Homemade Granola

I’ll admit it, I initially attempted to make granola bars but I got the liquid ingredient measurements clearly wrong – basically, the bars instantly disintegrated.

But I’m an improviser so I made granola instead. Yeah, I just let it crumble a bit and used it as normal granola. I’m still a legit food blogger, right?! I’m sure I could make an inspiration quote out of this story.

You’ll notice from the recipe below that I don’t believe in measurements. Put in as much as feels right to you and seems to level out to create balance. I’ve used Biscoff spread because I absolutely love the caramelised flavour (it’s great on toast as well) but you can use peanut butter or any other nut butter, depending on the kind of flavour you’re after.

The dry stuff

  • puffed quinoa by Indigo Herbs
  • oats
  • pumpkin seeds (as much as you want)
  • chia seeds
  • some sliced glace cherries (or raisins, goji berries, cranberries)

The wet stuff

The method

Mix up the dry stiff, gently heat in a saucepan the wet stuff, then combine it all together. Spread out and flatten on a baking tray (with parchment or greased) and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve with (vegan) yoghurt and fresh blueberries.

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For the Love of Quinoa – Indigo Herbs Review

After a week of unhealthy dinners it has been an inspiration to receive three huge packs of quinoa from the kind souls at Indigo Herbs, who asked me to review a few of their products on my blog.

Indigo Herbs are a family-owned business based in the alternative town of Glastonbury in Somerset, selling an vast range of superfoods, herbs, wholefoods, and even gift sets and tea. They have a formidable knowledge of how to create healthy, nutritious, plant-based meals, and are all about empowering consumers to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Quinoa has enjoyed a vogue in recent years amongst trendy metropolitan hippie types, and you can see why – the health benefits are well-documented and really quite extensive, as any foodie can tell you. Hailed as a superior alternative grain to couscous and bulgar wheat, it actually fulfills a different function in our diet similar to chard or spinach, and is technically a seed.

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This week I jazzed up my diet using the huge bags of quinoa varieties that Indigo Herbs kindly sent me to blog about.

Organica Red Quinoa Grains

Organic Puffed Quinoa

Organic Quinoa Flakes

Firstly, I used the red quinoa to create a lentil and quinoa feta salad. The product came in an air-tight resealable foil pouch that fits comfortably in my kitchen cupboards. I rinsed the quinoa and added to a saucepan of boiling water and left it to cook for 10-15 minutes until the seeds split. I combined it with cooked green lentils, added some chopped veg (red pepper, spring onion, cucumber) and some garlic and oregano to flavour, plus a generous crumbling of feta on top. I never now how to judge how much quinoa to use; it deceptively expands in water in the same way that pasta and rice does so I always end up making enough to feed a passing hungry squadron, but at least that’s lunch sorted for the next day. Helpfully, the packaging offers a serving suggestion of “use as much as you see it” – now that’s my kind of brand!

The puffed quinoa also came in the same attractive and practical packaging. If you’re not sure what puffed quinoa is or how it differs from the more recognizable varieties, basically it is created by a process of gently heating quinoa seeds until they pop, then allowing them to cool. The puffs can then be used in cereals, puddings, muesli or granola, so quite a versatile ingredient. I used the puffed quinoa to create these chocolate-covered, maple-syrupy protein snacks.

Finally, we come to the quinoa flakes, which are often used in baking as a gluten-free alternative, but also in cereals or granola or sprinkled on salads. I used them to make these pancakes and they provided a healthy addition of protein to this otherwise indulgent weekend breakfast treat. The batter held together really well and the quinoa provided a really tasty nutty flavour.

If you want to read a bit more about the history and health benefits of quinoa, have a read of Indigo Herbs’ page on the benefits of this amazing seed. 

I was really impressed with the quality and quantity of Indigo Herb’s quinoa range; the branding and packaging is thoughtful, with plenty of helpful nutritional information. Their products are organic and often vegan and/or gluten-free so this brand is an invaluable resource to those following a gluten-free or plant-based diet.

To summarise the extensive health credentials of quinoa:

  • Double the protein content of rice
  • Contains vitamins B and E
  • Source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, fibre
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids
  • High level of anti-inflammatories
  • Source of omega 3 fatty acids (promotes heart health)
  • Slowly digested carbohydrate

 

 

 

Early Grey Tea Cake Recipe

I’ll be honest, I’m a terrible baker. Most of my efforts have resulted in failure. I know even the most proficient bakers are sometimes let down by a bad recipe or ill luck, but in my case, it’s not you it’s definitely me.

It really is my fault. I’m sloppy, I’m messy, I don’t measure things properly, I give up when the mixture doesn’t combine properly and hope that it will just magically heal itself in the oven. My sponges disintegrate. My buttercream still has lumps of flour in it because I forgot to sieve it first.  My batter curdles. I have baked a cake for nearly 2 hours and it was still raw in the middle.

I acknowledge that I do not have the skill, talent nor patience.

