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!

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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.

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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.

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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-

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

Eat Well for Life: Top Tips for Healthy, Balanced Eating

You may have noticed that my latest blog post discussed what healthy eating is, and how we all (including the pros) take different approaches to it.

This time, I’ve decided to summarise my own key tips for eating well; things I’ve picked up over the past few years that I honestly think will stick with me for life.

My approach to healthy eating is simple; I’m considered in what I eat the majority of time, and treat myself the rest. After all, life’s for living, and it’s way too short for crappy diets that leave you feeling guilty and hungry. Another key to the balanced lifestyle is fitness – so I try to stay active as much as possible too (dancing in the kitchen most certainly counts!)

So here are my top tips for ‘eating well,’ I hope you find them useful!

Be selective with your oils

With its light and nutty flavour, Rapeseed oil can replace olive oil in pretty much every recipe. It’s especially good in curries, stews and classics like chilli con carne, or a great low-fat Bolognese ragu. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any cooking oil (half the sat-fat as olive oil), and as it’s mostly made here in the UK. So supporting local artisans like Calvia Rapeseed Oil (made in Cheshire) is also a big plus for me. Make sure you buy the high quality, cold pressed versions for the true healthier option.

Coconut oil is also a firm favourite in my kitchen. It is high in ‘good fats’ that are easily absorbed by the body, and is fantastic for frying eggs or roasting veggies, fish or sweet potato fries. I use Lucy Bee as I love her brand, recipes and the cute jars come with ‘easy-peel’ labels, so you can easily re-use them to stash tea bags, candles, dried chillies or whatever else you might have knocking around your kitchen!

Choose lean, good quality proteins

It’s common to want meat with every meal nowadays, as it’s so easily accessible in the supermarkets at cheap prices. However, it’s also good to give your body a rest from it, which is why I love the #MeatFreeMonday campaign that promotes this message.

Saying that, I do LOVE meat, so when I do eat it I make sure it’s of the highest quality available. Musclefood is an excellent option for meat and fish. It’s delivered to your door ‘super chilled’ so you can chose to eat it right away (refrigerate it) or store in the freezer. Their chicken breasts have won numerous Great Taste awards and they stock great quality Red Tractor approved British meats. There’s no added water in their bacon or chicken, and they have a greater variety of lean meats compared to the supermarkets. The chicken sausages I use in my Lean Sausage Shakshuka dish are delicious, and only 97 calories per sausage.

You should also never underestimate your local Butcher or Fishmonger for providing top-quality cuts of meat and fresh fish at very reasonable prices. They will de-bone it, slice it, portion it or skin it for you if you need them to, which can save you valuable time in the kitchen (for dancing, of course!).

Substitute heavy carbs where possible

You will have seen me do this a few times recently; using ‘courgetti’ instead of spaghetti, substituting potato mash for sweet potatoes and/or cauliflower or ditching white rice in favour of ‘cauliflower rice’ in this recent curry recipe. These simple approaches not only up your veg intake (getting more nutrients and fibre into your body), they also fill you up without the stodge.

When you do eat carbs like rice, bread and pasta – opting for whole grain varieties is best as they have a lower ‘GI’ (glycaemic index). This means they release energy slower, keeping you ‘fuller for longer’ as they are less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar. Ask your local bakery if they do a low GI loaf option, or stick to whole grain, pitas or tortilla wraps where possible.

I’m also a massive fan of quinoa and bulgur wheat which you can substitute for rice in many dishes. Or if you want to avoid wheat and gluten but love pasta, I highly recommend Rizopia’s brown-rice pasta. It tastes amazing considering it contains neither wheat nor gluten!

Never compromise on flavour

To ensure proper satisfaction after each meal – you need to make sure you haven’t compromised on flavour too much in order to keep things ‘healthy’.  I try to make sure my food is full of fresh or dried herbs and spices where possible. Adding a kick with fresh chillies (if you like it hot) or a hint of freshness with some freshly picked herbs can often transform a dish from mediocre to average, without affecting the calorie count. My favourite herbs and spices are;

  • Basil (great in Italian dishes or Thai curries)
  • Coriander (perfect in any type of curry dish, as well as to freshen up rice, quinoa or bulgar wheat salads)
  • Thyme (great with roast meat or veggies, or as a fragrant subtle kick in my Thyme and Tabasco sausage rolls!)
  • Fresh chillies (in my opinion, a superfood as it speeds up your metabolism as well as adding flavour)
  • Bay leaves (last for ages in the cupboard, and go perfectly with minced meat dishes like spag bol or cottage pie)
  • Garam Masala (perfect to add a beautiful curry flavour)
  • Oregano (fresh or dried, great with Italian dishes or on top of veggie pizza)
  • Harissa (dried or paste, you only need a bit to add a wonderful depth of flavour)
  • Piri piri/Cajun or Jerk (great to spice up chicken or sweet potato fries)

Remember, it’s all about balance!

Healthy eating really is all about finding your own way and sticking to it, until it becomes a healthy habit. I find that it’s all about staying on track as much as you can, and eating your favourite ‘treat’ foods in moderation. Food is meant to fuel you and make you feel good, so I don’t beat myself up trying to eat the perfect ‘healthy diet’ 100% of the time, nobody should!


 

What are your top tips for eating healthy? And what are your favourite indulgent, ‘treat’ foods? Use the comments below to let me know, I would love to hear from you! ❤