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Author Archives: TheGingerbreadMum

Seven Recipes to Use Up Apples (and how to freeze them)

One of the many things I fell in love with when I first saw our current home were the apple trees in the garden. Both produce eating apples, one red and one green. Every summer since we moved in, we’ve had loads. And every year I promise myself that I’ll be better the following year with using them!

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So what can you do when you have too many apples? Here are some delicious recipes to eat now or to put in the freezer or pantry for later.

1. Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Chutney

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Source: Natural Kitchen Adventures

The perfect accompaniment to a cheeseboard, this spiced apple chutney from Natural Kitchen Adventures is cooked in the slow cooker making it super easy – just throw everything in and leave it to cook itself! You can feel super organised by keeping some of this chutney for Christmas, when there’s never enough time to cook.

2. Carrot, Apple and Oat Breakfast Cookies

MyFussyEater-Healthyreakfastookies

Source: My Fussy Eater

A cookie you can eat for breakfast? Yes, please! Packed with healthy ingredients (oats, carrots and bananas as well as apples), these are a terrific way to get more fruit and vegetables into any fussy eaters you may have. Apart from grating the carrot and apple, this is a quick and easy ‘throw together and mix’ recipe.

3. Apple Crumble Flapjacks

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Source: Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen

Charlotte’s apple crumble flapjacks would be a wonderful after school snack as well as a delicious dessert with custard. They’re so simple and quick to make, and a great way to get your little ones helping in the kitchen. These aren’t going to last long in our house!

4. Apple Cinnamon Blondies

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Source: Marsha’s Baking Addiction

These blondies from Marsha’s Baking Addiction look so lusciously gooey and packed full of apple. Like all my favourite recipes, they take very little time to prepare and better still, everything is mixed together in the one bowl, no mixer needed. Perfect for afternoon or dessert as the days are getting cooler, I can’t decide whether these would taste better with ice-cream or custard.

5. Mini Cardamom Apple Pies

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Source: Domestic Gothess

These super cute mini apple pies from Domestic Gothess are spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. Make several batches to keep in the freezer to impress unexpected guests. And I won’t tell anyone if you use store-bought pastry to make them even easier and quicker.

6. Homemade Apple Chips 

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Source: Living Sweet Moments

No dehydrator is necessary to make these yummy apple chips or crisps. While you’ll get a good arm workout slicing them, after that the oven does all the work. They should keep well in an airtight container or ziplock bags, and would be perfect to add to school lunch boxes.

7. Unsweetened Apple Sauce

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Source: The Gingerbread Mum

Apple sauce isn’t just for babies or to eat with roast pork. It’s a brilliant sweetener and sugar substitute, and super easy and quick to make. You can freeze batches of sauce either in ice cube trays or ziplock bags depending on how you’ll use it later.

How to Freeze Apple

If you still have apples to use, simply freeze them. Then you’ll always have a supply to use in cakes, crumble or even smoothies. Shelly from Frugal Family Home has some advice for how to freeze apples.

What’s your favourite way to use up apples?

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Jamie’s Italian Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide

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Source: Roberta Sorge, Unsplash

Having been lucky enough to have lived in Italy for a number of years and then marrying an Italian, the classic Mediterranean way of eating has become very much a part of my life, even after we moved to the UK. Its health benefits are well known and it’s for good reason that people from my husband’s stunning island of Sardinia have a better chance than anyone else in the world to reach, and even surpass, their 100th birthdays.

Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, but before living in Italy I had no idea how many different ways you can use it. Whizzed into a pesto, drizzled over a steak, mixed into mashed potato, used in a salad dressing or a marinade, are just some of the many many ways you can enjoy olive oil and its healthy benefits. But we haven’t even started talking about how many different types of olive oil there are, let alone which type is best for dipping or frying or drizzling or…!

Thankfully Jamie Oliver has come to the rescue. Jamie’s Italian have created a super practical Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide to help you fully appreciate this wonderful product. I have yet to try olive oil tasting but thanks to Jamie’s Guide I’m going to sound like a complete expert next time we have Italian friends over for dinner.

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Also, unlike wine, olive oil doesn’t age well (use it rather than save it), and keep your oils away from sunlight and your hot cooking areas to keep them fresher longer.

This is a collaborative post with Jamie’s Italian; all words and opinions are my own.

