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Homemade Yoghurt in your Slow Cooker!

Are you a homemade yoghurt maker? Have you tried making it in your slow cooker?  It’s so easy – if you have a slow cooker and a thermometer, then there is no reason not to give it a go.

2018-03-06 12.39.28I can’t take the credit for this recipe/method – I came across it in Sarah Flower’s ‘Low Carb Slow Cooker’ cookery book.  But, even though I cook from scratch, yoghurt is something I just hadn’t tried.  All the recipes & methods I’d come across just didn’t appeal.  Many of the recipes used dried skimmed milk powder for one thing – no thanks!  So, I simply bought organic, natural yoghurt.

I saw this and not only did the method appeal the ingredients were simply milk and cream with yoghurt.  What’s not to like?  It also means cutting down on plastic (my other obsession at the moment) by not having to buy yoghurt again.

You do need a slow cooker, of course, and a thermometer suitable for food use (digital or not).  I’ve experimented with using Sarah’s recipe of combined milk and cream, but have also used just milk with the same great results.  And, if you just use milk, it works out a lot cheaper.  In fact, this works out a lot cheaper than buying yoghurt.

I’ve also gone wrong, which you will see further down in the blog, but managed to salvage it and still produce a thick and creamy yoghurt. 

2018-02-28 15.56.24How Long Does It Take?

The overall time is around 18-20 hours, but the actual hands on time, just 10-15 minutes!

What Equipment Do You Need?

  1. Slow cooker
  2. Thermometer suitable for food use
  3. Measuring jug or scales
  4. Small bowl
  5. Ladle
  6. Tablespoon
  7. Large, clean towel
  8. Large bowl
  9. Colander
  10. Piece of muslin bigger than the colander

What Ingredients Do You Need?

  • EITHER 1 litre milk (whole preferably) + 250ml cream
  • OR 1.25 litres milk 
  • 5 tablespoons live, natural yoghurt (Yeo Valley is a good one)

What Do I Need To Do?

  • Pour the milk or milk and cream into the slow cooker.  Pop on the lid, set to high and leave for a couple of hours.
  • Check the temperature – once it reaches between 80-85C, switch off the slow cooker.
  • Leave the lid on and leave for another couple of hours for the temperature to reduce to 40-45C.
  • Take out a ladle of the milk or milk/cream mixture and put into a small bowl – mix in the 5 tablespoons of live yoghurt.
  • Drizzle the yoghurt mixture into the slow cooker – don’t mix, just drizzle.
  • Now, what you do next depends on the time of year and/or temperature in your kitchen –2018-02-28 15.56.30
  1. If it’s summer or if the room is warm, simply pop the lid back on the slow cooker, wrap the slow cooker in the towel and leave overnight or for 10-12 hours.
  2. If it’s winter and the room is cold (or you switch the heating off at night), pop the lid back on, wrap the slow cooker in the towel and put it into your oven with just the pilot light on.  Again, leave overnight or for 10-12 hours.
  • When ready, get your large bowl and place the colander over it – it has to balance on the bowl.
  • Place the muslin in the colander, making sure it overlaps the edges comfortably.
  • Pour the yoghurt into the muslin covered colander and leave for a couple of hours for the whey to drip into the bowl – you now have lovely, homemade, thick yoghurt.  No nasty additives – just lovely, creamy yoghurt.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Now, whatever you do – don’t throw away the whey!  A simple Google search will show loads of ways to use it – you can store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks and it will also freeze.  I’ve been using mine instead of water when making our bread – it gives a lovely sourdough tang.

I mentioned earlier that, believe it or not, I’ve gone wrong with this recipe!  How, with something so simple?  Well, I simply got distracted while doing multiple things, wrapped the slow cooker in the towel and popped it in the oven overnight without putting in the yoghurt (doh!).   But, all was not lost – I simply switched the slow cooker back on and took the temperature back up to 40-45C, added the yoghurt and left it overnight again.  It was perfectly fine albeit thicker than normal.

Now, don’t forget to keep some of that lovely homemade yoghurt to make your next batch!

Since coming across this method, I’ve found another fantastic book called ‘The Creamery Kitchen’ by Jenny Linford – easy, simple methods for making all things dairy (although have been making my own buttermilk for years).  So, watch this space – I feel another obsession coming on!2018-03-06 12.39.54

 

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The best food books – in my opinion!

What food books influence Cooked From Scratch?  Where DO I get my ideas from?

Those who follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, will know I am always posting articles and advice on cooking and eating ‘real food’.  Many of those articles refer to things that can happen if you eat too much ultra processed food.  But, over and above the articles themselves, where do I get my ideas from – why do I bang on about cooking from scratch and eating real food?  cook from scratch

Without boring you with the details, the first pieces of a massive jigsaw started being put into place for me in the very early noughties.  Those first pieces of the jigsaw convinced me that industrially produced food wasn’t good for us and were basically the reason for many of the problems we have today.  There began my journey into finding my love for cooking again, obsessively wanting to cook absolutely everything from scratch and even sowing the seeds for starting my own business.

