Chillies and empowerment, #WithOxfam

As you know, I love chillies. Anything spicy – I’m there.

In my eyes, chillies are a super food. But what makes chillies so great? And why should we be using more of them in our diets?

Here’s my top 5 reasons to eat chillies followed by an awe-inspiring case study from Oxfam; which really proves that chillies are going a long way to becoming a true super food. The little fiery red capsicum’s are being used in Bangladesh to empower women to make better lives for themselves and overcome poverty caused by adverse weather conditions in that part of the world.

red finger chillies

Why I think chillies should be considered super-scran;

They contain a lot of vitamin C (up to seven times more than the average orange)

They add flavour, vibrant colour and warmth (but not always hot-heat) to a variety of dishes

Chillies can increase the speed of your metabolism, and help burn fat

They aid sinus congestion, which is why your noes runs after a hot curry!

There’s such a huge range to choose from, there’s literally a chilli for everyone and every dish!

habaneros variety
habaneros variety

Chillies in action #WithOxfam

So chillies might be good for our health, metabolism and taste buds, but when Oxfam contacted me to see if I wanted to hear more about how they coordinate projects across the world and use chilli farming as a way to empower women out of poverty, I was excited to find out more.

In Bangladesh, many of the poorest people live in areas badly affected by terrible weather conditions like flooding, cyclones and heavy storms. These conditions make communities in the area vulnerable; there is little work and many people are forced to go hungry as their crops and cattle get washed away with the floods.

Due to food being scarce, women need additional support as their husbands are away for long periods, seeking work in the cities.

Oxfam work with their partners in Bangladesh to help flood-hit communities earn an income through growing chillies.  Amazing, right?

Joygun Islam, who’s pictured above, is directly affected by Oxfam’s work. She said:

“We eat less food when there is a flood. We mostly eat dried food, and we try to save some rice if we know the flood is coming.

“Sometimes we have two meals a day, but some days we only have one meal.

“I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. I now eat better than I used to before. I wouldn’t be able to eat before but I’m getting good quality food now. I now have some disposable income to spend on things like chicken and fish.”

Joygun is now vice president of her local community based organisation (CBO). The CBO uses chilli production as a practical catalyst to improve peoples lives in these badly affected villages. She’s received full training on how to grow chillies, which she says has given her confidence and self-belief. Her husband now recognises the important contribution she makes to the household income, and this financial boost allows them a more varied and nutritious diet.
Chilli (10)
I fully support this sort of project work and feel that more should be spoken about these incredible projects and how a regular donation can really improve people’s lives in the simplest but most effective ways.
Cheshire Food Blog
Joygun Islam spreads chillies out to dry in the sun, they take between 3 and 11 days to dry thoroughly. The dried chillies are then sorted for quality, colour and size. Only the best go to market.

What can a regular donation do?

£9 can provide a family with manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques.
£24 can provide a family with the tools, seeds and training to set up an allotment, helping them to feed themselves.

Empowering people to help themselves is key to a sustained solution to overcome poverty. Women like Joygun can now give their children nutritious food and prepare for future disasters.

I hope you have enjoyed this read and finding out more about this type of project. This is just one of many, many initiatives Oxfam run to help beat poverty across all corners of the world. The next story I am going to feature is about coffee production in Honduras, so keep your eyes peeled for that one and in the meantime follow Oxfam on Twitter for their latest project updates ❤

Dried Chillies for sale in the market <3
Dried Chillies for sale in the market ❤
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Garlic-roasted veg with whole wheat fusilli

In my opinion, meal prep is the only way you can guarantee eating healthy, tasty lunches throughout the week. At work, I’m super busy, so I don’t have time to faff about going out for lunch. Plus, I don’t want to spend unesseccery money on stuff that doesn’t make me feel good about what I’m eating.

