Hope you are enjoying a cupcake on national cup cake day?
Summer picnics and afternoon teas are a great tme for a cupcake.
I have made both a savoury and sweet versions during the last week and share my recipes with you here. Both can be enjoyed knowing they are easy ways to increase your vegetable intake.
My sons are generally Ok with vegetables, but are not keen on either courgettes or beetroot, both of which are summer seasonal healthy vegetables, so these cupcake recipes are a good way to encourage vegie consumption.
First the savoury Cheesy Courgette Cupcakes.
1 medium courgette
100g cheddar cheese, or any hard cheeses lurking in your fridge
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
175ml (6fl oz) semi-skimmed milk
preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C
Place the muffin cases in a muffin tin.
Rinse the courgette, cut the ends off, grate it into a mixing bowl.
Grate the cheese into the mixing bowl.
Add the self-raising flour, along with the oil and milk.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl with some black pepper and add this to the other ingredients.
Stir just until all the ingredients are combined.
Divide the mixture equally between the muffin cases using two spoons.
Bake for around 20 minutes until they’re golden andspringy to touch
Cool on a cooling rack.
Now we have the Chocolate Cupcakes
120g self-raising flour
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 large-sized eggs
140ml olive oil
Heat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl. Mix in the sugar.
Peel and grate the beetroot
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the beetroot, egg and oil and lightly mix with a wooden spoon.
Divide the mixture evenly between the cup cake tin (with cases if you prefer)
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and just firm to the touch. Cool on the cooling rack.
Lightly sieve icing sugar over the buns to serve.
National CupCake day takes place on June 14th and is held each year to raise awareness and money to help the fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is needed everyday so don’t worry if you have missed the date in June, to enjoy cupcakes and consider a gift to the alzheimers society.
It’s national garlic day in the US, but I think it’s worth all of us celebrating the culinary, nutritional and medicinal uses of this pungent bulb!
Adding flavour to so many recipes, many of which I think would just not be the same without a little garlic. My hot broccoli dip recipe, lemon & garlic chicken, hummus, and curries are a good examples.
When folk I am coaching say they don’t like the taste of garlic, I often suggest they try cooking with just one clove, and see what they think. Often it is the very strong garlic taste they find offensive and they will often like foods I demonstrate.
Sometimes folk report misinterpreting a recipe and using the whole bulb, or head of garlic rather than just one clove, or segment, taken from the split bulb!
The good: nutritional benefits of garlic
Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Selinium, Vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamin E. It also contains trace amounts of other nutrients.
It has also been reported to reduce fat stores. Garlic stimulates the satiety hormone which reduces binge eating and sugar cravings and it releases the norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter which boosts metabolism.
The good: health benefits of garlic
Garlic contains antioxidants, notably allicin, helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold. An ingredient in Dale Pinnock’s flu fighter soup, which also containts lot of other health giving ingredients and is also a great base for curries.
Garlic is claimed to help prevent heart disease. High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). Garlic supplementation also seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol.
Antioxidants protect against cell damage and ageing. It may reduce the risk of cancer and dementia.
It is most therapeutic when crushed and then diced. You should not heat it for too long or important nutrients are damaged. Consider how you can addapt your cooking, adding garlic towards the end . It’s most potent when eaten raw, such as in guacamole, hummus or salad dressings. Some recommend chewing garlic raw!
If you don’t like the taste or the after whif, then it is worth taking odorless garlic supplements. However, do not take garlic supplements if you take blood-thinning medication, have stomach ulcers or a thyroid condition. It may interact with some prescription medicines, including insulin, anti-viral drugs, anti-inflammatory medicines and certain contraceptives so discuss garlic supplementations with your doctor.
The good: beauty benefits of garlic
Rub a sliced clove of garlic on acne and cold sores for an effective topical treatment.
Infuse oil with garlic and massage it into your scalp to help combat hair loss, or onto skin to help with psoriasis.
Soak feet in a bowl of warm water and crushed garlic to relieve athlete’s foot.
Place a slice of garlic over a splinter of wood in your skin and covering it with a dressing.
Mosquitoes can be kept at bay by garlic
I have found garlic to be an easy garden crop. Several of the photos are from a visit to the garlic farm who supply smoked, black and even Elephant garlic for cooking as well as garlic to sow.
