It's a bittersweet day today. After over 4 years of The Adventures of an Accidental Cook I've decided it's time to move on...to bigger and better places. I've finally taken the plunge and bought a domain name. It feels like a big commitment, like getting married or buying a house. But I feel like I've tested the water enough now to know that I love food writing and this is what I want to do. I'd love it to lead to more than a blog, but only time will provide me with the answer to that. In the meantime all I can do is continue to share with you my cooking adventures, ideas, recipes and love for all things food!
So please join me in my new home:
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I will have a new blog post on next week. See you soon!
I tend to only write a post when I perfect a dish, but actually sometimes I think it's nice to blog anyway, ultimately it's about the journey not just the destination. If you don't make mistakes how will you ever grow and learn. That's as true for cooking as it is for every walk of life, but perhaps that's too deep for a food blog!
Sorry, I digress, so today I made a healthy fruit crumble. I mainly did it for the kids. Normally when I see things that say gluten free, refined sugar free or dairy free I just think #boring (Note: I am living my life through hashtags at the moment, I think they add a sense of occasion)! But for the little ones I try to control the two obvious food enemies - sugar and salt. It's salt that I am particularly paranoid about. Children's kidneys are just too small to process vast quantities of it. Sugar is trickier. I'm not that panicked about obesity just yet. We eat well most the time and I try to get some exercise into our daily routine. And I think if you ban something they just want it more. Forbidden things are always more desirable, another trend that runs through most walks of life! But I do worry about cavities.
I had to have a filling a few weeks ago. My first one in 10 years. I was gutted. I don't want my children to go through that any time soon. And the only way to prevent it is good brushing and avoiding things that cause tooth decay, namely sugar. Now this is hard. Sugar is everywhere, even in healthy options such as fruits. But it's the refined/added sugar that's lethal. Avoiding sugar makes finding interesting desserts a bit of a challenge. Hence my healthy fruit crumble. No added sugar and a healthy oat and almond topping. The verdict was a mixed bag. SG is too small to have much of an opinion. He just gave me his winning smile after every mouthful. CM made a face like she was sucking lemons and asked to get down from the table after two bites. N loved it. I think it could use some improvements. Maybe sweeter fruits. Perhaps a natural sugar source (honey or maple syrup) mixed with the oat topping to provide a more crunchy granola consistency. I will try it again one day and let you know how it goes. This recipe is work in progress.
Apple - peeled, cored and cut into cubes
Frozen mixed berries
Crushed flaked almonds
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan
- Put the apple, berries, cinnamon, nutmeg and a tablespoon of water into a saucepan and stew over a low heat until the apples become soft and it forms a jam like consistency
- in a separate bowl mix the porridge oats, butter, almonds and vanilla powder until everything is coated in butter and starts to stick together
- transfer the fruit mixture into a greased oven proof dish
I like cake! There I said it. But it doesn't stop there. I also like chocolate, and biscuits, and carbs and crisps. It's about time I came to terms with it. I'd love to be one of those people (and I do know a few) that just 'don't really like bread or potatoes' or anything unhealthy. Well good for them for being so virtuous, or for lying to themselves, but sadly I'm not one of them. But it's ok to like these things, it's just about willpower and moderation. Sadly that's been the missing link these days. I haven't been great with balancing my diet. I have some pretty valid excuses, I get about 5 hours sleep a night, and that's often not even in one stretch, and with 2 young children food is generally of the 'grab and go' variety. But these are just excuses. Ultimately no one cares if I eat bad stuff except me. Yes I look ok and my clothes fit fine but I know I could do better and I plan to start. And what better place to start than breakfast, after all it is the most important meal of the day!
I'd really love to start my day with eggs on toast. And actually if you poach the egg and use granary bread it's quite a healthy breakfast. But it's not always practical so like most people I often have to settle for cereal. Full-of-sugar, hungry-again-after-an-hour cereal! But we all know that oats are great for you and apparently fill you up for longer. The problem is there's no way I can cook porridge on a hob while trying to feed two kids. So granola it is, but have you ever seen how much sugar there is in granola? Even in the apparently 'no added sugar' ones I found 18g of sugar in 50g portion! I know it's from dried fruit but that's a third of the bowl full of sugar. Following a recommendation from a friend I have found a great low sugar granola (Lizi's) with 3g of sugar in a 50g portion (although I'm sure my portion sizes also need reviewing)! But it does means I can treat myself to a tablespoon of fruit yoghurt and some fresh fruit and make a yummy but not too sinful breakfast.