Lyle’s Chicken Satay Skewers

I was recently sent a lovely sample of goodies from Tate & Lyle, including the wonderful jam sugar I easily turned into strawberry and prosecco jam.  The tin of black treacle intrigued me, along with the bbq recipes using it.

I’d never thought about using black treacle with savoury dishes. I was tempted by the char-cooked courgette and pepper bruschetta as well as the treacle and spice marinated pork steaks, but decided to first try the chicken satay skewers.

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Lyle’s original recipe uses peanut butter and also uses the black treacle marinade in an accompanying salad. I substituted the peanut butter with almond butter to be allergy-friendly and was a bit rushed with guests arriving to try the salad.

The recipe is very quick and easy, and even though I only managed to marinate the chicken for half the time, it was super tasty and wolfed down by our guests!

I’ll definitely be experimenting more with black treacle after discovering how much more versatile it is than I knew.

All of Lyle’s black treacle recipes can be found here.

Chicken Satay Skewers

Prep Time 10 mins, plus 2-3 hours to marinate
Cook Time 15 mins
Serves 4

2 tbsp Lyle’s Black Treacle
100g nut butter (I used almond)
4 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
500g skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

Put the black treacle into a large mixing bowl (not a metal one) with the nut butter, chilli sauce, soy sauce and lemon juice. Spoon half this mixture into a small serving bowl, stir in 2 tbsp just-boiled water, then cover and set aside to serve with the cooked skewers.

Add the chunks of chicken to the rest of the satay sauce in the bowl. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or overnight, if preferred).

When ready to cook, preheat the barbecue or grill. Thread the chicken onto soaked wooden kebab sticks or skewers. Barbecue or grill, turning often, for 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken is done. (Test with a sharp knife – there should be no trace of pink juices).

Serve the chicken skewers with the reserved satay sauce.

Disclosure: I received a tin of Lyle’s Black Treacle to try out this recipe. My opinions are honest and my own. 

Review: The Body Confidence Program

I finished The Body Confidence Program two weeks ago, just in time to celebrate my birthday looking slimmer and feeling more confident about myself!

The 8-week program went much faster than I had initially thought and in the end the protein-rich meal plans were easy to follow and kept me full.

When you start the program you submit your ‘before’ photos and measurements online then at the end of every week you update your measurements. You’re allowed to weigh yourself at the start, but then you focus on the inches you’re reducing and not how much weight you’re losing. It’s very motivating, especially at the start when the inches reduce more quickly, to see your numbers getting smaller!

There are weekly conference calls with Ru-Tee, the founder of the program, where you discuss your progress and any issues you’ve faced with the other people doing it. Unfortunately the 30 minutes allocated wasn’t always enough for everyone to say what they wanted.

Initially, the recipes are limited, but as you complete each week, more recipes become available and give you more choice. Most of them are quick to make and give you leftovers you can adapt into a yummy lunch the next day. Most are also family friendly so you don’t need to make other meals for the rest of your family.

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I followed the first week’s meal plan exactly but then adapted the others to fit in more with my tastes and my family’s. I also started making recipes in bulk to freeze so I didn’t have to cook so much. People who aren’t used to cooking every day may find this aspect of the program challenging.

Having one cheat day a week where you can eat whatever you want is a big positive of the program. Some weeks I really needed it, particularly if going out, but as the weeks passed I didn’t feel so much of a need to cheat.

The focus of the program is getting your diet right first and then getting your exercise right. Ru-Tee says the focus should be 80% on diet and only 20% on exercise and doesn’t believe in exercising every day, which was perfect for me! You get a good number of exercise ideas which are added to as the weeks progress or you can decide yourself what exercise to do. Every week there are also new articles to read which helps make sense of what you’re doing as well as educating you about staying healthy.

The biggest disappointment for me doing the program was that for the price (£450 for the eight weeks and then £29.99 per month for the maintenance program), I was expecting more personal support and feedback, for example a one-to-one weekly support call or longer more individual feedback after submitting my updated measurements. While I enjoyed the support from others doing the program via the private Facebook group, I wanted more expert individual support.

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Having said that, the program works! I reduced by more than what is guaranteed. Ru-Tee says you’ll reduce by two jean sizes, which is 16 inches over your whole body and I achieved slightly more than that by the end of week 4; I reduced by a bit more than 22 inches by the end of the 8 weeks.

After finishing the program I’ve continued cooking many of the recipes and will continue to do so.

If you want to drop a jeans size or two and are interested in doing The Body Confidence Program you can use the code ‘FRIENDS1402’ to get £50 off.