I became a sump for knowledge – researching, reading, cooking, experimenting and basically reinforcing what I already suspected.

During that time I’ve read quite a few books on the subject, so thought I would recommend some of those books to anyone else who may be interested in the topic – or even the topic of food in general.  So here goes!

First on the list has to be the wonderful Joanna Blythman and her many books.  Basically, anything she’s written is worth a read, but these 2 in particular.  JoannaJoanna is a staunch advocate for real food and works tirelessly to raise awareness of all that is wrong with ultra processed foods.  She calls herself ‘the thorn in the side of the food industry’.  She first came to my attention via her very informative articles on food issues written for the numerous food magazines I avidly read on a monthly basis.  She just talks complete sense to me.

‘What To Eat’ – Joanna Blythman

This is a wonderful book – it simply gives you information on just about every foodstuff you can think of.  How it’s produced, manufactured etc.  She’s not trying to sell anything, just giving you the facts and allowing you to make up your own mind.  Be warned – I was already cooking everything from scratch when I read this book, but it still scared me.  As a result, we’ve gone 100% organic.

‘Swallow This’ – Joanna Blythman

Swallow ThisIt’s a fascinating investigation into what goes into the food we eat e.g. how natural are ‘natural flavourings’, why do some breads have a 6-month shelf-life?  If ‘What To Eat’ doesn’t get you changing your food habits, this definitely will.

We then move to an American food writer, Michael Pollan.  Again, any of his books are worth reading, but this one in particular is fascinating.  He is famous for saying ‘don’t eat anything your granny wouldn’t recognise as food’.  Great advice in my book.

‘Cooked’ – Michael Pollan

This books looks at the history and principles of cooking via earth, water, air and fire.  The earth section talks primarily about fermentation, which I found particularly interesting (the raw milk cheese made in a nunnery in France & the nun who is a trained microbiologist – just throwing it out there).  Again, he gives a very balanced viewpoint on the topics, allowing you to make up your own mind.  

‘The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat’ – Tim Spector

This is a fascinating book.  Professor Tim has conducted research over many decades into the microbes and bacteria that live inside us & populate our microbiome.  It’s quite fascinating to see how what we eat, what happens to us, illness and many other factors affect the health of our microbiome and in turn our own health.  He looks at all the fad diets (including those popular at the moment) to see if they have a positive or negative affect on our microbiome health – definitely worth a read.

Felicity Lawrence is another food writer who advocates real food and is keen to raise awareness of what goes into industrially produced food e.g why does beef waste end up in chicken?  I would highly recommend the following 2 books:

‘Not on the Label: What Really Goes Into the Food on Your Plate’ – Felicity Lawrence

I think the title says it all.not on the label

‘Eat Your Heart Out: Why the food business is bad for the planet & your health’ – Felicity Lawrence

After reading this book, my viewpoint on the United States and it’s food policies went rapidly downhill.  Again, it reinforced, wholeheartedly, what I already knew.

‘What To Eat: 10 Chewy Questions About Food?’ – Hattie Ellis

This book looks at questions such as ‘does any diet work?’, ‘what is ‘kind’ meat?’.  It basically enables you to make more informed, ethical decisions about the food you buy and eat.

‘The Pioppi Diet’ – Dr Aseem Malhotra & Donal O’Neill

Pioppi is one of those places in the world where the population lives to be a ripe old age.  And guess what?  They are active and don’t eat processed foods.  Dr Aseem is a cardiologist who started to doubt the nutritional advice he was giving his patients as guided by the NHS.  So, he did his own investigations with startling results.  I read this more for the science side as opposed to the 21 day diet plan.  Fascinating for anyone who is suffering or knows someone who is suffering from a diet related illness such as diabetes, heart disease.  Highly recommended.

‘First Bite: How We Learn To Eat’ – Bee Wilson

Again, anything from this lady is worth reading.  This one looks at how our food habits are shaped from the time we start consuming solid food.  Why are some people more responsive to some tastes than others?  Do outside influences affect us?  What about food phobias?  And many other issues.  Highly recommend, especially for those with very young children – better to be armed before you start.first bite

There are many more books and more that will be added to the list in the future, but if you really want to know why I bang on about things like I do, perhaps one of these is a good start.

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The Best Place to Eat in Tenby?

tenbyWe visit Tenby on a regular basis.  We usually manage to get down there & spend a couple of nights at least 2 or 3 times a year.  

As you know, I’m very particular of what I eat and where.  I have to know the food I am eating is cooked from scratch at the very least.  I also won’t eat pork or chicken unless I know it’s at least free range or outdoor bred.  I won’t eat eggs unless they are at least free range.  In a perfect world everything would be organic, but I know I’m not going to get that when eating out. fussy eater

Over the years, going to Tenby, we have found various restaurants that meet those needs – some better than others.  Unfortunately, every time we find somewhere we are happy with, you can almost guarantee the next time we go it’s been taken over by someone else and is no longer offering the same kind of food.  There are a couple of places that seem to be standing the test of time (thankfully) – The Moorings (more about that later) and The Blue Ball (although that is up for sale at the moment).

