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. ❤

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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! ❤

What is healthy eating?

Looking after yourself is important, we all know that. The mantra that ‘you are what you eat’ is becoming increasingly apparent to me as I get older, and so recently I have been favouring an intake of more lean protein, ‘good fats’ and fibre, and in turn less sugar, saturated fats and unnecessary carbohydrates.

All the big dogs seem to be on the health-hype too. Deliciously Ella promotes a healthy lifestyle with her “clean-eating, gluten free” recipes. The Hemsley and Hemsley sisters also promote a healthy approach with their #TheArtOfEatingWell campaign, and I have recently taken to following @TheBodyCoach (Joe Wicks) on Instagram, as I love the way he is revolutionising quick-and-easy meals for gym buffs with his “#LeanIn15” recipes.

Jamie Oliver has also recently released his Everyday Super Food book, along with a full series on Channel 4; really promoting a healthy approach to food to the masses. Another firm favourite of mine is Gizzi Erskine, she’s always promoted healthy eating and her newest cookbook, Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite, shows us how healthy can be delicious and doesn’t always have to be rabbit food!

I love all of the above chefs and foodies and have taken tips from all of them (as well as recipes, of course) over the past 12 months. My version of the Hemsley sister’s light cottage pie makes use of cauliflower and sweet potato mash instead of the usual mashed white potatoes. And Gizzi’s roast duck and noodle soup is low on calories but doesn’t compromise on flavour whatsoever.

My approach to healthy eating is simple, I try to follow a sort of 80:20 rule (eating more considered 80% of the time, and relaxing it a little for the remaining 20%). When I first started my blog, there was a split between ‘Mid-week rustle up dinners’ and ‘Weekend gourmet’ dishes – so I am going to be focussing more on this approach going forwards. It works for me and can work for you too!

Below is a short list of some of my favourite bloggers who promote a healthy lifestyle:

www.spamellab.com – Pamela focusses on gluten-free, high protein, healthy AND tasty recipes, made from clean ingredients. Her #IndulgingInnocently campaign proves that you can have your cake and eat it, its shows that sweet treat don’t need to be packed full of sugar and additives.

www.tessward.com – Tess says ‘Count colours not calories and goodness not grams with simple, unprocessed, stripped back dishes.’ Her ‘naked’ recipes are vibrant, simple and gorgeous.

www.thebodycoach.co.uk/blog – I mentioned him earlier, and I will again. You can catch most of Joe’s amazing #LeanIn15 recipes on Instagram for now, but I mean it when I say his recipes are SO QUICK, SIMPLE, LEAN and taste fantastic.

www.minimalistbaker.com – these guys are so cute, and their ethos is simple: easy-to-make, delicious food, all recipes either require 10 ingredients or less, 1 pot, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Many are vegan and/or gluten-free too.

How do you define healthy eating, and which approach do you prefer? Who are your favourite bloggers, cooks or chefs that inspire you to eat well and use fresh, quality ingredients? 

In my next blog post I will be sharing my key tips for keeping your diet healthy, fresh and interesting. Make sure you stay posted our subscribe so you don’t miss it ❤

With love, Sophie -x-

Recipe: (Slightly) Healthy Beef Burgers with spicy wedges & slaw

Burgers still seem to be all the rage out and about in the foodie word at the moment, and being a true burger fan, I must admit, I don’t think I will ever bore of them. However, what does make the burger a slightly less sustainable option for me is the potential greasiness and overall fat content – not so good if you’re trying to ‘be good’ ahead of your summer holidays! As my mum is currently doing really well on Slimming World, she advised me to give one of their recipes a go. The whole idea of Slimming World is based around eating the foods you like, – but reducing the fat content where possible and using lots of seasoning and fresh herbs to make sure you still maximise on flavour.

I say ‘slightly’ healthy burger here, as I have made a fair few adaptations to the original recipe. Afterall, I was cooking for my boyfriend and 2 of his friends, so didn’t want to make it too healthy! These ones are fried in light cooking oil spray – but would also be perfect on the BBQ.

The recipe serves 4 people and takes about 1 hour to come together.