Disclosure: I was very lucky to do The Body Confidence Program for free in exchange for documenting my progress. My opinions are honest and my own.

Read my update halfway through the program here.

Strawberry and prosecco jam

Here in the UK seeing an abundance of plump strawberries doesn’t just mean summer is here, but that it’s Wimbledon. Did you know they get through more than 23 tonnes of strawberries every year at the tennis tournament?

Strawberries have been know in Europe since Roman times when they were used to help bad breath and labour pains. They have anti-inflammatory properties, are an excellent source of vitamin C and have a good amount of potassium. Do you need any other excuses to eat them?

Strawberries and Jam

Well, when I was sent a selection of recipes to try from Tate & Lyle, the first one that jumped out was strawberry and prosecco jam. How could that combination not be delicious?

I’d never made jam before but knew that some fruits, like strawberries, cherries and grapes, only have small amounts of pectin making it more difficult for the jam to gel. But Tate & Lyle have solved this issue with their Jam Sugar which has added pectin to ensure a perfect set.

I’ve discovered making jam is actually easy! And having a few jars of homemade jam on hand is great not only for lazy Sunday breakfasts but perfect to impress your guests for afternoon tea, either dolloped on scones or in a Victorian sponge.

Strawberry & Prosecco Jam -low

Being a novice jam-maker, I did rather a lot of reading about jam-making. There’s quite a lot of debate about how much sterilising is needed for the jam jars as well as how to seal them properly.

Whatever method you use, you do need to sterilise your jars properly, and it’s also important to put the jam into hot jars while the jam is still piping hot.

I boiled my filled jars of jam. Many people online say this isn’t necessary to properly seal the jars and that it’s enough to turn the jars upside down while they’re still hot and leave them this way until they’re completely cool. I wanted to make sure any bacteria that might have gotten into the jar while filling them was killed as well as ensuring a tight seal on the jars.

To boil your filled jars you just need to put them in a large pot, completely cover them with water, bring to the boil and then boil for 10 mins. Carefully take them out of their water bath and leave to cool. As they cool, you’ll hear pops as the air comes out and the jars completely seal.

Whichever method you use, check the seals on the jars when they’re cool and use any that haven’t sealed well first.

But how does this jam taste? Absolutely delicious! While the added prosecco is subtle, it gives the jam another layer of flavour. And the added bonus is you’re just going to have to drink the leftover alcohol – what a shame!

Strawberry and Prosecco Jam

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15-20 mins
Makes 5 x 450g jars

150ml prosecco
1kg Tate & Lyle Jam Sugar
1kg strawberries, hulled

Put the prosecco, sugar and strawberries into a large heavy-based pot and place over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Increase the heat and boil steadily for 10 minutes, taking care to keep an eye on the jam to ensure that it doesn’t boil too rapidly.

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing well, then placing them in a low oven at 150°C/Fan 130°C/Gas Mark 2 for 10 minutes.

Test the jam for setting point. To check, remove the saucepan from the heat, spoon a little jam onto a cold plate and leave for 2 minutes – it should wrinkle softly when your finger is pushed over the surface. If this point has not been reached, return the saucepan to the heat and continue to boil for another 2 minutes. Test as before until setting point is reached. (You may need to test several times, though be patient, as this testing is crucial to achieve the correct consistency).

Pour the hot jam into the warm sterilised jars. Leave to cool, then seal and label.

Store in a cool dark place. Once open, keep in the fridge.

StrawberryandProseccoJam

Tip: Chill a stack of small plates in the fridge, so that you have a few lined up for checking the setting point. You can also use a thermometer; the setting point for jam is 105c (220F).

More yummy Tate & Lyle recipes using their jam sugar can be found here.

Disclosure: I received a packet of Tate & Lyle’s Jam Sugar to try out this recipe. My opinions are honest and my own. 

Spinach frittata

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As you know I’m in the midst of doing The Body Confidence Program. Because it’s a high-protein diet that doesn’t allow dairy and greatly limits fruit, the biggest change to get used to has been at breakfast time.

To be honest, after 6 weeks I’m still struggling having to cook breakfast most mornings instead of throwing together my usual granola with yogurt and fruit, or grabbing overnight oats from the fridge. But, I have to admit, a cooked breakfast full of protein definitely keeps me going, without my tummy wanting a snack, right up to lunchtime.