This is one of my favourite desk lunch recipes. It’s quick and easy, full of texture and flavour and can be made ahead in bulk. Plus it’s a great way to use up nearly-stale bread instead of wasting it. Just wazz up one to two slices in a food processor and you’re away.

This recipes makes 2 hearty lunch portions and takes about 20 mins to rustle up.

I was recently sent some healthy infused rapeseed oils from Borderfields as part of their #IsBetter campaign. I already really rate rapeseed oil as an alternative to olive oil, as it’s much lower in saturated fat but still great to cook with. These infused oils are lovely and will be cropping up in a few of my recipes this month. Thanks to Bordefields for sending them over!

What you need

For the roast veg:

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 peppers (whichever colours you prefer)
  • 2cloves garlic, whole
  • 2tbsp. garlic infused rapeseed oil (I used Borderfields)
  • handful of cherry tomatoes

For the pasta:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp garlic infused rapeseed oil
  • 140g whole wheat fusilli
  • 50g fresh brown breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (thyme, basil, oregano all work well)
  • handful of fresh basil, roughly torn, plus extra to serve
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

What to do

  1. Pre heat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Roughly chop the veg and arrange in a roasting tin along with the 2 cloves garlic. Drizzle with the oil and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands to make sure everything is coated. Pop in the middle of the oven for 35 mins, tuning once halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta until al-dente. In a large saucepan, heat the other 2 tablespoons of oil over a medium heat. Once hot, add the breadcrumbs, dried herbs and minced garlic, stir well. Heat gently until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown, but make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the breadcrumb mixture. Stir well to ensure everything is coated. Add a little hot water if you feel the mixture needs loosening a little.
  4. Separate the pasta mixture in to two Tupperware’s and top each with the roasted veg and a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese. Keeps in the fridge well for up to 3 days. Enjoy cold or re-heated in the microwave for lunch!

What are your favourite pasta dishes, or healthy make-ahead lunches? Use the comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Cheshire Food Blogger

Fluffy Eggs and Mushrooms on Toast

Scrambled eggs on toast is a wonderful veggie option for brunch, especially at the weekend. Here is my recipe for a quick, simple and satisfying breakfast that you can rustle up in no time.

#bestofthebrunch
#bestofthebrunch

Weekends are all about a lie-in and a decent brunch – if you ask me. Here’s a weekend breakfast classic which is quick, easy and not all that unhealthy. Fluffy scrambled eggs with herby mushrooms on granary toast. Mmmm. A splash of Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce at the end tastes great and helps if you have a hangover!

You’ll need a wok or a large frying pan for the scrambled eggs, and a little separate frying pan is perfect for the ‘shrooms.

This recipe serves 2, and takes about 10-15 minutes in total.

What you need:

  • 5 free-range eggs
  • a dash of milk
  • a small handful of finely chopped, flat-leaf parsley (or you could use thyme or coriander – whatever you fancy)
  • a big handful of sliced chestnut mushrooms
  • a shallot, very finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  •  2 knobs of butter or spreadable Lurpak
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • 4 slices of granary bread
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

What to do:

  1. prep your work station – get the wok and frying pan ready on the hob, toast in the toaster (but don’t toast just yet) and get your plates and cutlery out ready.
  2. crack your eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork, adding the dash of milk and salt and pepper. Mix in half of the chopped parsley.
  3. put one of the knobs of butter into small frying pan with the olive oil, and wait until it starts to foam. Then, add the sliced mushrooms and chopped shallots (if using). Leave them to fry gently, tossing every 30 seconds or so.
  4. add the other knob of butter to the wok and again, wait until it starts to foam (a medium heat should do it), pour in the eggs and using a wooden spatula start to stir them immediately, continuing to stir until they start to come together.
  5. pop the toast down in the toaster!
  6. as the eggs cook – turn down the heat, but keep folding them over with the spatula.
  7. check your mushrooms to make sure they are going nice and golden, and add the chopped garlic and the rest of the fresh parsley for the last 30 seconds or so.
  8. by this point you should be ready to bring it all together, get your toast buttered and serve the scrambled eggs on one slice, then a generous pile of the mushrooms on the other.
  9. season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of Tabasco hot sauce to taste! Enjoy!

