Monday, 5 December 2011

Sneaky Superstore "Savings"

Here's an interesting article on a couple of things big chain retailers try to do to confuse or con people into thinking they are getting a good deal.

Click through to BBC News.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Cheapest Birthday Meal Ever

I wasn't looking forward to going out to a restaurant this weekend.Why? I'll be quite honest and admit that I am stone cold broke. However, a promise to a friend is a promise to a friend--so after clarifying a few etiquette points on how little I could get away with ordering, I set off for this place:

I've always been a bit wary of restaurants or companies that use Disney characters (illegally) in their advertising, but boy was I pleasantly surprised.

The interior is lavishly decorated in a faux-Moroccan style, and the "kitchen" is pretty much open so you can see your food being grilled (should you choose to do so)

Being broke, I settled for the lentil soup--something I have never tried before, and handily the cheapest item on the menu. I've been looking for ways to use the lentils I bought a few weeks ago, and thus far have only actually cooked them into a curry, so this alone made the entire night worth it.

Fortunately, they served a type of moroccan flatbread with everyone's food so I actually had quite a sizable meal, finished off with a piece of the most delicious baklawa I have ever tasted.

It always strikes me that you can't judge a restaurant by its front of house, which seems rather counter-intuitive, but there you go.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Looks like UK schools are actually asking for more crappy food to be sold on the premises. Isn't that lovely.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Poison Soup

Chemical Poisoning due to slow leeching of soup tins

Yum yum!

Anyway, I work for a charity that helps people in Wales tackle depression--on Thursday we raised 433 pounds as part of an auction and comedy/music night. It was utterly exhausting, especially compering unexpectedly on very little sleep.

And now.... grant applications and further planning to turn some of that money into an arts therapy program.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

I know, I know

It's been almost two weeks since we posted anything, but we have good reasons.

I've been recovering from food poisoning. Oh yes. I make bad food choices too. I opted for take-out and unfortunately that can be like playing russian roulette with your digestive system.

Furthermore, tonight is the culmination of 3 months' worth of work-- a charity fundraiser I've organised involving music, comedy and an auction. Phew! I will let you know how it went.

In the meantime, check this out.

Claims as to health benefits of sea salt "flawed"

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (and a Pumpkin Patch!)

The week before Halloween, a couple of my friends drove me out to the sticks so we could go to a proper pumpkin patch.

Go big or go home!!!
You might be thinking that pumpkins are no good after they become jack-o-lanterns. This is not true (unless you leave them on the front porch until they turn blue and cave in on themselves, in which case...eww)! You can take them inside once you close up shop on Halloween night, then chop them up and freeze them. They are awesome in curries, soups, baked goods of ANY kind...etc., etc.

However! The unsung hero of the whole operation is the pumpkin seed. They are delicious when seasoned and roasted.
Here's how I did mine:
1. Put a strainer in the sink and dump your pumpkin guts in it.
2. Run cold water over the guts, working to separate the flesh from the seeds. As you collect the seeds, place them on a couple of sheets of paper towel. Let them dry off a bit.
3. Once the seeds aren't sopping wet anymore, toss them in salt and and/or another seasoning of your choice (I used Spike).
4. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (you might want to use parchment paper, as well).
5. Roast the seeds in a 350°F oven until golden brown (20-30 minutes), occasionally shifting the seeds around with a metal flipper (or something).

And there you have it! There are other methods of roasting your pumpkin seeds, so you can play around with them and see which one you prefer.

On a parting note...enjoy your seeds but don't eat too many of them! They are LOADED with fibre. I have heard horror stories. safe, okay? Okay.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Eat like the English

Apparently about 4000 lives a year could be saved if the Scottish and the Welsh ate "more like the English".

Sensationalist and hardly groundbreaking, as the article goes on to define that as simply eating more fruit and veg.

As a person living in Wales, I tend to agree. I know more than a handful of fully grown adults who flat out refuse to eat 95% of vegetables I can think of. But what's behind this? On one of my grouchier days, I would simply call them childish....but even children eat vegetables!

We need to get people excited about vegetables again.

Here's a link to a fantastic broccoli stir-fry to get you started!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Eating Slowly

Just a quick link to a BBC news article about eating slowly--before I forget about it.

Also spotted this article while browsing. Gastric bands for teenagers? Really?

And yet more calls for "Fat Tax". At least this time it's a tax on fatty foods, rather than taxes aimed at overweight people directly.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Nutritional Labels

This ties in with one of my pet peeves (at least food related ones)-- people don't read food labels unless they are centrally placed.

Companies seem to be hiding their labels in smaller and smaller writing--I know with some packaging that is necessary, but it's still frustrating. Not to mention that even when the average person reads a list of ingredients or nutritional label, the odds are they won't know what a good percentage of the information actually means.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pariah Potato

The potato is a wonderful thing. You'll probably not be surprised when I say I am really confused about the latest suggestion by the United States Department of Agriculture.