One of my favourite breakfast options on the program is the spinach frittata. Surprisingly tasty for such few ingredients, after you’ve made it a couple of times it’s very quick and easy to make even first thing in the morning. Before starting the program I would have been tempted to throw in some bacon and possibly some cheese as well. Trust me; it doesn’t need any additions at all.

You can easily halve the recipe to make just one serving, but leftovers can be eaten cold or quickly heated up for another breakfast, an easy lunch or even a snack.

Spinach frittata

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Serves 2

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
50g spinach
4 eggs
60 ml almond milk
pink Himalayan salt and ground black pepper to taste
pinch of paprika (optional)

Preheat your grill to high.

In a medium ovenproof frying pan, melt the coconut oil over a medium heat.

Add the onion and cook until just starting to brown. Add the spinach and toss for a minute or two to wilt, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and whisk in the almond milk. Add salt, pepper and paprika (if using).

Put your pan back on the heat. Evenly spread the onion and spinach in the pan and gently pour in the eggs. Cook until you see the mixture start to set at the bottom of the pan with the top still quite runny. Immediately turn the heat off.

Place the frying pan under the grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until the frittata is golden and cooked through.

Serve either hot or cold.

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What are your favourite breakfast dishes that keep you going till lunchtime?

The Body Confidence Program – halfway update

Woohoo! I’ve completed 4 weeks of The Body Confidence Program!

It’s actually gone really quickly and so far (I have another 4 weeks to go) it’s been a very positive experience.

The Body Confidence Program is all about living a healthier and more confident lifestyle. The aim of the 8-week program is to help you kick-start your way to achieving this while giving you more body confidence.

Ru-tee Block, a former Adidas model, designed The Body Confidence Program and leads you through the 8 weeks. She has combined her knowledge being in the health and fitness industry for 25 years with her experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach together with years of study of the human body. She’s spent the last few years perfecting her program.

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What initially attracted me to the program was the guarantee of losing 2 jean sizes. As I recently confided, over the last year my weight has steadily increased. Stress has made me turn to food and this comfort eating has not only piled on the kilos but has left me feeling lethargic and not good about myself, which has made me stressed and the cycle continued. I knew I had to do something, but needed an extra external push.

Ru-Tee’s program gives you weekly menus to follow (the recipes are very easy and also usually quick to prepare) which change so you don’t get bored, there’s a weekly support call and a closed Facebook group where you can share how you’re going with others doing the program. There are also regularly updated articles, tips and exercises to keep you motivated while understanding the change you’re making to your lifestyle.

Of course, changing your lifestyle isn’t a walk in the park. It’s common to be very grumpy and irritable the first week as you go without carbs, gluten, dairy, sugar and caffeine. The first few weeks have reminded me of the Dukan diet – loads of protein with some vegetables and very little fruit. It’s a good way to start reducing your body fat but it can also leave your body craving the not so healthy food we often fill it with! The second morning of the program I woke up with a massive headache that felt like the worst hangover I’d had in a long time; thankfully that was the worst I felt for the first week.

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I missed sugar the most during the first few weeks. Surprisingly, being a coffee snob, I can live without it. The only other thing I struggled with (and continue to) is having a protein-heavy breakfast.

I never feel able to eat anything but a light breakfast, so not only having to eat bacon and eggs or spinach frittata but also having to cook them first thing has been a struggle!

The biggest positive for me is being able to have one cheat day a week. Yes, once a week you can eat whatever you want! It’s perfect if you’re going out or have a special occasion and it seems like most people doing the program make the absolute most of their cheat day, especially during the first weeks!

I really like having all my meals planned out for the week. I know what I need to buy and usually the extra cooked protein from a dinner will be made into something else very quickly for the next day’s lunch. Each week more recipes are added so you have more variety. I’ve enjoyed most of the recipes – they’re tasty, definitely not boring and fill you up. There are also many family-friendly recipes so you don’t need to cook different meals for other family members. I’ll definitely keep using many of them in the future.

BUT the biggest positive of the program for me is that it works. Losing 2 jean sizes over the 8 weeks is equivalent to losing a total of 16 inches from your body. After 4 weeks my body has already reduced by 17.5 inches! I’m getting back into my old slimmer clothes and feeling so much more confident about myself. It’s gotten easier every week and I can’t wait to see how good I feel in another 4 weeks!

Disclosure: I’m very lucky to be doing The Body Confidence Program for free in exchange for documenting my progress. My opinions are honest and my own.