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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Sunday round up. 28/02/2016

What a week!

This was the week I really upped my overnight oats game, all part of a blog feature I’m doing at the moment in collaboration with Holland and Barrett. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that this week I posted an image that started a little bit of debate. The below image is of my overnight oats with a dollop of manuka honey on top. Some people thought it was an egg yolk… You’ll just have to take my word for it; it wasn’t!

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This week I also attended a fantastic cookery class in Wilmslow, run by the lovely Gemma AKA You Say Tomato. She showed us how to cook 3 really easy ‘Deliciously Doable’ dinners, and we sat back and relaxed whilst she whipped them up in front of our eyes.

Quite the hostess, there were nibbles and drinks provided too, and it was all based at her lovely house.

I discovered how utterly divine polenta can be when cooked right (image below of Gemma’s “lemony mushroom ragu on oozy polenta with kale pesto“) which really, honestly, blew my mind. Read more about my evening at You Say Tomato on the blog later this week.

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So what else has happened this week? I reviewed some Bombay mix flavour crisps and wasabi flavoured popcorn on the blog. Which were very scrumptious snacks indeed.

I also watched the Brit Awards, did you? I have officially decided I’m a ‘Bieliber’ now too, his performance was great. James Bay played guitar for him on stage, which made it for me and really captured my attention. I also thought Rihanna killed it, and the tribute to David Bowie at the end was awesome.

And to end a great week – we had family friends over to stay. I cooked a Moroccan feast, in a tagine from Morocco and using all the authentic spices. Keep your eyes peeled for the recipe to follow.

Our friends brought their puppy along to stay (she’s called Billie and she’s a blue Staffordshire Bull Terrier), and I thought, as it’s Sunday, you might enjoy another doggy picture. So here you go…. JUST LOOK AT HER! 💓😍💓

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Finally, I had a CRACKING gin and tonic at the Bull’s Head, Mobberley (my local) which was beautifully garnished with lime peel and juniper berries.

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I hope you’ve all had a great week too.

With love,

Sophie -x-

Sunday round up. 21/02/2016

This week has been a little up and down.

Mainly ups, but some downs. Then I read this article thanks to my best friend, Jodie, and things seemed to gain a little perspective. If you haven’t yet read it, I urge you to. I think it’s applicable to most people. It’s addressed “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind In Life” but is a particular good read if you’re possibly, potentially, maybe having a brief  ‘mid-twenties’ crisis. You’re welcome.

A highlight of this week, without a shadow of a doubt, was curry night at my old man’s. It’s also his birthday today – so shout out to Pete and happy birthday from your number one favourite blogger, Sophie’s Scran!

Dad loves curry. He always has done, always will do. His recent stint living in north Manchester and desire to take a ‘healthier’ approach to eating curry almost daily, saw him ditch the takeways and has started making his own from scratch instead.

Curry Night at Dads (9)
chicken tikka, wholespices and spices simmering in the pan with masala gravy

Inspired by a cookbook he got this Christmas (Atul Kochhar’s Curries of the World), he’s been experimenting will all sorts of new, authentic Indian flavours and techniques. So on Wednesday he made Atul’s British chicken tikka masala complete with homemade chapatis and chickpea dhal. Served with wholespice infused basmati rice. We even tweeted a picture to the twice Michelin starred man himself (Atul, that is), and he kindly tweeted back with his approval. Well done, Dad!

 

Curry Night at Dads (10)
homemade fresh chapatis, ready to be dry-fried in the skillet
Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
puffing up to perfection, Dad’s homemade chapatis
homemade masala gravy - the basis of many curries in Atul's book
homemade masala gravy – the basis of many curries in Atul’s book
the finished feast ❤

Sticking with the positives, we are dog-sitting this week for Brad’s parents. It’s so lovely to have their staffy/collie cross, Vinnie, with us this week. We took him on a three hour trek around Tatton Park yesterday, which also gave me the opportunity to browse their food offerings…

In the Housekeeper’s Store they sell all sorts of fancy local ingredients including venison reared on site. I’m making a Moroccan tagine for friends next week, so picked up some mutton, which I thought might be nice instead of lamb. All will be revealed next week!

In the meantime, here’s a cute picture of Vinnie absolutely living the dream after his walk!

It's a dog's life!
It’s a dog’s life!

Have YOU had a good week? I sure hope so. Happy Sunday, anyway.

Sophie -x-

Cheshire food blogger

Sunday round up 31/01/2016

So, it is finally here. The end of January. I think I speak for us all when I say. THANK. GOODNESS!

It’s been 6 long weeks of ‘dry January, or ‘Veganuary‘ and all sorts of other efforts people make to change their lifestyle habits for the better. As you probably know, I haven’t participated in either this year – but I have been keeping an eye out on the experiences of others. And feel like I have learnt some lessons (all be them vicarious) in the process. Here’s my round-up of January happenings…

 

Veganisim is probably on the rise. You know I love meat. And cheese. And eggs. But, saying that, I also love meat-free feasts on a regular basis too. And do make a conscious effort not to overindulge when it comes to eating meat (for reasons related to health, budget and sustainability). Brighton-based food blogger Cate in the Kitchen went on a Vegan-adventure this January. It was very interesting to watch. She came up with some cracking recipes and also failed quite epically one on occasion when she ate a cheese burger with all the toppings from Meat Liquor. Very entertaining indeed. Catch up here.