The bad: garlicky smell
Garlic is known for causing bad breath (halitosis), and causing sweat to have a pungent “garlicky” smell. The sulfurous compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream, and exit the body through the lungs and skin.
So, if like me you like what garlic brings to food as well as the likely health benefits, what can we do to cut down on the garlic breath phenomena?
If you want to be intimate with someone, then make sure they consume garlic too. The only time garlic breath bothers my husband or I is if one of us has consumed garlic and the other one hasn’t!
There is the mechanical removal of the garlic particles from our mouth by brushing and flossing teeth, as well as tongue scraping. Here are numerous suggestions to cover up or neutralize the garlic compounds.
My favourite is Parsley – using recipes that also use parsley and chew on parsley after eating garlic, if I am concerned about my breath.
Cardamom, mint, fennel, cloves, anise seeds
Studies conducted at Ohio State University have shown that drinking milk, especially higher fat milk, can reduce garlic breath.
Lemon – Lemon is very effective in neutralizing the garlic odor. Some suggest sucking on a lemon wedge after eating garlic, but I prefer a slice of lemon in hot water to drink! Also washing your hands with lemon juice helps to remove the odor from your hands.
Tea, especially green and peppermint, contain polyphenols that reduce the volatile sulfur compounds that the garlic produces.
The bad: possible bloating
Garlic contains fructo-oligosaccharides, short chain carbohydrates, commonly referred to as fructans. Humans do not have enzymes to break down oligosaccharides which mean gut bacteria ferment them, possibly leading to irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Are you on a FODMAP diet and avoid garlic? Since fructans are not oil soluble, you can buy garlic infused oil, or make your own at the start of cooking. Using whole garlic cloves, sautee the garlic with coconut oil in a pan for 20 minutes at medium temperature. Remove the garlic and then cook the rest of your meal with the infused oil. The oil infused with garlic should be use immediately. Throw away any leftovers – something you rarely hear me say – to avoid the slight risk of a bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum.
Not all IBS sufferers, or indeed fructan sensitive people, are sensitive to garlic, so test in the reintroduction phase of the FODMAP diet to see if you can add small amounts back in.
I would love to hear about how you celebrate national garlic day – please leave a comment below
What a large apple crop this year! But what to do with them – here is a wonderful apple recipe.
I have made some crumbles, but this weekend I was invited to a pudding and wine evening with some women from church. I love puddings, wine and these church events, but remain largely unconvinced about combining sweet pudding with non desert wine!
So I wanted to make a light-on-sugar but luxury feeling desert, and considered what ingredients I had. Although gooseberry fool is more usual, I made an apple version.
Light, fluffy apple stirred through sweet vanilla flavoured custard and whipped cream – a deliciously comforting autumnal pudding recipe, which proved popular.
This so fits with the cosy concept of hygge, simple food using garden ingredients to share with friends.
You only need one or two egg yolks for this recipe. Store the egg white in the fridge for up to two weeks for making meringues.
If you have a glut of apples, you can cook up more and freeze the puree for another time.
Serves approx. 10
800g apples, peeled, cored and quartered
3 large egg yolks
150g caster sugar
45g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
the rind and juice of a lemon
250ml double or whipping cream, lightly whipped
Chop the apples into 2-3cm chunks and place in a small saucepan with 150ml tablespoons of water or apple juice.
Put the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Then cover with a lid, turn the heat down to low and cook the apples for about 15 minutes until completely softened. Set aside to cool.
While the apples are cooling, set up a double saucepan (If you don’t have a double pan, use a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of boiling water). Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then take off the heat. Place the egg yolk(s) in a heatproof bowl with the sugar, flour and vanilla extract, and whisk together. Pour the warm milk into the bowl while whisking, then pour this mixture back into the top of the double saucepan on a medium heat and whisk the mixture as it comes to the boil. Watch out –as soon as it boils it will go lumpy, so keep whisking.
Once it is thick, take it off the heat, strain into a bowl and allow to cool.
Mash or process the cooked apple, add the lemon juice and fold together with the cooled custard and softly whipped cream.
Pour into one large, or individual dishes. Chill for a couple of hours (or overnight if you want to prepare ahead).
I am very rarely overwhelmed by food to taste, but came near during judging the Cookery Section at the recent Bamford Annual Show. The above picture is just one of the many categories, the healthier cake section, where I had asked participants to make a healthier cake, for example, by adding vegetablesand reducing the sugar.