Cheshire Food Blogger

Cheshire Food Blogger

Food for Thought – a Healthy Study Guide

Back to work, back to school. Same difference. We all dread it. I hope your Monday wasn’t too horrific?

Some of you may not know this, but I used to work in a school as a teaching assistant. And I almost went back to uni to train as a teacher.

Then things changed. Government funding cuts back in 2011 meant my precious place on the PGCE Psychology course got scrapped. Along with that of about 25 students in the same boat as me. So, after a seocond attempt not working out either, I decided it wasn’t meant to be. So back to the drawing board, and that’s when I took the opportunity to work for an IT company in Manchester and London. And here I am now working for a top organic search agency near Chester.

But – my time spent as a TA was fun. I met some really smart, funny and innovative kids. And also some right little sh*t bags. But, I can honestly say in their own ways, they were all fantastic and I do feel privileged to have worked with (and hopefully helped) some of those kids along the way.

So when the opportunity arose to help form this ‘healthy revision guide’ for GCSE students, I was excited to get involved.

A revision guide, with a difference

An online focus took place to gather top revision tips and tricks in order for the revision guide to be shared with current GCSE students. Those involved include current students, former students, health and fitness experts and teachers.  All giving their best tips for a healthy revision schedule covering topics such as diet, exercise, sleep and music and how they play a vital role in a young person’s revision tactics.

Cheshire Food Blogger

Eating the right foods during stressful times

Health food expert @SpamellaB gives her advice on the best food to eat during the exam period, and I have used her top tips as the featured image on this post (see above).

I think she is right, a mix of complex carbs and protein make for the best breakfasts. Eggs, milk, nuts, fruit, lean meat, baked beans, wholemeal toast are all great options. Bananas are life savers. Based on my own experience, this advice for eating the right foods during exam times doesn’t just apply to students. In all walks of life, eating well, or as well as you can, during stressful times is key to getting through it in one piece!

Some days at work I find I am more stressed than usual. Perhaps because I have a lot on my plate or  have a tight deadline to work towards. But sometimes, I actually know I am more stressed because I am hungry (AKA hangry). I just can’t function properly if I don’t feed myself well. And this must be the case for loads of kids who struggle through their exams due to eating badly, skipping meals or consuming too much sugar.

Taking the advice here will hopefully help at least a few kids along the way to a healthier revision schedule. Better revision means better results. And better grades at school, well, the sky’s the limit!

Below is a little sneak-preview of some of the other pages, and see below to the link to download the full eBook!

The full eBook is completely free and can be downloaded via the link below:
A Healthy Revision Guide For GCSE: Free Download

 

Cheshire Food Blogger

Cheshire Food Blogger

Cheshire Food Blogger

2015/16: What I’ve learnt & Where I’m going

So, New Year, new me? I really, really hate that cliché. But of course, this is the right time of year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learnt in 2015 and what my plans for 2016 are. Feel free to share your resolutions or tips in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

I learnt what healthy eating really is.

I think this came about due to a conscious effort to start looking after myself more. It was also nicely geed along by the surge of health-food focussed chefs, bloggers and cookbooks taking to the scene to promote well-being and healthy living through good, honest food.

Cheshire Food Blogger
Healthy eating spread at the Holland & Barratt Bake Off ❤

This change in lifestyle enabled me the confidence to share my own tips for healthy eating with you all (which might come in handy this month as we kick-start January with our best intentions!)

Becoming closer friends with Pamela from www.spamellab.com, meeting Deliciously Ella and Ugne Bakes have all helped me learn so much more about healthy eating too! Thanks, ladies!

I learnt to have career confidence.