On our last visit to Tenby, however, we found an absolute gem.  Fingers crossed it will stay!

Underneath the Atlantic Hotel on the Esplanade is a restaurant called the Salt Cellar.  It opened in February 2016 and is run by 4 good friends – 3 of them chefs and one running front of house.  We heard about it just before our visit to Tenby in September of 2017, so checked it out when we got there and booked ourselves in for dinner.1692138_cd25c3b4

You can call in for lunch, coffee or a snack during the day and dinner and/or drinks in the evening.  The bar area is welcoming with cook books piled up on shelves.  The other half wanted to tidy the books in alphabetical order (odd bod), but I quite liked their randomness.  I own thousands of cook books, but there were plenty there I don’t own, so was happy to browse away over coffee (in the day & evening).

The restaurant itself is a mix of modern & old style – pleasant, clean and airy.  It’s a lovely size so feels intimate, yet you are not sitting on top of the other diners.restaurant 2

The food was fantastic – everything made from scratch (of course), including the breads and to my mind, just the right side of ‘cheffy’.  Enough to make you say ‘wow’ when you see it, but not overly fussy.  The emphasis is on the quality of the food – not style over substance.

I opted for the pea crème brulee as a starter, while he had the scotch egg.  Neither were a disappointment – he was more than happy with his scotch egg and accompaniments and was impressed with the slightly runny yolk (‘how do they get it as perfect as that when they can’t see it when it’s cooking’?, he said).  And just how you can do so much with peas is an achievement in itself (check out James Sommerin’s ‘Great British Menu’ pea dish too).

2017-09-13 19.20.36

2017-09-13 19.21.11

 

 

 

 

 

I’m afraid I was rather predictable with the main, choosing lamb.  But, there is a reason for that.  Lamb is my absolute favourite meat, while ‘he’ doesn’t like it.  So, we never have it at home – if we haven’t eaten out for a while I can feel myself literally craving some – so, when the opportunity arises there is no choice for me.  It was flavoursome, juicy, succulent, perfectly cooked and worked well with the rest of the dish.2017-09-13 19.40.06

The ‘other half’ chose the cod dish – a surprise in itself as even though we eat fish at least twice a week at home, it’s not usually his choice when eating out.  It looked superb and I could see how beautifully it was cooked.  He was well impressed and thoroughly enjoyed it.2017-09-13 19.40.38

The desserts were pretty as a picture and tasted superb.  We finished the meal with coffee in the bar, with gorgeous homemade petit fours – bliss!2017-09-13 20.17.072017-09-13 20.17.28

But, that’s not all – a beautiful meal like that can be made or broken by the quality and level of service you receive.  I have to say, we were blown away!  Both the restaurant and bar were run by just 2 young girls (well, young in my world).  They were hugely efficient, friendly and perfectly on top of everything.  What really impressed me was how they found time to talk to every customer – they found time for everyone.  I can’t speak highly enough of them.

restaurantBeing the tweeter I am, I of course, took pics of the dishes and tweeted them during the meal.  By the time we got to dessert, the 3 chefs in the kitchen had seen my tweets & tweeted back their appreciation.  That said it all for me – a small business run by friends with a passion for what they do.  First class!  We will definitely be visiting every time we visit Tenby.

 

 

If you are looking for somewhere else to eat in Tenby, I can also highly recommend The Moorings.  We usually go there for breakfast – free range eggs, their own bread (made by their sister bakery company) and local produce.  Lunch is also good with everything homemade – especially popular is their homemade fish finger sandwiches.  At night, it turns into a restaurant with great food and good service.  Again, all their bakery and pastry products are provided by their sister bakery – Loafley Bakery.

 

 

 

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Foodie Heaven in Ludlow

It’s been very busy recently in the Cooked From Scratch kitchen – but we managed to grab a couple of nights away in Ludlow recently.  What a revelation for a food lover!  I thought I’d been transferred to foodie heaven.

When booking the trip, we realised it was the same time as the Ludlow Food Festival, which was a bonus.  I had also read about the Ludlow Food Centre so was keen to visit.

The food festival is very similar to Abergavenny, just on a slightly smaller scale, so well worth a trip.  Unfortunately, the day we went it absolutely tipped down with rain, which meant everyone was congregating around the stalls, sheltering from the rain – I would definitely go back though in the hope the weather is a bit better, allowing us to enjoy the festival properly.

Ludlow town itself is gorgeous.  Lots of lovely architecture and quirky buildings and it is oozing with independent shops, restaurants, coffee shops & pubs.  In fact, the only chain shop in the centre is a Costa coffee (they get everywhere!).  The chains are ever present in the outskirts but not in the town itself.  It’s a very pretty place and highly recommended for a weekend away.

We stayed at The Clive Restaurant and Rooms, which is attached to Ludlow Food Centre.  It was a last minute booking and you are never quite sure what you are going to get, even after perusing the website.

However, we were more than pleased when we saw our room – it was spacious and airy and contained a seating area in addition to the bedroom area and bathroom.  Tick!