Thanks to my assistant, Sue Mitchell all were sampled and scored. Some lovely bread, biscuits, scones, preserves …and the winner is the Lime & Courgette Cake! Lovely, looks, texture and taste and easy to cut and eat.
Here is the recipe:
For the Cake
3 medium eggs
125ml olive oil
120g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
250g courgette, finely grated
For the icing
400g cream cheese
120g icing sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
40g pistachio nuts (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon lime zest
Preheat oven to 180 C / 160 C fan / Gas 4. Grease and line two 21cm sandwich tins.
Beat together the eggs, oil and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate soda and baking powder and beat well. Stir in the grated courgettes until well combined. Divide the mixture into the cake tins.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Carefully peel off the paper lining and leave to cool.
For the icing, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar and stir in the lime juice.
Use a bread knife to level one of the cakes if necessary. Use 2/3 of the icing to sandwich the 2 cakes together, the levelled one on the bottom, and use the remaining icing to cover the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts and lime zest.
I was then asked to judge the much smaller textile craft category and choose this lovely felted cushion cover.
So just when I thought my judging role was completed, I was asked to choose best in show! This set me thinking about all the many decisions we face each day, and how we can become overwhelmed. If we don’t get enough rest and know our own worth, making decisions can become really hard.
I was ill this last week and appreciated Nick looking after me, easpecially making me lots of drinks. There were times though, because I felt so rough, that the choice of what to drink seemed hard!
One of the most important choices we constantly have to make is how we spend our time, all 1440 minutes of each day. A new academic or calender year can be excellent times to consider our time management.
Like so many things, there is a need for balance, to make sure we are looking after ourselves with enough rest, time to reflect, exercise, healthful food, time with loved ones … as well as choosing our goals and how best to reach them, challenging ourselves to step out of our comfort zone and grow.
Too often we think it is one or the other, but there really is the need for work (aka personal development), rest and play. If the balance is not right for us we can burn out or stand still!
If you think your tendency is to stand still, make sure you schedule some time to consider goals and steps to achieving them. If you think your tendency is to go too fast, make sure you schedule time to play and rest. What recharges your batteries?
And if you are thinking but where on earth do I find the time, spend 30 minutes considering what is steeling your time and how you can better manage this.
It may be habits, struggling to say no, or be down to procrastination, three age old time stealers!
Sometimes we can move forward with these ourselves, sometimes it helps to talk to a coach. Please get in touch if you would like chat about how we can help.
We would love to hear what you do that recharges your batteries, please comment below.
What is the most unhealthy food you eat? That was a question I asked at a recent Home Coaching Healthy Food At Work Workshop.
For me the answer would be a Mars bar. However, one standard Mars bar contains around 280 kcalories, 43g of sugar and 6.4g of saturated fat. Does that matter? Well if I only occasionally have one as a treat, then not at all, I am a great advocate of the fact that there is no such thing as an unhealthy food, but unhealthy diets. It is not an occassional treat that matters but our more regular dietary habbits.
Maybe for me one of the reasons a Mars bar is my treat, is because when I was ill as a child, my grandmother would wrap me up in her comfy chair, let me watch TV and give me a drink and a pate with a mars bar cut up into slices. I enjoyed the slices during the day, and perhaps there is great wisdom in cutting up a treat to make it last.
It is not that we want to see some foods as “bad” or not be enjoyed occasionally, after all, as soon as we tell ourselves we can never eat something, we usually start craving it! Increasingly though, it is sugar that we are seeing as being a real health issue, and it is recommended that we should have no more than 30g of sugar ( 7 cubes) a day.(World health Organisation) Sugar can harm us even if we don’t put on weight – lowering of beneficial gut bacteria– fluctuating blood sugar levels wreaks hormone production, contributing to excess fat around our middle, inflammation, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, auto immune conditions, the list goes on…
Sugar fulfils four of the five criteria for an addictive substance, so my advice is to go easy and wean your self off sugar. I have found this really works, and now find some of the sweet things I once enjoyed, just too sweet now!
And I would recommend this taste change rather than consuming food and drinks with artificial sweeteners.