Those of you who know me on a personal level know I had a bit of a bumpy ride when it came to choosing my career path. However, starting my blog in August 2014 was the best decision I think I’ve ever made. That’s because it opened doors for me; to meet some incredibly talented and inspiring people, to kick-start my freelance writing and to enable me to do something creative that I love.

Cheshire Food Blogger
From project coordinator to creative campaigns ❤

My blog also landed me my (fairly) new job as an Earned Media Executive for award-winning organic search agency click.co.uk. During my first 3 months I have learnt so much more about organic search and SEO. I’ve also had the opportunity to put my previous project management and blogging skills to the test to run lots of interesting client campaigns, alongside a great team of people.

Here’s looking forward to 2016, where lots more crazy campaigns will follow!

I learnt to surround myself with amazing people.

This might go without saying for some people. But in 2015, I learnt a valuable lesson that is; you don’t have to be friends with anyone for the sake of it. It can add unnecessary stress and pressure to your life, and let’s face it – life is tricky enough as it is.

What I don’t mean by this is that it’s OK to dump or ‘de-friend’ anyone who you might not see eye to eye with at times. You need to be friends with people who have different views and perspectives. However, what I do mean is that you don’t have to try to be friends with everyone. Especially those who don’t give you much (or anything) back in return. Just keep it simple and nurture the  friendships that are mutually beneficial for each of you in terms of fun, laughter, love, companionship and being there throughout the hard times.

Looking forward to 2016 and the friend-filled fun I know it will bring.

I learnt the importance of family.

This year I have learnt something valuable about family. Being focussed on getting a new job, staying in shape, having a social life, keeping up with blogging (recipes, events and reviews) as well as some freelance writing on the side – things got quite hectic, very quickly.

Looking back on 2015, I can see that it’s been my family who have taken the hit the most as I assume they still love me and think about me regardless of my busy lifestyle. Which they do, of course, but it doesn’t harm to make the effort to call or see them more often.

This is something I endeavour to do more of in 2016, and I am looking forward to it as I really am so lucky to have such a wonderful, crazy family. 🙂

I learnt that food doesn’t have to be complicated.

In 2015, I think I over-complicated food in some instances. Specific examples didn’t make it onto the blog, but in a nutshell at times I over think things, which can confuse the outcome of something that was otherwise intended to be straightforward.

This year in 2016, I will be focussing more on stripped back versions of meals that are easy to prepare, cook and eat. Full on flavour, minimum fuss food. Looking forward to sharing the outcomes with you all.

 

Thank you so much for reading the things I learnt in 2015 and what direction I’m heading in throughout 2016. I look forward to sharing lots more delicious, nourishing recipes with you that will hopefully encourage you to spend quality time with the people you love most.

 

Happy New Year,  Sophie -x-

Christmas tip sharing

I wanted to do something Christmassy on the blog this week, so when SHEilds contacted me about their Christmas Tip Share I was quite excited to get involved.

I’ve joined 7 other bloggers to share our top Christmas tips for this year – ranging from foodie tips to general health and safety around the house during the festive period.

As I don’t have any kids or pets, I will just be sticking to staying merry this Christmas and eating my way through lots of cheese and lots of turkey. Oh and drinking lots of mulled wine 🙂

Cooking at Christmas

I have not yet been solely responsible for the Christmas dinner in the family, but I help my Mum each year usually feeding 7 of us.

Planning ahead really is the best option. My advice would be to plan your timings beforehand, and sanity-check them over with a family member. Write down a list of what needs to go in/on and when. Stick it on the fridge and use it as a guideline throughout the day.

Another tip I have is get others involved! It’s a time of year when there is always loads of spare people knocking around the house. So get them working for their festive feast! Set the table, light the candles, carve the turkey, stir the gravy, check the roasties, get the cheese out, crack the wine open, set out the nibbles and keep the drinks flowing. Use your guests to their full ability to make sure you don’t end up doing absolutely everything!