What you need:

For the wedges

  • 4 medium sized baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the burgers

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • ½ tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves (or you could used dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Low calorie cooking spray (olive oil version) for cooking

For the coleslaw

  • 200g red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • finely shredded 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated (using a food processor is easiest, if you have one!)
  • 3 tbsp fat-free natural yogurt
  • 1 level tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 1 spring onions, roughly chopped

To serve

  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 slices of smoked back bacon (see point 5 below, as you may want to grill your bacon beforehand)
  • 8 slithers of cheddar cheese (2 for each burger)
  • Green salad leaves of your choice
  • Tomato ketchup & Light mayonnaise

What to do:

1. Using clean hands, mix together the beef mince, egg yolks, chilli flakes, paprika and thyme leaves. Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty – make sure the mixture is fully combined, and don’t skimp on the seasoning – add plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.2. Divide the combined mixture into 4 portions, and using your hands, shape each portion into a burger. Cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 mins until ready to cook.3. Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7. Parboil the wedges for 6-8 minutes until just tender. Drain well and leave to cool in a colander for a few minutes, until some of the moisture has evaporated.

4. Coat the wedges in the Rapeseed oil and chilli flakes, season very well with salt and pepper and transfer them to the baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle over the paprika, and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes and adding more paprika if needed.

5. As your wedges are cooking, make your coleslaw and cook your bacon. I have a George Foreman grill – so used that to grill my bacon losing any excess fat. Alternatively, you could lightly fry it in some low calorie cooking spray or grill it beforehand.

6. For the coleslaw, put the fresh red cabbage, grated carrot and spring onion in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and mayonnaise, then stir into the cabbage mixture. Season to taste and set aside in the fridge until serving.

7. Place a frying pan sprayed with low calorie oil spray over a medium-high heat and cook the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until just cooked through. For the second 5 minutes of cooking time, add the cheddar and bacon on top of the burgers.

[Tip:] if your frying pan has a lid, pop it on top for the last 2 minutes of cooking time, which will help melt the cheese and warm the pre-cooked bacon on the burgers. At this point, also pop your brioche buns on the bottom shelf of the oven to warm through slightly before serving.

8. To serve: remove buns from the oven and lightly coat each side with some light mayo. Add the lettuce leaves to the bottom bun, then place the burger with cheese and bacon on top. Divide the wedges up into 4 and serve alongside the burgers, with a big dollop of the homemade coleslaw from the fridge!

Slightly Healthy Burgers with spicy wedges & slaw

Hope you enjoy this (slightly) healthy burger recipe! If you try it, let me know how you get on and tweet a picture to @sophiesscran 🙂


 

SpamellaB’s Guilt-free Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream

As you may have noticed, my food blog is somewhat lacking in something… Can’t quite put your finger on it? Well, I will tell you. It’s SWEET STUFF! This is just one of the reason’s I am really excited about this blog-swap with the amazing Health Food Blogger Pamela ‘SpamellaB’ Bustard of www.spamellab.com. Since we met last year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, we have been friends ever since. So this post-swap is long overdue!

[A note from Pamela:] When Sophie and I decided to write a guest recipe for each others’ foodie blogs, it was a surprise to think it had taken us this long to exchange a piece of our love for food! I love reading Sophie’s informative restaurant reviews and visually brilliant recipe posts; her passion and personality shine through.

As I focus on clean eating and gluten-free treats, I wanted to make something that looks indulgent for her readers but can still be enjoyed totally guilt-free! You can use normal flour if you wish, and also make this into one big cake or loaf but keep in mind the cooking time might need to be extended. I hope you enjoy!

What you need:

Ginger Cakes:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup stevia or other natural sweetener
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 150g unsweetened apple puree (either cook peeled and chopped apple chunks, or buy in supermarkets in the canned fruit aisle – much quicker!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 4-6 tbsp milk (can use cow’s milk, soya or almond)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Spiced Lemon Cream:

  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • ¼ tsp each of ginger and cinnamon
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Spamella B's Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream...
Spamella B’s Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream…

Get baking!

  • Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and grease (and if possible, line) your loaf or cake tin. I used four small Gugelhupf tins but it’s up to you which you prefer – the mixture will make enough for about 8-10 servings.
  • Put the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, ginger and sweetener) in a large bowl and mix well.
  • In a blender, whizz up the apple puree with the eggs, yogurt and 4 tbsp milk until you have a smooth consistency. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir gently until all combined and you have a thick batter-like texture.
  • Spoon the mixture into your prepared tins and bake for at least 30 minutes – if you have divided up the mixture between smaller tins, the cake(s) should be ready by now – you want them to be risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. For larger cake or loaf tins, you may need to cover it and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, leave to cool for 20 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

ginger-11

  • For the ‘cream’: Put the coconut milk, ginger, cinnamon, honey and vanilla in a small pan and heat on a high heat until it’s nearly to the boil. In a cup mix together the cornflour with about 1 tbsp cold water and mix to a paste. Whisk this into the coconut mixture and continue whisking on a low-medium heat until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon rind, then, leave to cool.
  • Ready to indulge? Simply spoon some of the sauce (either warm or cold) on top of the cake, add a few pieces of crystallised ginger if you wish and tuck in!

ginger-3

 

ginger-9

Don’t they just look amazing! Thank you so much to Pamela for baking these absolute little beauties for my blog – and for bringing a bit of sweetness which my blog clearly needed! -x-

Keep up to date with Pamela’s blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss any more of her wonderful ‘indulging innocently’ recipes.