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

Bedroom 3

 

We then took a look at the tea and coffee tray – and it wasn’t your usual instant coffee sachets with a few tea bags that’s for sure.  Tea Tray
No – how about a cafetiere with Ludlow Food Centre’s own roasted coffee, along with a selection of organic teas and homemade biscuits?  Tick, tick!

 

But, it didn’t stop there – oh, what a mini bar!  Not your usual mass produced, branded products – oh no!  How about local craft ales, local organic ciders, Fevertree tonic, local organic juices, carefully selected wines and Chase gin and vodka?  Like I said – foodie heaven.  And prices were on average with a mini bar.  Tick, tick tick!

Mini Bar 1

Mini Bar 2

 

 

 

As the hotel is attached to Ludlow Food Centre, breakfast in the morning was in the food centre café.  Their own breads, yoghurt, bacon, eggs (free range), pastries and just about anything else you could think of. Not only made there, but high quality products too.  I must admit, I usually struggle to have breakfast in hotels (especially chains) due to the low quality of goods on offer – free range eggs are usually nowhere to be seen and the origin of everything else is usually quite suspect (and don’t get me started on the bread).  But, this was so different – my only problem was what to choose! Tick again!

We ate in the restaurant in the evening, and again, were not disappointed.  The majority of the produce was either produced on the estate or sourced locally. Tick, tick!  The service was friendly and the food nicely presented, tasty and enjoyable.  And the cheeseboard!  It was supposed to be for one person, but contained whole wedges of cheese (most of which were produced on the estate).  The crackers were also homemade, as well as the chutney.  It was gorgeous, but so big, we (and the couple on the next table) had to ask for a doggie bag to take back with us.

Starter 1

Starter 2

Main 1

Main 2

Cheeseboard

 

 

 

So, if you are looking for a weekend away, I can highly recommend Ludlow and The Clive Restaurant & Rooms, along with Ludlow Food Centre.  If you like good food, you are onto a winner.

 

 

 

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Cooked From Scratch Healthy Eating Tips

As you will see on my blog about switching to ‘real food’, I’m not a fan of diets, especially those that require you to eat meal replacements or highly processed ‘diet’ foods.  So, as promised, here are the Cooked From Scratch tips for healthy eating.

1. Eat Real Food

Real Food – go back to basics and base your eating (call it a diet if you wish) around what I would define as real food – meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, beans/pulses, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, herbs, spices, grains.  

runner beans

  • Not meat or fish in a coating/ sauce or pre-marinated.  High quality sausages, bacon, ham are fine, but not every day – the quality of them is paramount.
  • The same goes for vegetables, fruit, beans/pulses. 
  • Eggs eaten as an egg or used as in ingredient in something you’ve made yourself. 
  • Dairy in it’s simplest form – natural yoghurt (no additives), milk, cheeses, butter (not spreads marketed as butter). 

This does involve cooking of course, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming – there are loads of quick and simple dishes for midweek meals, which only involve a bit of chopping before putting in the oven or pan to cook. 

Avoid Processed/Convenience Foods – this doesn’t just mean ‘ready meals’ as discussed in my blog ‘Why Do I Hate Supermarket Ready Meals?’

The supermarket aisles are full of processed foods, but we’ve become so accustomed to them we don’t think of them that way anymore.  Soups, sauces, cereals, drinks, desserts, cakes, yoghurts, breads, wraps, bakery products, pre-prepped fruit and vegetables, cooked and processed meats, pizzas, pastries, preserves, condiment sauces, ready made home baking products, potato products…. The list goes on!  In fact, there are very few (if any) supermarket aisles that don’t contain these foods.food-like-products

These are all items you can make yourself, or buy from an artisan food producer who will tell you exactly what’s in the food.  The ingredients should reflect real food – simply put together to create a dish or product such as bread (not mass produced).

Avoid Diet/Low Fat Foods

These are often highly processed and contain replacement ‘ingredients’ to compensate for them containing little or no fat.  This often takes the form of sugar, which is becoming highly recognised as the biggest contributor to obesity and many diet related diseases – http://www.actiononsugar.org/.

Full fat dairy is also now recognised as being more beneficial to us than low-fat products, with more and more research leading to low-fat being nothing but a big con.  There are loads of articles available on the subject, including this one from the website healthambition.com.  Full fat dairy is also more satisfying – you feel fuller and not deprived, so it can actually aid in weight loss.  I eat full fat, natural yoghurt, cheese and butter and drink full fat milk.

Cut Down on the Carbs

If you want to lose a bit of weight, then cutting down on the carbohydrates certainly helps.  I don’t believe in completely cutting out food types or food groups as we need carbs, fats, protein, fruit & vegetables in order for our bodies to function properly.  If you cut out a food group, you need to make sure you are eating alternative foods to compensate, which can be difficult. 