Keep things simple. Don’t try to be overlly extravagant on Christmas day with the menu. Your guests will be happy with a simple, well-executed meal with all the trimmings rather than something less-practiced and fancy.

Finally, enjoy yourself and the quality time with your loved ones.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my lovely readers! ❤ xxx

Cheshire Food Blog

#HBBakeOff with Ugne, Holland & Barratt

If you follow @SpamellaB or I on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook you will probably be aware that we went to a rather excellent food event this Sunday just gone.

It was a Holland and Barratt ‘free-from’ bake off, hosted by no other than Ugne – who was one of the stars of this years’ Great British Bake-off series.

Getting excited on the train down to London, my good friend Pamela and I chatted the whole journey, all about our excitement for the event, the fear of losing and baking in front of so many other bloggers, and wondered what Ugne herself would be like. Oh, and we took loads of selfies… Of course 🙂

Travel was fairly fuss-free, so when we arrived to Cactus Kitchen in North Clapham, a quick tour of the building and we were ready to meet the team and get stuck in. Everyone else was already there (OK, so our train was 20 mins late) so we set about with quick introductions – then straight to the kitchens upstairs to get baking.

The place itself is beautiful, quaint and quicky whilst also having some really impressive facilities and swanky kitchen gadgets. I’d expect nothing less from the legendary Michel Roux Jnr’s London based cookery school! We learnt that the place was also the set of Saturday Kitchen from BBC1, a show I watch almost religiously at home – so it was straight behind the scenes to get a few photos in. The lovely staff were happy to let us pose and even offered to take the photos for us!

The kitchen upstairs was out of this world. A beautiful, airy space in the loft of the building with high ceilings and stunning exposed beams painted in the cutest, pale, duck-egg blue shade.

The surfaces were polished, natural wood and all our ingredients were set out before us. Complete with Cactus Kitchen aprons and our own name tags to mark our individual workspace.

Ugne was warm, friendly and seemed as excited as we were. She told us about how she loved free-from cooking as she is passionate about baking with a healthy twist, saying that baking such beautiful, tasty treats shouldn’t always be full of fat, sugar, dairy and gluten/wheat.

We were baking an Apple, Pear and Cranberry cake – a Holland and Barrett recipe that Ugne was to judge at the end. Baking was a lot more relaxed than we had first imagined, with some bloggers less experienced than others. It was soon apparent that this was all just a bit of fun, although our competitiveness was quite difficult to suppress at times!

Cheshire Food Blogger
Time for a quick selfie with Ugne in the midst of baking!

Whilst our bakes cooled – we were treated to a fabulous ‘free from’ lunch. Everything on the spread was gluten and wheat free and much of it was also dairy and sugar free too. It was all delicious, particularly the avocado and quinoa salad and the stunning cheese that was served with pickles and chutneys. There was also sliced ham, hummus, tortilla chips and various tasty salads that were all truly outstanding. Ugne of course joined us for lunch, and it was great to be able to ask her questions and enjoy her company whilst we covered all topics from food, weddings, blogging and GBBO.

After lunch, it was back upstairs to put the finishing touches to our free-from bakes and get a demonstration from Ugne as she baked her Apricot, Chestnut and Coffee Cake that was soaked in a little rum, but was free from gluten, wheat, dairy and refined sugar. It was great to see Ugne in action, she’s very clearly a natural at baking and it was a privilege to see her talk through the recipe and have the opportunity to ask questions. We got to taste her bake at the end and it was stunning.

And so for the finale – judging our free from bakes! Ugne was tasked with trying all 8 of the bakes individually. They had been set out in front of her by the staff at Cactus Kitchen, as to not reveal the identity of the bakers…… It was a tense few moments as Ugne carefully considered each bite, commenting on the pros and cons of each cake (in the nicest way possible – not in any way like Paul Hollywood does on the Bake Off!)