Food waste is still a trending food topic. It’s still making the headlines. It’s still a huge issue. And I can’t tell you enough how much I absolutely hate food waste. In an attempt to minimise food waste in my house, I have started to use Google Sheets to plan meals, build my shopping list and make use of things I already have in the cupboards/fridge/freezer before buying more. These efforts, along with online shopping, are so far working well to keep food waste in my house to a minimum. If you would like £20 off your first shop at Ocado…. click here. If you would like my recipe for this bacon, pea and spinach pesto pasta for the Staple Food Challenge click the image below:

Bacon, Pea and Spinach Pesto Pasta (4)

Pescatarianism kind of sort of appeals to me. A little bit. Watching Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Food Fight this week made me really crave seafood. As did my visit to the Seafood Pub Co. I eat seafood quite often as I really do love it. But I don’t incorporate it into my diet regularly enough. This week I have ordered some mackerel, seabass and have cod and king prawns in my meal plan for the week so will be experimenting with some new recipes. Whether or not I can give up meat to go entirely pescatarian, however, is another matter. But a damn sight easier than veganism! That’s for sure.

fish-422543_1920

Giving up booze is one thing. But moaning about it… is another. I’m sure giving up booze for January is a great way to detox and lose a few pounds. But I have seen so many people on Twitter (and in person) moaning about it. IF YOU WANT A GLASS OF WINE JUST HAVE ONE!

wineglass-553467_1920

And finally… I booked a holiday. A trip to Northern Italy. To flounce around eating red meat and carbs and cheese and drinking the finest of wines. And I can’t bloody wait.

What have your thoughts been on January and it’s many trials and tribulations? Are you as glad to see the back of it as I am? Share yours thoughts (and rants, if needed, in the comments below!)

Sophie -x-

Cheshire Food Blogger

Sunday round up. 17/01/2016

Ok so I forgot to post my weekly round-up yesterday, whoops. Here it is, in a nutshell, with pics. ❤ #HappySunday

  1. In the news this week experts suggested labels be added to food packaging to show how much exercise is required to burn the calories consumed. In all honesty, this idea shocked me. Can’t people be trusted to find out for themselves?! And what if someone generally lives a healthy lifestyle but eats the odd pizza on occasion. Do we really need to be guilt-tripped into an oblivion? No. We do not. LEAVE US ALONE!!
  2. My fluffy eggs recipe got featured in a proper recipe eBook which features “Breakfast in Bed” recipes from nine food bloggers from around the country! Exciting times indeed. Download the FREE eBook here.
  3. I ate black cod for the first time, at a wonderful pub in Claughton, Lancashire. It was delicious. More on that on the blog later this week!
  4. I discovered Evelyn’s, a new restaurant in Manchester and it was stunning. The menu is full of deliciousness, but I tried their Korean fried chicken and seafood ramen and mdog.me has added it to the #JanuarySales section on his site…. Check it out and grab 50% off their amazing food while you can!
  5. I went to the Lake District. It was proper snowy up there. Real, crisp, bright white snow. Everywhere. It was a wonderland ❄️ and must have made a welcome change to the sodding rain for the locals.
how many calories........? WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!
how many calories……..? WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cheshire Food Blogger
Black cod. What a thing of beauty ❤
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delicious seafood ramen at Evelyn’s – get 50% off in January whilst you can
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Sunday round up. 10/01/16

I’ve decided to start writing a quick Sunday round-up post by way of summarising the week’s happenings, good or bad. This week, overall, has been pretty hectic. Back to work was full on. Most evenings all I wanted to do was get in, eat, bath and sleep. Which is pretty much all I managed, plus the odd blog post here and there. But that’s OK. The main thing is… WE MADE IT. We survived the first week back to normality, now that Christmas is but a distant memory.

So, I have decided to focus on the good stuff. Some pretty cool things happened this week…

Here’s a quick summary of this week in words and pictures:

A recipe for the most epic steak I have ever eaten in my entire life EVER was published on the blog.

I purchased, cooked and ate beef reared ethically and locally, just 1 mile from my house!

Saturday afternoon cooking saw Twitter endorsement from the woman herself (I made a recipe from Gizzi Erskine’s Healthy Appetite book and she tweeted her approval). Swoon.

On Monday, I was featured on the blog at work in their “a day in the life of” series. Read here to find out what I get up to in my day job… Cringe!

I did my first online shop with Ocado. I was really, really impressed. WHY have I not done this sooner? I will be featuring my thoughts on online shopping on the blog very soon. In the meantime, if you would like £20 off your first Ocado shop, message me on Facebook with your email address and I will send you a voucher 🙂

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THAT STEAK THO! click for recipe ❤
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super cringe but kind of interesting if you want to know about my day job!
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Online food shopping is the future, why have I only just done it?!
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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.

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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-