But, if you are eating toast for breakfast (good bread of course), sandwiches for lunch and then having a pasta based meal for dinner, you are probably consuming more carbohydrates than your body needs (unless you are running a marathon or something). too-many-carbs

Instead of sandwiches for lunch, have a big bowl of soup or a great big mixed salad.  Or, instead of filling your dinner plate with pasta or rice, then topping with a sauce or curry, put the rice or pasta on the side of the plate (as you would potatoes).  Why do you need more than a couple of serving spoons – especially if you’ve been sitting at a desk all day?  Similarly, put a few less potatoes on the plate and fill it up with lots of veggies instead. 

Cut down on the carbs and you will be surprised how much better you feel and it will certainly help you lose weight.

Eat More Soup

Homemade soup of course!  It’s a great way of getting beneficial vegetables into your body and is surprisingly filling.  Eat with a spoon – this takes time, therefore allowing your body to recognise that you’re eating something and by the time you’ve finished your body will know you’ve eaten.  If you shovel down a burger quickly, you’re not giving your body enough time to recognise you’re eating, so you will still be hungry, encouraging you to overeat. 

Eat Healthy Snacks

If you are hungry between meals, snack on fruit or nuts – don’t reach for the biscuit tin.  A handful of nuts though – not the whole bag!

Major Benefit of Eating Real Food Instead of Dietingfamily-cooking

Many diets mean you are cooking a separate meal for yourself to the rest of the family – especially if it is based around meal replacements.  One huge advantage of eating real food is the rest of the family can eat it too.  You will be getting them on the right road to a healthy lifestyle, which they will hopefully keep to when they leave home.

2. Move

It goes without saying, that sitting on your bottom all day just isn’t good for you – http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/sitting-and-sedentary-behaviour-are-bad-for-your-health.aspx

Food is energy – our lifestyles are becoming more sedentary, yet we are eating more (Global and regional food consumption patterns and trends).  Our grandparents didn’t need to go to the gym, yet obesity wasn’t a problem.  Why?  They simply moved more. 

Exercise

If you enjoy going to the gym for your exercise, great – go ahead.  Me, no way!  The thought of going into an artificially lit room and standing on a machine, walking or running to nowhere, with lycra-clad, sweaty people around me just doesn’t appeal.sweaty-gym

If you are the same, then find something that does appeal – find a hobby that incorporates exercise.  Latin & ballroom dancing, line dancing (any dancing in fact), hill walking, gardening.  If it’s something you enjoy you won’t class it as exercise, so it won’t be a chore.

Walk

Going for a brisk walk everyday has huge benefits – you are out in the fresh air exercising and it clears your mind.  I find time (however busy I am) to go for a walk everyday.  Yes, even in the rain – we all have coats, boots and umbrellas and it’s only water after all.  The only weather that stops me is if it’s blowing a gale and absolutely chucking it down – you know the type, where you just step outside and you’re soaked!  But, hand on heart, this probably only happens a few times throughout the course of a year.

Rather than sitting at your desk to eat your lunch, go out for a walk.  You will feel so much better for it. 

It’s also a great way of clearing the mind – if you have something to work out or a problem, chances are you will come back with a plan.

Move As Much As Possible

  • Avoid lifts, escalators, travellators and take the stairs (unless you physically can’t).
  • Park the car as far away from the supermarket entrance as you can, instead of struggling to find a space as close as possible.  Your car will thank you too – not being banged and scratched by others (yes, we are anal car owners in this household).
  • Going to a retail park?  Again, don’t struggle to park as close as possible, park in a side street up the road!
  • Take regular breaks from your desk, take phone calls standing up.

Do Stuff

You know that ‘to do’ list you have – the one you never seem to get around to doing?  Instead of flopping down in front of the tele, do something from it – clean out that cupboard, sort your clothes.  Any activity is better than none at all – and you get to do those things you’ve been putting off.cleaning

Every year, since I left home at 19, I’ve lost weight in the run up to Christmas.  Why?  In addition to all the jobs that need doing for Christmas, my house gets ‘nook and cranny’ cleaned.  Under beds, on top of cupboards, inside cupboards, curtains get washed, carpets get cleaned.  As a result, I lose weight just from doing stuff.

Make flopping down in front of the tele at the end of the day something your body wants to do.

 

3.  Avoid ‘Diet’ Drinks

They may contain ‘no added sugar’, but they are still not good.  Artificial sweeteners are not good news and they do not aid weight loss.  Avoid them (Sugar Free Drinks Don’t Aid Weight Loss).

4.  Be Hungry

This is a strange one.  Why do we think it’s a bad thing to be hungry?  Personally, I wait until I’m actually hungry before I eat – you know, that knawing feeling you get?  That tells you, you’ve used up the surplus energy in your body and you need to top up. 

We go on cruises for our holidays, where food is provided on tap, all day, every day.  I eat a full 3 course dinner each evening, but during the day, I wait until I’m hungry before eating.  hungry

Think about it, if you have a day when you’re really hungry for some reason, have you eaten your lunch at 10 o’clock in the morning?  You’ve done that because your body is telling you you’re hungry.  Yet, if you’re not hungry, you will still eat your lunch at 12.30pm.  Listen to your body.