Yet still, on a rare free Saturday I might try my hand at baking and today was one of those days. I attempted an Earl Grey Tea Cake and actually it’s kind of, possibly, not all that bad. I mean, it tastes nice and it’s not burnt or raw so I figure I can count that as a success, right?

Well, if you think you can do any better (which I am certain you can) then here’s a decent recipe you could try.

Ingredients

160g butter

250g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

4 early grey tea bags

105ml milk

Handful of fresh foraged blackberries

2 eggs

A dash of almond essence

And for the buttercream

100g softened butter

175g icing sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Method

Soften the butter and combine gradually with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour.

Heat the milk in a saucepan on the hob but be careful not to let it boil. Add the earl grey tea bags and turn off the heat. Give the tea bags a good squeeze and cover with lid to let it steep for 10 minutes. Let it cool before adding to the mixture. You can use loose leaves tea bags if you prefer.

Separate the mixture into 2 sandwich tins and cook for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven on 160 degrees.

In the meantime, we create the buttercream. Soften the butter and gradually add the icing sugar, mixing thoroughly. Add the cocoa powder and stir together into a thick cream. Add a bit of milk if necessary if too dry.

Et voila.

Recipe post: herby cheese scones

This is one of my simplest and most satisfying recipes: homemade herby cheese scones.

I’m a sucker for a cheese scone anyway, but adding rosemary makes such a difference.

 I first cut the dough using a teeny tiny cutter but for my second attempt I just shaped the dough myself into large scone-shaped balls and doubled the quantities. And sprinkled lots of cheese on the top. And herbs. Did I mention herbs? You really must include herbs.

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 medium egg
  • 3 tablespoon milk (1 for dusting)
  • 70g grated cheese (or as much as your heart desires)
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • black pepper (as much as you want to season).

Mix the dry stuff, add the egg and milk, mix it into a crumbly dough, roll it out, cut it into shapes, sprinkle a mini mountain of cheese and rosemary on top and bake for 20-25 mins.

Voila. Your house will smell delicious.  

 

What’s Wrong With Animal-Friendly Animal Products?

The ethical consumer cannot simply trust a brand claiming to be animal or environmentally friendly; we all have a responsibility to do a bit of research to make sure a product is as ethical as it claims.

If the ethical exploitation of animals is at all possible, then it must meet certain welfare standards. The RSPCA ‘Freedom Food’ label is one brand which claims to raise and slaughter animals in better conditions than the rest of the meat and dairy industry, and it distances itself from the evils of factory farming.

Hillside is an animal sanctuary located in Norfolk, which has conducted several investigations into Freedom Farms, and has uncovered evidence of animals suffering conditions as bad as, and sometimes worse than traditional farms.

The idea behind RSPCA monitored farms is a noble one, though it has been repeatedly shown to be a failed model. Freedom Food is a charity set up over 20 years ago to ensure that every aspect of those animals’ lives meet the high welfare standards of the RSPCA.

Freedom Food is thee only UK assurance and food labelling scheme dedicated solely to improving farm animal welfare.

However, Hillside has filmed the treatment of animals on various Freedom Food farms in the UK and found that those standards of animal welfare are simply not being met. Recent footage shows chickens living in desperate conditions, crammed into tiny containers, and left to suffer with untreated wounds. According to this report in The Mirror:

Many of the birds had lost half their feathers and clearly had painful leg deformities. The filthy shed floor was littered with corpses, some in an advanced state of decomposition.

The problem with failing Freedom Food farms is widespread, as this report into pig farming demonstrates. However, this is a brand that is not doing too badly compared with other so-called ‘ethical’ brands. A report in the Independent rated Freedom Food as second, with Soil Association scoring 9/10 in ensuring the highest welfare standards were met on its certified farms.

What you should about ‘High-welfare’ animal products

 The Freedom Food label does not mean ‘free range’. The RSPCA does not feel it necessary that broiler chickens ever experience the outside.

– Freedom Food birds reach slaughter weight within just 49 days; in the wild, it takes chickens around three months to reach adult size. Leg and hip injuries are common place on intensive farms, and they have also been seen on Freedom Food farms.

– Sows are still forced to give birth and suckle their young for around 4 weeks in farrowing crates, which are so small that they cannot move.

– Some ‘free-range’ labels claim that piglets are either ‘outdoor-bred’ or outdoor-reared.’ In both cases, piglets might be bred or reared outdoors for several months but they are moved indoors into fattening units, which are cramped and overcrowded, and provide no stimulation.

– ‘Organic’ means that the use of chemicals in animal feed is prohibited. Arguably, animals lead slightly better lives on organic farms, but male chicks are still gassed at birth and male calves are still shot because they are of no use in the dairy industry.

Animal Aid claims:

There is no humane meat. Animals’ lives are as
important to them as ours are to us and none go to
the knife willingly. Choosing organic, free-range or
Freedom Food over standard meat, milk or eggs,
continues to cause pain and suffering, and wastes
natural resources.

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