There are more ways to cook a potato than there are to skin a cat, and the majority of those won't have a negative effect on your health as long as you don't eat doofus amounts.

As for the low-Gi thing.... that's not really a problem. As long as you vary the carbohydrates that you eat and fill your diet with other healthy foods.

Anyway, there's not much else I can really say that the article doesn't cover quite nicely, so I'm just going to share my stupidly easy potato wedge recipe.

2-3 potatoes (preferably roasting ones--the amount of potatoes you will need is entirely down to you. Despite their "low GI" they are incredibly filling)
2-3 spoonfuls of oil OR spray oil like Frylight
Chilli powder and paprika (to taste)

  • Cut the potatoes into eights--if any of the wedges seem to be too big, cut them in half lengthways.
  • If you are using oil, poor it onto the oven dish/tray you are going to use. Make sure it has at least a lip on the edge, you don't want to hot oil spilling all over you when you pull it from the oven. Add the spices to the oil and mix them about.
  • If you are using an oil spray, spray the tray before placing the wedge skin down on it. Sprinkle the spices lightly over the potato and spray them until they are just over half-covered with oil.
  • Place the wedges in a pre-heated oven-- 200 degrees-- 30 minutes should do it, but you may want to make that 35 if you have particularly thick wedges.
I tend to have my potato wedges with dijonnaise. For the "poor man's" version, mix mustard with mayonnaise on a 1:6 ratio.

My Dollar Store Halloween Haul

Hello, I'm Alicia, and I love Halloween. I really, really, do. So today, I made the long trek across the street to the dollar store, and availed myself of some of their seasonal items. It was a success in that I managed not to buy All The Things, but that I bought enough to make it feel like a proper haul. Go me!
Here is a photo, for your enjoyment:

Clockwise, from top left: retro-style Halloween cupcake picks, cardboard skeleton, foil Jack O' Lantern garland, napkins, cupcake liners and picks, and plastic Jack O' Lantern baggies (for stuffing and hanging on trees)

In all honesty, the retro-style Halloween cupcake picks were purchased on eBay (months) in advance. I just wanted to show them off, because they are kitschy and I love them.

Soooo retro!

And now, I'd like you all to take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness of Mr. Skeleton. Here he is, chilling in his coffin. Like a boss.

"'Sup, ladies."

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my little Halloween geek-out. Till next time!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Pumpkin Soup

As a child, I used to really dislike pumpkin. I grew up in France and thankfully (for my preteen self) "Citrouille" is not a staple vegetable in their cooking. Even in the United Kingdom it doesn't tend to make much of an appearance except in photographs and recently--due to the ever increasing encroachment of American holidays-- at All Hallow's Eve.

I can't even recall exactly what it was about the dreaded pumpkin that caused me to develop such avoidant behaviour. As with most things, it was probably due to unimaginative and just plain awful preparation.

A few days ago, one of my good friends dropped by with a basketful of vegetables. I cooked up a storm with most of the offerings (curry, ragu etc) but the world's smallest pumpkin has been sitting on my kitchen counter for almost a week, taunting me. I decided to tackle it today.

I don't make soup that often, but it seems the best way to try out pumpkin for the first time in 15 years. Right now there's a tray of pumpkin flesh, chopped carrots and a giant bulb of garlic roasting in the oven.

I'll let you know how it went.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Carlsberg don't make ragu, but if they did....

...Delia would definitely be behind it. I'm not a fan of Delia Smith's. I can't exactly put my finger on exactly why, but the musings on my generic dislikes of a woman I don't really know are probably best left to an entirely different post.

Feast your eyes on this baby.

This was the first time, believe it or not, that I had come across the concept of making a bolognese sauce using meat. If I hadn't tasted it before reading the recipe, I probably would have baulked at it.

My biggest problem with it isn't so much the time (because what are casseroles and slow cookers for, after all?) but rather the inclusion of chicken livers and pancetta. Who the heck has those lying around when they feel like making a bolognese sauce? Seriously.

That's why I've butchered another recipe. Don't give me that look, Delia. You lost any highground in the kitchen when you began promoting frozen mashed potato.

1 large onion
black pepper
1 carton of passata (sieved tomatoes)
tomato puree
garlic puree
several garlic cloves
minced beef (I tend to use cheap frozen sachet mince)

  • Finely chop the onion and fry until it begins caramelising.
  • Add some finely chopped garlic (make sure it does not begin to burn, you're just aiming to kick start the release of flavours)
  • Add the carton of passata, and a tablespoon or so of tomato puree. The garlic puree should go in now, just to reinforce the flavours from the fresh garlic--depending how strong you want it to be, you may wish to leave the garlic paste out.
  • While this is going on, fry the beef mince until cooked. Drain the fat from it.
  • Add the beef mince to the ragu mixture, and add the basil and oregano on a 1:2 ratio. (again, to taste)
  • Leave to cook on a low heat until the beef breaks down. With frozen sachet beef this will be a lot sooner. If it needs a helping hand, take the blender to it. Add a few twists of black pepper.