Cheshire Food Blogger
My final cake, topped with dairy-free dark chocolate melted with coconut oil (Pam’s idea!) and topped with crushed pecans and cranberry jewels ❤

It was clear to see Ugne found it tricky to pick, all the bakes were pretty good (well, most!) and after much deliberation a winner was picked for the prize. Sadly, it wasn’t Pam or I this time – although we did get some absolutely cracking feedback (including Ugne grabbing my face with both hands and telling me my cake was beautiful!) I will certainly be baking more free-from treats in the future as I thought they tasted fantastic. It was great to experiment with new ingredients under such expert supervision!

Overall, this was one of the best food events I have been to yet. Meticulously organised, great staff and Ugne herself was the true star baker. I feel really privileged to have met such a nice woman and I think we can all expect to see great things from her in the future!

Cheshire Food Blogger
Presenting her own TV show one day…..? She’s a natural 🙂

Here’s a few more snaps from the day. And a massive thanks to the organisers Jade and Manisha for doing such an excellent job!

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Katie, one of the other bloggers who was baking next to me topped her cake with a chocolate ganache and cashew butter! ❤
Cheshire Food Blogger
It’s all in the detail….
Cheshire Food Blogger
Food bloggers doin’ what they do best……
Cheshire Food Blogger
I could get used to this 🙂 on the set of Saturday Kitchen! And sporting the festive jumper…
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OK, just one more selfie…. 🙂

Christmas Gifts for Foodies

I thought I would treat you all to a last-minute Christmas gift guide. I am not the most organised of shoppers, usually opting for a hectic dash around the shops the week before…

So if you’re doing your Christmas shopping this week, like I am, these gifts might just make it in time for Christmas!

Foodie frames

notonthehighstreet.com is a great website if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Their lovely food-themed framed images would brighten up any food lovers kitchen or dining room. I think the British foods map or the one that just says FAMILY, FRIENDS, FOOD, FUN are particularly stylish/charming. And reasonably priced.

Personalised food jars

Both Marmite and Nutella are offering personalised jars this year. You can do the Marmite ones via their Facebook page and Nutella have stall in most Selfridges stores where they label them while you wait.

Great little stocking fillers, and they can be washed out and kept afterwards to store pencils on your desk. Cute!

marmite

Food Photography Workshops

If you know someone who enjoys photography and loves eating street food – this is the perfect, practical gift. A Street Food Photography Workshop where you get a guided tour around London’s street food hotspots snapping images along the way.

Sounds like a fun, visual and culinary adventure and an opportunity to learn and make friends too.

camera-581126_1920.jpg

For the organised foodie

If you know a foodie who likes everything just-so, then they might appreciate these. These mini Kilner jars means they can organise their spices, and even store them outside of the cupboard on a shelf for easy-access that looks good too!

These are also kind on the environment as they encourage you to then buy the re-fill packets instead of new plastic or glass jars each time – so in the long run better value for money too. Win-win for the practical food lover.

Gifts for Dads of Grandads

Food-themed gift boxes – men are notoriously difficult to buy for, but also quite ‘easily pleased’ if you get it right. My advice is to keep it simple when buying for the men in your life – be it brother, boyfriend, dad or grandad. If they like food and drink (most men do, right?) then something like ‘The Man Box’ from the Portly Grocer should hit the spot!

The Portly Grocer also make these wonderful wooden cheese larders, which are beautiful if you know someone who appreciates good cheese and is passionate about it. They are perfect for a dinner party too, with a bottle of port and some grapes. Yum.

And if you’re still left scratching your head…

Then buy something that will really benefit someone else. Oxfam sell an amazing range of ‘Unwrapped’ gifts. A few caught my eye but the ‘Pile of Poo’ stood out.  It isn’t just any pile of poo. It’s the ideal mix of manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques to help a family grow a lot more crops. This means regular meals and a more varied diet, ultimately helping people out of poverty.