5.  Balance

Eating healthily, is all about balance, not denial.  You will have 3 course meals (nothing wrong with that), but if you have them every day, then you’re going to put on weight.  But, don’t beat yourself up because you’ve had a blow out in a gourmet restaurant.  Just go back to normal eating.  If you feel like you’ve overindulged, just have a ‘good day’ the following day – perhaps fruit for breakfast, soup for lunch and a healthy dinner. 

Enjoy good, real food.

Read about why I believe diets don’t work here.

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Healthy Eating? Just Eat ‘Real Food’

Real food – how many of you are embarking on diets for the new year? 

How many times do you diet, lose weight, put it back on and diet again? 

yoyo

The diet companies and brands bank on that happening – think about it, it’s a great business model.  It works in the short term, but is never a sustainable way of eating, which ensures you will always be a returning customer.

Many of the diet products are also highly processed – meal replacements, special ‘diet’ products, which gives the impression you could never lose weight without consuming them instead of ‘normal’ food.

Well, I don’t believe that!  We consume far more highly processed and mass manufactured foods than ever.  As a result, nations across the world are putting on weight, becoming obese and suffering from weight and diet related problems such as diabetes.  Take a look at this – How The World Got Fat – funny how consumption of convenience foods has risen in conjunction.

But, who am I to say that switching to real food instead actually works?  Well, I’m not a nutritionist, but I’m a human being who has struggled with my weight over the years and learnt from my mistakes.  As a result, I haven’t ‘dieted’ in over 10 years, but I eat well and my weight has remained stable.  I’ve always loved food, and as a child would eat, more or less, anything that was put in front of me (with the exception of broad beans – which I now love).   But, my relationship with food hasn’t always been a good one.

I’m old enough to be able to say, when growing up, the majority of food in our house was homemade – or real food.  Although those convenience foods definitely started to creep in during the 70’s (Angel Delight anyone?angel-delight).  But, the majority of the time, we ate well.  I wasn’t fat or chubby, but neither was I skinny.  In fact, looking back I didn’t have anything to worry about with my weight  (but thought I did – as do most girls, unfortunately) and then one day, when in my early 20’s, I went on a diet.  Why? I really can’t remember, but I know, looking back, I certainly didn’t need to.

And that was the start of around 20 years of yoyo dieting.  It seems that once you start – that’s it.  A bit like shaving your legs!  illustration-of-a-man-seated-and-shaving-his-legs-by-dennis-cox-15Once you lose weight (using whatever method), when you go back to ‘normal’ eating you put the weight back on, with a little bit more.   In fact, I will go so far as to say that for around 10 years I was on a permanent ‘diet’ – everything low fat, wouldn’t eat this, wouldn’t eat that, no frying, nothing made with oil, skimmed milk, low fat marge (yuck!), low fat cheese (yuck again!), only ‘treating’ us to real butter at Christmas.  And nuts – I absolutely love nuts, but would only eat them at Christmas (now I eat handfuls of them every day).  I dread to think what damage I did to my body on such a low fat diet – we need fat to function and feed our brains.  I basically deprived myself – someone that loved food not allowing myself to enjoy it and feeling guilty if I ate something I shouldn’t.  Anyone relate to that?

Then I got divorced, met the love of my life and became content – put on a bit of weight but basically still dieting or overeating – no middle ground.  We sold our caravan and I realised I was going to have to get my body out on the beach abroad – something had to be done!  I found a diet that was based around the Mediterranean way of eating – it was all real food, lots of cooking and absolutely no diet or low fat products.  Every recipe started with olive oil (something I had avoided like the plague) and I lost the excess weight without feeling I was on a diet or deprived in any way.

This was one of the many triggers that started me on the road to Cooked From Scratch – my little brain started piecing the bits together – processed/convenience foods, containing strange ingredients, additives and chemicals had to be linked to weight gain and making the wrong food choices.

Since then, I eat nothing but ‘real’ food – I eat good food, full fat everything (butter all the way thanks – and lots of it)butter, loads of nuts – I eat well, I eat 3 course meals regularly, desserts (not everyday), eat in gourmet restaurants – and all without a smidgen of guilt.  But, I am also now a food snob, as I absolutely refuse to eat anything processed or ready made.  It has to be homemade, high welfare, good quality (organic preferably, although this isn’t possible when on holiday).  The other stuff doesn’t even tempt me.  And guess what!  I never diet – in fact, I’m slimmer now than I’ve ever been.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m ‘good’ in the week – but certainly not deprived.  I love my food again and enjoy every mouthful.  I also keep as active as possible, but you won’t catch me anywhere near a gym!  Let’s face it, sitting down all day is just not good for you.

So, do yourself (and your body) a favour.  Rather than going on that diet this new year, switch to real food.  food_snob_mugBecome a food snob – question where your food comes from and what’s in it.  What have you got to lose?

Not convinced – take a look at my tips for a healthy lifestyle here.

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Why Do I Hate Supermarket Ready Meals?

As the name suggests, I cook everything from scratch.  In fact, I am (some would say) quite fanatical about what I will & won’t eat.  If I’m not 100% sure whether or not something has been cooked from scratch (using good ingredients), I simply won’t touch it.  In fact, it’s well known that I take my own breakfast to networking events!