But now for my amazing breakfast discovery. Ok for some of you hipsters this will be old news but I often cotton on to things a bit late. Yes it's overnight oats. I wish I had known you could make delicious creamy porridge oats without cooking them. It takes me less than 5 mins the evening before, I then get to dream about them all night and then devour them the next morning. Now that is a great start to the day!
- place 7 tablespoons of porridge oats in a bowl, jar or container
- pour over approx 100ml milk (regular milk or specialist milk such as almond or coconut) to cover the oats completely
- add goji berries and seeds (e.g. flax, linseed, sunflower seeds etc) as required
- add 1-2 tables spoons plain or flavoured yoghurt
- top with fresh fruit e.g blueberries, banana, strawberries etc
- leave in the fridge for 2 hours but preferably overnight
- stir and enjoy!
Other great toppings are nuts, coconut chips, peanut butter, raisins or dried fruit and chocolate shavings
How did I not know about soffritto mix before now. For years I have sweated blood and tears (OK blatant exaggeration) to finely chop onion, celery and carrots to make the base for my bolognese or casseroles, when all this time I could have got waitrose to do it for me! Of course it's more expensive. I think almost all shortcuts are, but that's the price you pay for convenience. The key is working out whether the time and effort you save justifies the additional cost, for you. And it's those last 2 words that are key. Everyone's priorities are different and a corner I feel comfortable cutting someone else may not. But after having SG I realised 2 young children = no time for me. So now I proudly say, my name is mummy (I have no name anymore) and I cut corners!
N has always said to me it's better to do an 80% job than not do it. I used to struggle with this. If I couldn't clean my whole bathroom properly, by moving all the products and using all my fancy cleaning supplies, I would wait. If I did that now we would be living in squalor! So I have lowered my standards and actually my house is probably cleaner. I guess I should have listened to N in the first place (don't tell him that though!).
So what are my favourite shortcuts? Well Dettol wipes are my new best friend. I buy them on offer and clean everything with them (except the kids)! They adorn every single room in my house. And my new favourite hack (I could talk about that slightly strange word for a whole post, but basically it means clever solutions for tricky problems) is rubbing a lemon on limescale. I recently bought a book of the memoirs of a 1930s housemaid (I am having Downton withdrawal symptoms) and this was one of her insightful tips. Before I throw a used lemon away I find a bit of limescale, and trust me there is plenty, rub it over it, and rinse later.
My favourite beauty shortcut is using coconut oil to remove my makeup, it doubles as an amazing moisturiser, thereby killing two birds with one stone. And for cooking there's nothing better than my freezer. Frozen onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, herbs and now soffritto. Definitely more expensive but when you're in a hurry to cook a decent fresh meal they can shave off crucial minutes.
So what are your favourite shortcuts (and hacks). I'd love to hear them.
I'm in a food funk! It's like a rut but worse. Not only do I not know what to cook for dinner, I also don't know what to write about. Most of it's just lack of time. Lack of time to shop, to cook and even just to think. But that's just what life is like these days. Kids or not, life is busy and frantic. Which is why I thought I'd try out this new craze of recipe kits.
There's quite a few out there so it's hard to know which to go for. My initial thought was to try Gusto as I got a voucher for £25 off, but they were pipped to the post by Hello Fresh who sent me a completely free box via a recommend a friend deal. Free meals, you'd be crazy to say no. Although the catch is you have to sign up with credit card details and if you don't want to continue you have to remember to cancel your subscription. Neither of those two scenarios is easy for someone who finds she doesn't even have time to think, but never-the-less Thursday morning came and a box containing 3 meals for 2 people arrived. Beautifully packed, with all the ingredients segregated according to their use and storage instructions, I opened the box and my heart dropped. No don't worry, there wasn't anything amiss, except of course my unrealistic expectations. I'm not sure why I thought I'd open the box and find all the ingredients weighed, cleaned and prepped ready to throw together and make an exquisite meal. But they were just raw ingredients. A whole potato, garlic cloves with their peel on and green peppers with with seeds in. The outrage! Ok, I know I sound like the height of laziness, but I'd stupidly started to envision a life of luxury! But once I got over the shock of having to use a peeler and a knife the excitement of trying out a new recipe kicked in. I had a a choice of three, but the people at Hello Fresh cleverly put a sticker on the recipe to tell you how long the ingredients will keep for. So not only is the shopping done for you, so is the meal planning. I was recommended to make the Five Spiced Chicken with Bok Choi first. I throughly enjoyed cooking it and I definitely enjoyed eating it. The minestrone soup was pretty amazing too. Sadly the Prawn and Serrano Linguine didn't go down as well. No fault of the recipe of course, it's just that N doesn't like things with cream, except for chocolate eclairs of course!
