HELLO MAY
Sunday, May 03, 2015

HELLO MAY

Hello asparagus season



Whether you’re a little peckish between meals or fancy a light bite before a night out, if you’re stuck for ideas of what to have as a quick, healthy and tasty snack, don’t forget about a fried egg on a bed of lightly sautéed, crisp and tender asparagus with hand-shaved Parmesan; especially since it’s the British asparagus season. I'm not a fan of pepper but I hear it adds an extra kick.


Later x
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BOHO STYLE
Sunday, April 26, 2015

BOHO STYLE

With the gladiator sandal


TOPSHOP

They were everywhere: SS15 catwalks; Coachella; Instagram; the high street; and now……….a version of the gladiator sandal has graced my shoe closet. I've essentially lived in my over-the-knee suede and leather boots for the past few months but now I've substituted those winter boots for some, boho-style summer boots, at least for the next few months anyway.

I’ve hankered after the mid-calf leather gladiator sandals for a while, but with not being a massive fan of my legs - and these shoes do draw attention to your legs - I vetoed the idea of ever owning a pair. I was also concerned, having inherited my mother’s genes for large calves, that they would be an ill-fit - #girlproblems. Fast-forward to a Sunday night browsing the online stores on my iPAD: 4 days later the delightful sandals were ready for collection at my local Topshop store. If you don’t buy, you can’t try, right? I'm glad I tried because they fit better than expected; I think if they were zip fastening only, I’d have had to return them, however the lace up front means I can adjust the tightness to accommodate my lower leg.

Once the weather really warms up and I make some time for a good ole’ professional leg wax I can hopefully wear them some place other than my back garden!





Later x
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SPIRALIZER REVIEW
Sunday, April 19, 2015

SPIRALIZER REVIEW

One of my new favourite kitchen gadgets


Lurch Spiralizer
Summer is synonymous with sandals, spaghetti-string/strapless tops, sunglasses, sea, sand, spritzers, and yes........salads. It’s the time of year when you substitute your lunch time soups and “comfort-food” dinners for, what some people consider, rabbit food.  I only started eating salads as a main meal (rather than as an accompaniment to a meal) after eating one at a restaurant last year and being somewhat impressed by the textures and flavours that hit my palate – I've enjoyed salads ever since but prior to that I couldn't understand why someone would choose a leafy, mundane salad as their meal of choice. Note: not all salads are made of leaves or mundane!

You may recall from a previous post that I replaced my handheld spiralizer gadget for a larger, safer, sturdier Lurch spiralizer about a month ago. My previous one was very small and fiddly and used to occasionally splice the skin on my fingers as well as the food. Inspired by the super-foodie-bloggers, I upgraded my spiralizer and if I’m honest, I’m quite frustrated I didn't upgrade sooner, especially since it was only £26! After the NutriBullet, this is definitely my favourite kitchen tool. It’s trouble-free to operate and clean, and although you have to make a 32cm x 25cm x 17cm space to store it, I think it allows you to enjoy fruit and vegetables in a more creative and fun way, which could also be an added benefit for fussy children. The gadget has three interchangeable blades (in integrated storage compartments) which allows you to create spirals, spaghetti or slices out of most fruit and vegetables - I've only used one of the blades so far to make courgette spirals, AKA coodles or courgetti.

This weekend I sliced a sirloin steak into strips (with a knife!) and created a coodles stir-fry, adding splashes of balsamic vinegar, pineapple juice and pineapple chunks; I loved the al dente texture of the coodles against the soft, succulent texture of the beef strips. This would work equally well with chicken, prawns, salmon and tofu, I guess.








Later x
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THE WAREHOUSE CAFE
Sunday, April 12, 2015

THE WAREHOUSE CAFE

A Restaurant Review






Why am I smiling in the photo above? Because my belly is full! I was invited by a dear friend for lunch the other day; he’s a vegan and a fellow foodie who gets equally excited about food and eating as I do. We dined at The Warehouse Café, an award-winning, buzzing, but unpretentious, little vegan/vegetarian-friendly (it also has lots of gluten-free options) independent restaurant in the up and coming area of Digbeth, which is in the heart of Birmingham. It's not located in the most prominent of spaces unfortunately; the area is undergoing regeneration and the cafe is nestled away on the first floor of a converted period building (formerly a warehouse) so you could easily miss it if you were not looking for it or aware it even existed. Running a local business myself, I do like to support other local businesses so I'm glad I found out about it, especially as they share some of the same values as me. If you're interested, check out their website to find out more about their commitment to sustainability, from using fresh local produce to using a bicycle courier for deliveries!