I have already purchased it for someone in my life who I think will find it funny, and will really appreciate the good cause.

Buying this gift supports Oxfam’s ‘Making a Living’ projects, and I really think this is charity gifting in its best form. The gifts also suit any budget so if you’re stuck for a materialistic gift this Christmas, this might just be the answer!

Cheshire Food Blog
Oxfam Unwrapped – Pile of Poo in action ❤

Happy shopping!

Cheshire Food Blog

Review: new PERK!ER Bars

In theme with my healthy approach to eating and lifestyle, I decided to review these lush new snack bars from PERK!ER.

Packed full of 100% plant-based, natural ingredients such as goji berries, chia seeds, cashew nuts and cacao I thought I would give them a go as part of my daily scoffing and snacking routine. Here’s how I got on…

I was sent the full range of 4 flavours;

  • Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Bar
  • Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bar
  • Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar
  • Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar Enhanced with Sprouted Buckwheat

and I decided that the best way to try them was either as part of my breakfast, mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack game (which I must admit, is already pretty strong!)

As I commute to work for approximately 45 minutes in the car each morning, my breakfast needs to be quick, nutritious, tasty and easy. My favourites are porridge oats with either chia seeds and honey, goji berries and honey or linseeds and, you guessed it, honey. I just love the stuff! Another common breakfast I turn to (particularly if I’m in a rush, or literally need to eat on-the-go) is an oat protein shake with instant oats and a scoop of flavoured whey protein.

On the day I opt for an oat protein shake – I am always full up until lunch time as the early morning dose of protein really does help keep you fuller for longer. Teamed with the slow-release carbs from the oats, it is a match made in heaven if you need to power through your morning and not be distracted by the need to nibble. However, drinking your breakfast and not eating it can leave you feeling a little hard done by – so I substituted a few oats for a Perkier breakfast bar on the commute to work, and it worked a treat. I opted for the  Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed and Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bars when doing this and they really balanced well. It was so nice to have something equally as good for me and that tasted fantastic. They also don’t leave you on a sugar high at all like many other breakfast bars do!

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

Next up was replacing my mid-afternoon snack. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know my usual suspects for my afternoon snack are grapes, almonds, sliced plum with almond butter, a rice cake with either almond butter or low fat hummus on top or a small avocado scooped straight out of its skin. Mmmm. Or, if I am totally disorganised and craving sugar – it’s a quick trip to the vending machine for a Twix or a Cadbury’s Snack Bar (you know, the shortbread biscuits ones? Yep. #guiltypleasure.

But these sugary snacks aren’t exactly sustainable. They perk you up momentarily but soon comes the sugar dump – not what I need on the long(ish) drive home so I try to stick to what will give me sustained energy. The Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar was my absolute favourite for an afternoon snack. The cacao satisfies the choco-craving whilst still being free of sugar and instead packed full of vitamins and antioxidants. The cashews give a perfect balance of crunch and nuttiness that afternoon snacking is made for! Win-win.

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

The Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar with Sprouted buckwheat was also really delicious. All the bars seem to have a nice mix of texture, chew, crunch and natural sweetness that are balanced really well.

Although the Perkier bars were sent to me on a promotional basis, I would genuinely recommend them to anyone who is looking to enhance their breakfast or to slay their afternoon-snack game with something really satisfying, nutritional and enjoyable (without the hip-hugging calories of chocolate!)

You can buy Perkier bars from Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco, Ocado, Amazon and Wholefoods Market stores nationwide. They start from 75p per bar or £1.90 for multi-packs so seem good value for money too!

Follow Perkier Foods on Twitter @Perkierfoods and Facebook: PerkierFoods. ❤

Cheshire Food Blog

Chilli Banana Thai Street Food, Bramhall, Cheshire

This week I got to go to the launch of a really exciting new eatery in Cheshire: Chilli Banana Thai Street Food in Bramhall. It’s the ‘little sister,’ of the already very well established Chilli Banana restaurant in Wilmslow, but this time with a street food twist that’s focussing mainly on take-away dishes complete with delivery service for the surrounding areas.

