have to do advanced semaphore to the waiting staff in order to signal for our bill! All in all, we had a great lunch, the food was mostly brilliant and everyone had a nice time. It’s probably a bit too expensive to be a regular place for us to visit, but it’s perfect for a treat or special occasion.

Thanks for having us, TGI Fridays!

Creative Ways to Cook That Aren’t Deep Frying

While we all love to eat deep fried food on occasion, eating it regularly is atrocious for our health. Most deep-fried food such as fries and chicken is too fatty, which can cause weight gain and heart problems. So if we should eat less deep fried food, how should we cook instead? Read on for some delicious and healthy suggestions.

Steaming / boiling

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Firstly one of the most healthy ways to cook food and retain a lot of its nutrition content is to steam it or boil it in water. The key here is to cook vegetables until then are al dente, or still ever so slightly crispy when you bite into them. This means all their vitamins and mineral haven’t been leached out by over cooking. It also provides a pleasant texture to eat, rather than an overcooked mush, which can be very unappealing. You can add a little sea or pink Himalayan salt to the water for flavor but not too much!

Slow cookers

Another creative way in which to cook is by using a slow cooker. You can make all sorts of delights in a slow cooker such as these we tried back in March. Chilli Con Carne, pulled porks and soups are all successful in the slow cooker. This type of cooking is also especially good for one pot meals like stews and casseroles. You just bung it all in and leave it to cook, while you go about your day.

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A few words of warning, though. Firstly slow cookers should not be left unattended for extended periods of time, so they are not suitable if you are leaving the house to go to work for example. Also, I’ve found that slow cooker sauces can be a bit runny, as the lit condenses the steam and keep all the moisture in. If you like thicker sauces, add some cornflour to the recipe towards the end. Then take the lid off so some of the moisture can evaporate before you serve it.

Grilling

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Grilling is a very healthy and delicious way of cooking your food. You can grill vegetables, meat, and fish with baking oil and it makes a yummy, quick and easy dish. Of course grilling your food right depends on you having the best grill pan for the job. Look for one with good ridges, that isn’t too heavy and is nonstick. That means you will need to use less oil when cooking is making it super healthy.

Roasting

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Roasting is great ways of making flavourful meals in the oven. Roasting is usually done in fat or oil, but the health conscious have also shown that it is possible to dry roast items successfully. If you are choosing to use fat in your roasting use a saturated fat like lard, duck fat or the fat from the meat. Many people believe now that saturated fat is safer to be used at high temperatures than unsaturated fat. This is mainly due to the stability of its molecules. So try to avoid roasting in olive oil if you can.

Shallow Frying

Shallow frying is very similar to deep fat frying, although the food item doesn’t always soak up as much fat. It still should be only used sparingly, though, as too much-fried food is never a good idea. Use a good quality pan and makes sure you keep a good eye on things as hot fat can be dangerous.

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Like roasting use a fat like a coconut oil or butter for shallowing frying and no the monounsaturated vegetable oil kind.

Raw foods

While raw food needs no cooking and only minimal preparation, they are worth considering as a healthy addition to your diet. Raw foods have the highest concentration of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. This because they are not lost in processing and cooking. Raw food always has a high water content which helps to fill you up and plenty of fiber which aids your digestive health.

It is worth bearing in mind that for some people eating large amounts of raw food can cause a bit of stomach uncomforted. So it is best only to have them in the day before 4.30pm. Also, make sure that you don’t buy cut and peeled baby carrots. They are treated in an ammonia bath before being packed to keep them fresh. This is not a great thing to be eating a lot of so buy your carrots and cut them into batons.

Baking

Baking is seen as being a healthier way of cooking than deep fat frying. Similar to roasting you can use minimal oils to bake meat, fish, and vegetables and still get a great taste.

Of course, then there is the other side of baking too, which involves flours, sugars, and fats and makes delicious sweet treats or bread. Too many of these products that contained refined flours and sugars can be bad for your health. Food experts like Hemsley and Hemsley would say that these refined ingredients are the worst thing that you can put into your body on a regular basis.

They argue for a cleaner way of eating, replacing refined white flours with pseudo cereal flours. These are much easier for the body to digest and don’t contain as much gluten.  They also suggest that while sugar should be replaced with natural alternatives uch as honey or agave. They even go so far as to suggest that protein and starches should not be mixed in meals or baking. But this is a more advanced option for those that want to take clean eating to the next level.

Liquidating

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Of course, you do need to cook the foods first before you blitz them, but liquidating food is not just for babies. Using your hand blender, you can make fantastic soups like leek and potato, stilton and broccoli and french onion. Or you can make the best dips like hummus, guacamole and pesto. You can even use the liquidating principle to make delicious desserts like frozen granita, and banana ice cream.