For Pamela’s blog, I rustled up a Gluten Free Harissa Falafel with a Quinoa Tabbouleh. Click the link to see the recipe and feel free to share!!

Sophie’s Ultimate Fish Pie

Sophie's Ultimate Fish Pie!
Sophie’s Ultimate Fish Pie!

I love fish pie. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate comfort food, because it’s rich, creamy (yet light at the same time), features mashed potato – and seafood is always a bonus.  This recipe involves a light poaching of the fish, a nutmeg & saffron infused mashed potato and a great range of different types of fish. If you tell your local fish monger what you’re making, they will prep and chop the fish for you – saving you time and effort, and minimising the risk of any bones being found in the pie. I also add jumbo king prawns, which I remove from the shell and add whole. Hmmm, yummy.

This dish is great served with a range of sides dishes; here, I serve it will buttered petits pois and green beans, however, it’s also great with baked beans or wilted spinach, depending on the situation or who you’re serving it to. Kids love the baked bean option, with a dash of ketchup, as you can imagine 🙂

This recipe serves 4 and in total takes about 1 hour to prep & cook. If you’re not going to cook the pie straight away, be sure to add 10 minutes to the cooking time below, (as it will have had time to cool if you prep it ahead and cook it later).

what you need;

for the filling

  • 400ml milk
  • 100g cod fillet, diced into chunks
  • 100g smoked haddock, diced into chunks
  • 100g Scottish salmon fillets, diced into chunks
  • 6 raw jumbo king prawns, peeled
Jumbo King Prawns, Scottish Salmon, Cod and Smoked Haddock
Jumbo King Prawns, Scottish Salmon, Cod and Smoked Haddock

for the mash

  • 1 kg (3-4 large) floury potatoes, such as Maris Pipers, peeled chopped into 2cm chunks
  • a splash of milk
  • 2 medium, free-range egg yolks
  • 30g butter, softened
  • pinch of saffron, with a dash of boiling water over it (I do this in an egg-cup)
  • 75g coarsely grated cheese (I use a mild cheddar)

for the herby white sauce

  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml veg stock
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • small bunch parsley, chopped
  • a bay leaf
  • zest of 1 un-waxed lemon

what to do:

1. First, make the mash potato topping. Place the potatoes in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through.

2. Drain the potatoes and mash them finely (or if you have one, use a potato ricer to mince them. Mix in the milk and saffron and stir well, then add the egg yolks, butter and a small grating of nutmeg. Mix well, season to taste and set aside for later.

Using a potato ricer ensures super smooth mash with minimal effort!
Using a potato ricer ensures super smooth mash with minimal effort!
Egg Yolks in the Mash Potato
Egg Yolks in the Mash Potato for added richness

3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Place 400ml milk into a saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer. Add the chunks of fish (but not the king prawns) and slowly poach for 3 minutes. Then remove the fish from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside, reserve the milk in the pan.

4. To make the herb sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or so, keeping an eye it doesn’t catch or burn.

5. Add half (200ml) of the reserved poaching milk and whisk well. Stir in the veg stock, a grate of nutmeg, the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

6. Cook the sauce on a low heat until it thickens, then remove from the heat, mix in the parsley and the lemon zest.

7. Gently fold in the poached fish and king prawns, then pour the mixture into a oven-proof baking dish that can comfortably serve 4 people.

Fish Pie filling, with creamy herb sauce
Fish Pie filling, with creamy herb sauce

8. Dollop the mash potato on top and use a fork to make a criss-cross pattern, then sprinkle over the grated cheese.

9. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and piping hot. (Remember, if you’re not cooking the pie straight-away and are allowing to cool first, add 10 minutes to the cooking time).

Sophie's Ultimate Fish Pie Served with Buttered Greens
Sophie’s Ultimate Fish Pie Served with Buttered Greens

bon appetit, scranners! -x-