The launch evening was from 5-8pm, and on offer was a fantastic range of enticing street food dishes inspired by the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. I really couldn’t resist, so Bradley and I rocked up at 7pm (the earliest we could get there due to traffic issues) with empty bellies and open minds towards this new and exciting concept.

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One of Chilli Banana’s talented street food chefs, making Pad Thai to order

We were greeted by the very friendly face of Dawn, who took our coats and immediately fetched us a drink – there was lots on offer but we opted for a glass of red wine each. A stunning, fruity glass of Merlot which we both agreed was delicious (some launches serve nasty tasting wine so even before we tasted the food, we were impressed).

The place was packed which was really great to see. I have been to a fair few restaurant launches now and believe it or not some actually have next to no food on offer, which in my opinion isn’t great for a restaurant launch. It also makes it impossible to blog about… After all, how can I blog if I have no yummy looking content or tasty experiences to report back with?

This – my friends, was not one of those occasions…

From Bangkok to Bramhall…

The first thing that caught our eye was THAT PORK. This baby had been slowed cooked ‘since sometime yesterday’ according to the owner, Steve, basically meaning that this beast had been slow cooking for a serious number of hours. The meat was so succulent, juicy and the flavours were amazing – you could taste soy, star anise, a sweetness too – it was all perfectly balanced and everybody was totally blown away by it. I thought this was a great dish for owners May and Steve to choose for the opening night; it was a show stopper that really showcased May’s culinary skills and ability to transform a simple ingredient into something truly amazing. Hats off to the chef!

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The slow-cooked Thai pork belly ❤

Next we tried the Thai red chicken curry – a burst of fresh, spicy, vibrant flavours that really took your breath away and was so moreish. Lots of green beans too so you got a nice amount of veggies to accompany which was a really nice, fresh touch to the dish.

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Spicy Thai red chicken curry with green beans

We also tried the Thai green curry – much more mellow and coconut focussed but still light and packed full of flavour.

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Thai Green Chicken Curry with Thai sticky rice and Aubergine curry on the side ❤

There was Pad Thai being rustled-up to order too, which was really great to see one of their talented cooks at work. This was a veggie option with tofu, which was lovely and firm and gave the sweet yet spiced dish a nice bit of substance, overall a great veggie option. Their menu includes a great variety of noodle dishes too – meat versions of the Pad Thai with chicken or king prawns, or their famous ‘Drunken Noodles’ which come served with either chicken, pork or beef. I’ve had these from the Wilmslow branch and they are absolutely delicious, so if you love noodles make sure you give one of these dishes a try.

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Pad Thai with tofu ❤

Other dishes freely on offer to sample were the miniature Thai spring rolls with chilli dip, chicken skewer bites and also tempura vegetables. We tried the sweet potato tempura and it was an absolute delight.

Overall, Steve and May were very welcoming and it was clear to see from the turn out that the people of Bramhall are really buzzing about this place. It seems likes a fantastic addition to a place which is already full of foodies who appreciate exciting food. I just know this place will do really well.

I want to say a big thanks to Natasta for extending the invite to me via Twitter, Dawn for the very warm welcome and of course to May and Steve whom it was great to finally meet. Bradley and I are now seriously considering a move to within 1.5 miles of Bramhall, just so we can eat super amazing take-out food each weekend. But, for now, the Bramhall branch’s older sister in Wilmslow will do just fine as a still-loved alternative!

Follow Chilli Banana That Street Food on Twitter and take a look at their full menu offering on their website, here.

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Glass Noodle Dish ❤
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Crazy-good Thai street food makes us pull funny faces… ❤
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THAT PORK and the Thai Green Curry in all it’s glory…