And i’t not just what we eat, drinks can contain a really high level of sugar. Just one 500 ml bottle of Coca Cola contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than an adult woman’s maximum recommended intake of added sugar for the whole day. So have a check on the label of drinks and remember we should have no more than 30g of sugar a day.
Public Health England has released a new phone app which can count the amount of sugar in a product.The app comes as Public Health England has warned that many British children are consuming their own body weight in sugar each year. The Sugar Smart app can be downloaded in the App Store or Google Play and ITV News has put together a guide on how to use this app.
One way I find to combat both the urge for sweetness and the grabbing of food on the go, is to plan ahead. If I have my breakfast smoothie, (banana, oats, nut butter & milk) I have both quick release and slower release carbs to give me energy, with protein which will slow down that blood sugar rush even more. I can blend it and go even if I’ve no time to stop, and will be less likely to be thinking of cake mid-morning.
Taking nutritious food to have at work, or when out and about saves us time and stress as well as money (what home coaching is all about in fact). We have it with us when neaded and we know we won’t be tempted in shops by the less healthy options.
Here are some of my favourite /easy to prepare at work recipes, which I shared at the recent Home Coaching Healthy Food At Work Workshop at A Tarmac cement works, health week.
Tuna Pasta Salad
440g leftover cooked pasta (about 200g dried)
100g can tuna in oil
400g can cannellini beans, (borlotti or butterbeans are also good)
1⁄2 red onion, or bunch spring onions, finely chopped
zest and juice 1 lemon
large handful parsley
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Tip into a bowl. Mix through the remaining ingredients (the warm pasta will really soak up the flavours). If using chilled leftover pasta, simply mix everything together – it will still taste great. You can also add some mayonnaise. Can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.On the day, add chopped cucumber, tomatoes, tinned sweetcorn etc.
200g/7oz canned chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice or more
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
100ml/3½fl oz tahini (sesame seed paste) optional
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Reserve a few whole chick peas for serving.
Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, tahini, and water in a food processor, or with stick blender, and blend to a creamy purée.
Add more lemon juice, garlic, cumin or salt to taste. Turn out into a dinner plate, and make smooth with the back of a spoon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter with the reserved chickpeas.
Sprinkle with paprika and serve with pita bread, bread sticks, vegetable sticks, in a wrap with salad.
Porridge in the microwave
For each person use ½ cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, and ½ cup low-fat milk.
Mix rolled oats, water, and milk in a bowl (use a large bowl to prevent spilling over when cooking).
Cook uncovered in the microwave on high power for 1 ½ minutes. Stir.
Cook for another minute. Repeat if necessary until it boils and thickens, and becomes smooth and creamy.
Tip:Add your favourite toppings such as sliced banana, sultanas, canned or fresh fruit, chopped dates, or yoghurt.
Sweet Potato Curry
1 onion chopped
1″ piece of ginger, peeled & finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 crushed or chopped cloves of garlic
1 teasp garam masala
1 teasp ground turmeric
1 teasp ground cumin
1 teasp ground coriander seeds
1 or 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
chopped vegetables of choice eg. Cauliflower, green beans, red pepper
1 banana (optional)
Dry fry onion, ginger, chillies & garlic.
Add spices and some water with seasoning or stock
Add chopped vegetables and cook for 10 minutes
Add chopped banana
Serve with yoghurt mixed with cucumber and mint.
Sweet Potato Curry
900ml chicken or vegetable stock (or Miso soup mix)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 175g/6oz (or any cooked chicken)
1 tsp chopped fresh root ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
50g rice or wheat noodles
Bag of stir fry vegetables
2 tsp soy sauce, plus extra for serving
mint or basil leaves and a little shredded chilli (optional), to serve
Gently fry the vegetables(and cut up raw chicken if using raw chicken) in some oil (toasted sesame seed oil or coconut oil)
Add stock and noodles. Season with soy sauce and herbs, to taste.