There are very few places, in Birmingham anyway, that cater specifically for vegetarians and vegans, and it’s so refreshing to be able to sit down and scan the menu without having to listen to my herbivore friends moaning about the limited choice of dishes on offer or asking the waiter/waitress for a modified vegetarian-friendly dish to what is on the menu. 

THE HEALTH BIT
Most of you will know that I do not follow a strict vegetarian/vegan diet, I enjoy my meat, fish and poultry far too much for that, however, I do adopt a healthy eating regime that incorporates plant-based foods.  Plant-based foods include vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. A plant-based diet has been widely researched and promoted for its health benefits; the general benefits include that it is probably lower in cholesterol and lower in saturated fat, depending on food choices. It may be lower in calories, and if you eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it may be higher in fibre, which may help lower cholesterol levels and help with heart disease prevention. It may also be lower in sodium (salt).

One of the benefits of eating in vegetarian restaurants, in my opinion, is that you can get inspiration from the menu and try to reproduce some of the delicious dishes at home. I’m definitely going to try making some home-made falafel and lentil daal, that’s for sure, and one can only hope they turn out as tasty as the ones I had at The Warehouse Cafe. I’m always interested to hear about other places like The Warehouse Café so if you know of any around your neck of the woods let me know so I can make an excuse to visit! I guess it’s at this point I should disclaim that I paid for the meal myself and there is no collaboration with the Café.

Falafels for starters

Lentil daal curry and roti bread with a yoghurt dip for mains


Vegan chocolate cake with vegan ice cream for dessert (gluten-free option available)

Later x
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EASTER CHOCOLATE IN BOURNVILLE
Monday, April 06, 2015

EASTER CHOCOLATE IN BOURNVILLE

Cadbury's anyone?



There are two special events in the Christian calendar when it is globally accepted to over-indulge on chocolate, right? Christmas and Easter. I didn't consume much chocolate this Easter chiefly because I couldn't get my hands on my favourite brands, namely Leonidas and Godiva (yes I’m a bit of a chocolate snob), and secondly because I didn't receive any surprise chocolate Easter gifts this year.......flowers and hot cross buns yes, but not chocolate.

Some of you will know that I live in the city which is home to the second largest confectionary brand in the world, Cadbury. Cadbury was established in Birmingham in 1824 and is best known for its chocolate products including Dairy Milk, Crème Egg and the Roses selection box. Admittedly, I've never visited Cadbury World, a visitor attraction created and run by the Cadbury chocolate company, but I do have to drive through the area of Bournville to visit relatives; Bournville is the Birmingham suburb in which you can find the Cadbury chocolate factory and was developed into the village it is today by the Cadbury family.

Reports suggest the Cadbury family were particularly concerned with the health and fitness of their workforce, who resided on the Bournville estate: Mr Cadbury didn't want the workers gorging on masses of chocolate; he incorporated park and recreation areas into the Bournvile village development plans; he encouraged swimming, walking and other forms of outdoor sports among the employees; and he forbid the building of any pubs/public houses within the area - and there’s me thinking 'corporate wellbeing' was a new concept.

I took a little stroll around the Bournille neighbourhood this weekend - Cadbury World was fully booked!






Acres of sports playing fields for Cadbury employees to stay active and healthy


Bournville Rest House was built to celebrate the Silver Wedding Anniversary of George and Elizabeth Cadbury

Later x
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ALMOND MILK
Sunday, March 29, 2015

ALMOND MILK

just for a change


There are various reasons why people forgo drinking cow’s milk: a person may be lactose intolerant; you may simply dislike the taste of milk; vegans eliminate dairy products from their diet; and some folk believe that cow’s milk should only be consumed by……well…..cows! Me, I enjoy drinking cow’s milk just for the taste, the nutritional benefit is the bonus; I have it with my breakfast cereals, add it to smoothies and sometimes simply have it as a refreshing drink with my snack. However, for those people who cannot or choose not to drink cow’s milk, there are plenty of milk alternatives from soya milk and oat milk, to specific dairy-free milks and nut milks -  the latter being the subject of this post.