5 more sleeps till Christmas! I'm not quite sure how that happened but I for one am very excited. I've always loved Christmas but now that CM is old enough to understand it, it's even more fun. The tree's up and looking rather festive with its new gold and berry coloured baubles, although N and CM have already eaten all the chocolate decorations!
So the start of my Christmas cooking journey started today with a Christmas biscuit baking session with CM. I was inspired by an excellent children's baking workshop we went to last weekend run by West London Kiddy Cook teacher Bernadette Ryder. Kiddy Cook is a fantastic franchise that runs cooking and baking workshops for children of all ages. I am a big fan of cooking with children and apart from hoping to pass on my love of cooking to CM I also think it is amazing way to help a child's development. Just in the simple act of baking you can improve motor skills, increase concentration, teach counting and practice colours. I bake with CM regularly but it was fun to go to a professional workshop as it also taught me how to cook with a toddler. I always wonder if I am giving her enough to do or maybe expecting too much from her. Bernadette's Christmas Cookery Workshop was fantastic. She had everything planned and tailored to capture the attention of the little ones, from a sing and dance session at the beginning, a doll called Katy Custard (that CM still talks about), picture cards to help visual recognition and appropriate equipment for young children. We made gingerbread people and chocolate truffles. Delicious. Sorry there are no photos, the family ate them all too quickly! But I will definitely be making the truffles again and I couldn't wait to make some Christmas Spiced biscuits today!
And so to get into the Christmas spirit we sang Christmas songs and baked. Although the only song CM knows is jingle bells so we soon gave up and put the radio on. But it definitely got me in the mood for our trip to see Santa this afternoon. CM asked Santa to buy her 'a present'. That makes it pretty easy for mummy. But she did tell Santa that SG wants an orange car. I guess I better do some last minute shopping!
For more information on children's cooking classes visit www.kiddycook.co.uk
Spiced Christmas Biscuits
(Makes approximately 24)
- 350g plain flour
- 125g demarara sugar
- 100g butter
- 2 eggs
- 4 tbs golden syrup
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp all spice
- heat the oven to 200C/180F
- in a large bowl mix together the flour, butter, ground spices and bicarbonate of soda with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs
- in a separate bowl beat together the eggs, sugar and syrup
- add to the dry mix and work together to form a pastry.
- if you have time, cover the bowl and put in the fridge for 30 mins to make it easier to work with
- roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into Christmassy shapes
- place the shapes onto a greased baking tray approx 2cm apart so they have room to spread when they bake
My supermarket delivery comes tomorrow which means today was my clear-out-the-fridge day. I have a few recipes that help me use up my odds and ends - stir fries, risottos or casseroles are my classics. But as I didn't have any 'meaty' stuff like chicken or prawns in the fridge, today I decided to make a minestrone soup. Of course it you have some bacon that would taste great but it tastes just as good without. There's no formal recipe. Fry some onion and garlic, add a couple of chopped tomatoes, throw in whatever veggies you have at home - I used carrots, broccoli, courgette, celery and leek - add a small tin of beans (butter beans are great, but kidney beans work well too), a couple of handfuls of pasta or broken up spaghetti and a tablespoon of tomato purée. Give it a good stir and add some vegetable stock, a bouquet garni and some herbs (dry, fresh or frozen). Bring it to the boil and simmer for 15 mins. Serve with a crusty baguette. Or if you've got some bread going a bit stale (hard is fine but no mould please!) cut it up and fry it to make croutons. Perfect for a dark October evening.