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Okay, so you may have noticed that my 7-day slow cooker challenge didn’t exactly go to plan, in that I only managed to last for four days and my last three planned meals never quite made it onto my site. I think this happened for a couple of reasons – slow cooking, for me, is something I do to make my life more convenient, and forcing myself to use my slow cooker to a schedule just didn’t work. Also, one of the meals I planned was lasagne, and I’m not going to lie, I was really apprehensive about it. We LOVE lasagne in this house, but I always bake it the normal way, and attempting to slow cook it seemed a bit like fixing something which isn’t broken.

Anyway, I had a little slow cooker break after failing but I’m back to using it again today and it’s a super simple, super tasty beef and broccoli recipe that I’m making today:slow cooker beef and broccoli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Broccoli
 
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A slow cooked beef recipe with a simple Asian-inspired sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 240ml/1 cup beef stock
  • 120ml/ ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup erythritol (substitute with brown sugar if you don't need a low sugar recipe)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 900g/2lb stewing beef
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 4 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the stock, soy sauce, erytritol/brown sugar, chopped garlic and sesame oil into the slow cooker pot and mix well
  2. Add the beef into the pot and mix well to coat
  3. Cook on LOW for 4 hours
  4. After 4 hours, mix the corn starch and water together and add to the pot, stirring well to thicken
  5. Add the chopped broccoli and stir
  6. Cook for a further 30 minutes on HIGH, or until broccoli is soft
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice or noodles, or a side of your choice.

This was such a simple recipe but has turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser with the family. It’s exactly the kind of ‘chuck it all in’ recipe which makes me love slow cooking, and offered so much flavour for such an easy-to-make dish. The sauce was salty and savoury, and thickened to almost a gravy consistency once the cornstarch was added, and cooking the broccoli in the sauce added an amazing layer of flavour. The best part of this meal is that, when you factor in a portion of rice, it came in at just 453 calories per portion, which is amazingly low!

Beef is probably my favourite meat for slow cooking as you can buy the really cheap cuts but end up with a tender, flavourful dish which is low calorie, high protein and doesn’t cost the earth – basically the Holy Grail of cooking for a family! Let me know if you make this yourself, I’d love to know if you were as pleased with the results as we were.

Slow Cooker Challenge – Pulled Beef Chilli

Pulled Beef ChilliChilli is one of those dishes which is a bit of an issue in our house. My mother-in-law is from one of the Southern states in America and therefore makes literally the best chilli I’ve ever tasted. She’s shared her recipe with me, but it NEVER tastes as good as when she makes it, so I rarely bother any more as mine is just a pale imitation! However, I’ve been desperate for some sort of chilli dish, which is where this version came from. “Pulled” dishes are a huge hit here, with pulled pork being one of our faves, and it seems to make meat go really far, so a pulled beef chilli seemed like a perfect thing for my experiments this week. Here’s how I made it:

Pulled Beef Chilli

Slow Cooker Challenge - Pulled Beef Chilli
 
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A smoky chilli made with brisket, which is slow cooked before being pulled.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: TexMex
Serves: 12 portions
Ingredients
  • 1.4kg beef brisket (about 3lb)
  • 2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 400g carton of passata
  • 4-5 slices of pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • 2tbsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 500ml beef stock (about a pint)
  • 1 400g can of kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 Tbsp chilli powder
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp coriander (powdered)
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Splash of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and brown the brisket on all sides.
  2. Place the brisket into the slow cooker
  3. Cook the pepper, onion and garlic in the same pan until the onions just start to brown
  4. One everything is cooked, throw the chipotle paste and chopped jalapenos into the pan and stir through
  5. Put the contents of the pan into the slow cooker, followed by the kidney beans, chopped tomatoes and passata. Stir to combine everything and coat the brisket.
  6. Add the spices and the stock
  7. Stir again and cook on low for 6-8 hours
  8. Remove the cooked brisket from the slow cooker and shred with two forks
  9. Place the shredded meat back into the sauce and stir well to combine
  10. Serve with warm tortillas, guacamole and sour cream

I must admit, along with the dish I have planned for the final meal of this challenge, this was the meal I was MOST looking forward to trying and I’m not gonna lie…I think this was probably the BEST thing I’ve ever cooked in my slow cooker! The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the combination of the sweet tomato and the smoky, spicy chipotle and jalapeños was TO DIE FOR. The flavour was so intense and the amount of spice was still  the right side of pleasurable. I was conscious of making it a dish that the girls could still tolerate and while they’re by NO means a pair of chilli wusses, Husband and I could have stood to have it a smidge spicier, but as it stood, it was still delicious with a bit of a kick.

I must warn you, when paired with tortillas, guacamole and sour cream this is definitely not an elegant dish; only eat this with people you love, who don’t mind seeing you with sauce running down your chin! However, the mess was well worth is and the whole family declared it a success!

Have you made anything in the slow cooker this week? If so, don’t forget to blog about it and link up below!

 

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