As well as cow’s milk, I’m also quite partial to nut milks, particularly almond milk, however I find the unsweetened ready-made boxed versions a little insipid. Some versions are quite tasty but the sacrifice is that they often contain added sugar, so when it comes to nut milks I tend to have home-made almond milk, which means I can make it to suit my discerning taste: I add a dash of nutmeg and vanilla to excite my palate and I make it as deliciously creamy as possible. Of course, this type of milk is not suitable for people with nut allergies and although almond milk is a source of vitamin E (nuts are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E), be mindful that it can lack some of the nutritive qualities of cow’s milk (e.g. protein and calcium), however a balanced and varied diet should account for this.



What I used
3 cups of Water
1 cup of Almonds (blanched or unblanched works equally well I feel)
Nutmeg (or cinnamon)
Vanilla essence
Cheesecloth
Sweetener (optional)


What I did
It’s so simple, albeit a little messy!

Soak the almonds in a bowl of water for at least 6 hours. They say the longer you leave the nuts to soak, the creamier the milk.

Blend the drained nuts together with fresh water (I used my NutriBullet for this), vanilla essence and nutmeg. You can alter the volume of water depending on your preferred consistency.


Strain the milk using the cheesecloth so you’re left with a smooth and creamy milk -  this is when it can get a bit messy if you’re not careful because you have to squeeze the liquid out……just like milking a cow.

Put the strained milk in your mason jar (okay it doesn’t have to be a mason jar), pop it in the fridge and serve once chilled.

It’s a shame to discard the nutrient- dense pulp left in the cheesecloth, and I’m still looking for delicious recipes that’ll show me how I can make use of this filtered goodness.






Later x
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TOMATO & BASIL SPAGHETTI
Sunday, March 01, 2015

TOMATO & BASIL SPAGHETTI

but not with the spiralizer this time

Spirali from Amazon
Okay I've done it, I've succumbed....…..I've upgraded my mini, inconspicuous handheld spiralizer gadget to a larger, sturdier, ‘can’t find any space to put it’ gadget. As you’re probably aware, spiralizers are great for cutting various fruit and vegetables into spaghetti-shaped spirals; in fact the finished product has become somewhat of a social media sensation with vegetarian food bloggers, raw food advocates and low carb enthusiasts photographing and posting their freshly prepared coodles/courgetti dishes where they have substituted, what typically would be, wheat-based spaghetti or noodles for courgettes and other vegetables.

I don't have an allergy or intolerance to wheat or gluten, I'm not a raw food vegetarian, and I’m against people generally cutting out all carbohydrates from their diet for reasons I have discussed previously, however, for me the Spirali is a useful gadget for making alternative, and might I add pretty, dishes when I feel like a change from the norm. Despite my recent purchase, I made a quick and simple lunchtime dish this weekend - Tomato and Basil Spaghetti, which can also be made with vegetable spirals using the spiralizer, however I didn't have the vegetables I needed, so this time I've made it with whole-wheat spaghetti. Wholewheat pasta provides a good portion of wholegrains and evidence is growing that eating wholegrains regularly as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle may help to reduce the risk of many common diseases such as heart disease and bowel cancer.


What I used:
Whole-wheat pasta or vegetable spirals (e.g. courgette spirals)
Plum tomatoes
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Honey
Basil
Pine nuts
Feta cheese


What I did:
  • Mix up a small amount of basil-oil dressing by tearing approximately 5-6 basil leaves and grinding it with enough extra-virgin olive oil to cover the leaves
  • Slice the tomatoes in half and drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt (add pepper too if you like - I hate pepper!) and then put them in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes. Half way through, throw in some pine nuts (these were an afterthought whilst cooking)
  • Meanwhile, cook your spaghetti as instructed on the packet and make some extra dressing to drizzle over the pasta
  • The extra dressing is made in the same way as the basil-oil dressing above except this time add extra basil and oil, and also add the juice of half a lemon for that zesty kick and a teaspoon of honey
  • Once your pasta is cooked, transfer to your favourite bowl, drizzle the dressing over the pasta being sure to expose every spaghetti strand possible to the dressing, then pour over your roasted tomatoes and pine nuts and top with feta cheese.

Ready for roasting
Making the extra dressing
adding the pine nuts to roast with the tomatoes
Gobbling it all up!
Later x

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