Laugh you may (I laugh at myself sometimes), but why do I do this?person laughing

When young, I always cooked from scratch – in those days convenience foods were expensive and money was scarce in my household.  Besides which, I enjoyed cooking.

As time moved on, supermarket ready meals (and many other mass manufactured, processed foods) came into being.  They became more and more accessible as supermarkets grew in size.  As my life changed, I did what most other people did and started taking shortcuts to save time, make my life easier and all those other ‘reasons’ people use.  Little did I know then, what I know now – but, oh how I wish I had known!

It was around 2002 when certain triggers started me on the road to thinking more about the food we eat.  triggerThere were many triggers – but that’s another blog in itself.  As I thought more, I read more, investigated and eventually came to the conclusion that mass manufactured, processed foods are a bad thing – a very bad thing.  I’m well known for calling them ‘the devil’ – and I truly believe that.

I went right back to basics and began cooking everything from scratch again (as I had when I was young).  I researched and read more and more and became increasingly concerned about the food the majority of people eat on a daily basis.  Hence, me starting on the road to Cooked From Scratch, which for me is about education and helping people as much as it is a business.  It’s what I passionately believe in – I live and breathe it, it’s not just a job.

When I talk about processed foods, I know a lot of people immediately think of ‘ready meals’.  Indeed, for many this is all they think of – as supermarkets have become more and more encroached into our daily lives, we forget the many foods that and I (and many others) class as processed.

Soups, sauces, cereals, drinks, desserts, cakes, yoghurts, breads, wraps, bakery products, pre-prepped fruit and vegetables, cooked and processed meats, pizzas, pastries, preserves, condiment sauces, ready made home baking products, potato products…. The list goes on!  In fact, there are very few (if any) supermarket aisles that don’t contain these foods.food like products

The result of there being so many, can become the obstacle to cooking from scratch  – it can almost make your head explode.  And, if you do decide to avoid these foods, there are still issues to consider when buying meat, dairy, fish, fruit and vegetables, flour, sugar…. (but that’s another story).

As food manufacturers and supermarkets keep telling us how busy we are, and how difficult it is to cook, we believe them.  They try so hard to ‘help’ us by chopping our melon and carrots and charging us a premium for doing so.

I recently carried out some teaching for a community based project, for children and their guardians.  On one session we made homemade chicken nuggets and fish fingers, so made potato and sweet potato wedges to go with them.  Literally washing and cutting up potatoes, drizzling with oil and baking.  One mother couldn’t believe how good they tasted compared to the frozen ready made potato wedges she usually paid £1.60 for.  Little effort, much cheaper and so much better for you.

As written in a previous blog (‘Help, I Want To Change My Food Habits’), if making the decision to not buy processed foods is overwhelming, it’s best to take things in stages.  If you do eat ready meals, this is a good place to start – if just a handful of people stop buying them after reading the article below, then it’s a job well done in my book.

ready mealSo, back to the start – why do I hate supermarket ready meals?

Please, please read this article by Joanna Blythman from the Daily Mail.  Joanna is a fantastic investigative journalist, who, like me, cares about the food we eat and has made it her mission to inform us of exactly what’s in our food.  Read, digest and then please make that decision:

‘Read this and you’ll never eat a ready meal again’.

If this has inspired you to investigate further, then I highly recommend Joanna’s books –

Swallow This

What To Eat

 

 

 

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Help! I Want to Change My Food Habits….

So, you want to change your food habits?  There are many reasons why someone wants to change the way they shop or eat – food scares, health issues, animal welfare or simply awareness that a lot of the food we buy contains ingredients we really don’t want to be eating.

In addition, the overall goal could be a real v process foodsimple one e.g. to eat more seasonally, or it could be a bigger overall goal e.g. switching to 100% organic, locally sourced, seasonal, little or no processed food, cutting out specific food types, fair trade, ethically sourced…..

In fact the more you think about it, the bigger that goal becomes – to the point where it literally feels like your head could explode. If that happens (the goal being overwhelming I mean – not your head literally exploding), then it can simply be easier to ignore those goals altogether and not make any changes.

So, what’s the answer?

As with most things in life, when the goal is a large one, smaller steps are the way to go. steps to a goalLet’s not beat about the bush here – if your goal is to go 100% organic that’s going to hurt your purse strings if you do it all at once. Smaller steps will mean smaller hits financially – getting you used to things and prices before moving onto the next.

So, the steps could be as follows (but in whatever order suits you). Pick one, do it, get used to it, then move onto another. The longer you do something it becomes second nature:

  1. Cook from scratch – buy less processed food, start to look at ingredients labels and make more informed choices. Don’t buy that jar of pasta sauce, make it yourself. Does that jar of pesto have non-recognisable ingredients? Is there a better one you could buy, or can you make it yourself?

2.  Buy British buy British check labels and make sure fresh produce, meat, dairy etc., is British. Obviously some things will never be British – lemons, limes, spices. This one will help towards eating seasonally too – you won’t be able to get British strawberries in January, so won’t be buying them.

3.  Shop locally – source a local supplier for your fruit and veg or swap to a box delivery service. Similarly do you have a local butcher, baker or fishmonger?

4.  Make sure your fish is sustainable – check what’s safe to eat, check your sources, ask your local fishmonger, and substitute more sustainable varieties if you can.grass fed cattle

5.  Buy better quality meat – if the leap to organic meat and the corresponding price increase is too much, make your first step to buy free range and outdoor bred. Then perhaps move onto grass-fed, rare breeds etc. Check out online sources like farmison.com (and many others) for great quality meat you can source back to the individual farm. Once you do this, you will never, ever go back to ‘3 chickens for £10’ – the difference in taste and quality is second to none.

6.  Buy free range eggs – again, if you don’t want to make the financial leap straight to organic, change to free range eggs. Perhaps the next step could be organic for your dippy egg, but free range for cooking and baking.

7.  Buy organic milk – simple change to make, but one that gets you on the right road.organic chicken#

8.  Change to organic food one type at a time – milk, eggs, meat, all dairy, fruit, vegetables, (could even break those down to those being eaten raw and those cooked), rice, pasta, spices, herbs, flour, baking products, dried fruit, nuts, oats, oils – choose one food type and get used to buying that before moving onto another. But use what you have in the house already before replacing with organic.

However you choose to make better food choices, there will still be dilemmas to test you:

  • The organic potatoes this week are being flown in from Egypt whereas the non-organic are Welsh.
  • The local butcher doesn’t sell great quality meat, but you can get organic in the supermarket.
  • The local fruit and veg shop doesn’t sell organic, but you’d like to shop locally.

There is no ideal – you have to decide what’s important to you and what you want to achieve, but small steps will get you there.

 

 

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Organic or Not Organic? That is the Question….

Anyone that knows me will testify how fanatical I am about eating great quality food that’s been cooked from scratch.  No nasty, processed food in my kitchen!

processed foodsI also use a lot of organic ingredients and find myself moving more and more to sourcing organic for everything.  The more I read* about what goes in our food – even what we perceive to be natural – the more I worry and find myself purchasing everything organic e.g. nuts, seeds, dried fruit, herbs, spices, fruit, veggies, tomato puree, flour etc.  I’ve been buying organic meat and dairy for a long time and people who purchase my meals will have noticed there is a mix of organic and non-organic ingredients listed.

And there lies the question?  As a business, do I move to all organic?  Would people be willing to pay for organic, because unfortunately, the cost of organic ingredients can be very expensive compared to non-organic?

organic chicken#

I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time – at the moment someone may purchase a meal from me that contains organic meat and dairy, but the rest of the ingredients may be non-organic.  Do they appreciate the organic ingredients being there?  Would they prefer all organic?  Or doesn’t it bother them – is the inclusion of organic ingredients just a bonus they’re not bothered about?

 

Then, I came to the conclusion that instead of a mish mash of organic and non-organic I should give people the choice.  I won’t be comprising my principles as everything is still cooked from scratch and I will still source high quality ingredients e.g. I would never, ever buy the really cheap, mass produced chicken, it would still be free-range at the very least.    organic dairy

So, that’s what I’m going to do – over the coming months prices will change on the website and customers will be given the choice.  Prices will have to change to reflect the higher costs of organic only products, but people will have the choice of whether to pay those prices or not.  It won’t happen overnight – there are a lot of products to change and it takes time, but it will happen.

In the meantime, if organic is important to a customer they simply have to let me know and we can take it from there.

* If anyone is interested in my concerns relating to eating organic, then I highly recommend reading ‘Swallow This’ by Joanna Blythman (and anything else she’s written come to that).

Swallow This

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Marco Pierre White’s Restaurant – ‘White Room’ on Ventura

On the last night of our recent cruise on Ventura, we decided to dine with Karl’s parents at the ‘White Room’ by Marco Pierre White.2015-04-09 17.23.54

As with Atul Kutcher’s ‘East’ (also on Ventura) it wasn’t just about the food, but the overall experience and I have to say the service was exceptional – we were made to feel really special and waited on like ‘really important people’.

The restaurant was on the top of the ship with outdoor seating looking over the sea – bit cold for that when we were there, but the views were stunning all the same.

 

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We all had different meals for each course and Karl’s father was looked after extremely well – he is diabetic and they went over and above to ensure everything met his needs.

We were all given a peach Bellini on arrival, a basket of mixed Italian breads & an amuse bouche of tomato soup.

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Starters – Karl was adventurous and went for the tempura king prawns, oysters & scallops, Pam had Buffalo mozzarella salad, a diabetic Parma ham & melon salad for Mike & a wild mushroom veloute soup with a cappuccino foam for me.

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Mains – rib-eye steak with garlic snails for Karl (I tried one), lobster saffrito for me, halibut for Mike & duck breast for Pam.

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Desserts – tiramisu for Karl, diabetic chocolate cake for Mike, Marco’s special rice pudding for Pam, strawberry soufflé for me (made and cooked to order).

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This was all followed by handmade chocolate truffles with our coffee.

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Absolutely superb!