Egg in a Nest
Egg in Nest
Potato (approx. 150g)
1 rasher bacon
half a red pepper
1 spoon red kidney beans
pinch of chilli powder (optional)
half teasp. paprika
peel & dice potato, microwave cook with a little water for 2 minutes on full power
heat a little oil in a pan and fry chopped bacon and onion, add paprika and chilliesadd potato, pepper and beans, mix well
spoon mixture into a bowl, leaving a hollow in the centre
At this point you can cover the owl and take it to work sith you to add the egg and cook for 2 minutes!
break egg into the hollow, pierce skin of yolk with a cocktail stick/folk
cover dish with a plate and microwave cook for approx. 2 minutes until egg white has set
sprinkle with extra paprika
I had a great day at this work place, with groups of workers choosing which recipes they wanted to have a go at, and then trying the different foods. If you would like me to come to your workplace (if in Yorkshire or Derbyshire, UK) please contact me. I would love to hear what healthy food you take to or make at work, and also your experiences of cutting down on sugar. Please comment below.
Unwittingly, I seem to have become part of a national trend. As more of my work is done at my studio at home, I decided I would investigate a new WI group I heard about. And it was just as well I was decisive, as the new local group formed and at its first actual meeting, had to declare itself full with a waiting list. The upper room above a local pub can’t comfortably fit any more! What has been happening in my neighbourhood is going on elsewhere, with a massive influx. In the last year alone 150 new groups have formed and 40,000 new members have joined. The trend is for younger members in urban rather than rural areas.
A traditional image of the WI
The WI is no longer an amusing stereotype. Now it’s a savvy collective quotes Kat Brown in Grazia magazine (11 April issue 571 p57).
There is increasing variety in both the age of WI membership, but also in the range of activities planned. As a Home Economist and textile artist, I have given talks & led workshops at WI meetings in the past, and even been asked to judge the results of a crafting challenge. But each group decides its own programme which may or may not have any traditional activities.
“shake it up” cocktail making at Seven Hills WI in Sheffield
Dubbed the original social network, groups will supplement their usual monthly face to face meetings with both a social media group and other activities such as walking and book discussions as well as invitations to join in with other local group’s activities. This week I was invited to take part in “couch to 5K” running by another local group but I have hurt my toe this weekend…
Having thought traditional hymn singing was in my Methodist past, I was a little shocked at the great enthusiasm for singing the traditional hymn “Jerusalem” which was one of the first things my new WI group voted on! It also has a cooking and preserving summer fruit competition on the programme for September. Read on for more about jam later.
Although there are set arrangements for the formation of WI’s, the programme for each WI can be very different. as groups focus on what their members are interested in. If you are investigating joining one you may need to visit a few before you discover the one that’s right for you. There is no obligation to join when you visit, but you may be asked to pay a small visitors fee and it is worth checking beforehand that there is space for a visitor at any specific meeting.
WI members can belong to more than one WI, by paying the full membership fee of £37.50 a year to the first WI, and a further £18 to any additional WIs. This entitles you to take a full and active part in any additional WIs and have full voting rights on matters relating to your primary WI.
Membership entitles you to eight copies a year of the WI membership magazine, WI Life. This has a mix of articles, a craft project and recipes. I enjoyed browsing my first copy, and booked a holiday through one of the adverts. However, I did feel the advertising generally was aimed at elderly readers. Let’s see if this changes with a younger membership.
The WI has been meeting for over 100 years, following the First World War, the WI was initially sponsored by the government with a mission to help boost food supplies and energise rural areas. But the gatherings proved so popular, it soon took on a life of its own. By 1921 the WI was campaigning for women to serve on juries and as early as 1943 it passed a resolution calling for “equal pay for equal work”.
In the 1990s Calendar Girls reintroduced many to the WI when the tale of a bunch of rural WI members who stripped off for charity was turned into a best-selling book, West End musical and film. As Helen Mirren says in Calendar Girls: ‘‘It’s not just a load of middle-aged women standing mysteriously behind fruitcakes, you know.’’
The image of the organisation has undergone a radical change. As diverse groups focus on what their members are interested in.
In 2010, the WI logo of a tree was deemed to be in need of change ,with the new logo “indicative of the evolution” of the WI. The strap line, `Inspiring women’ has a double meaning indicating that members are both inspired by the WI, and inspiring women in their own right.” said a WI spokesperson in a telegraph article.
The WI Inspiring Women
Jane Robinson, the social historian whose account of the WI, A Force to Be Reckoned With, was published in 2012, is available at Amazon
And if you thought it was just vicars’ wives, ex-headmistresses and housewives who join the WI, think again. There are solicitors, bankers, teachers, women from all walks of life says Helen McGurk’s as she shares her WI experiences in Northern Ireland in More Than Jam and Jerusalem
If you are interested in joining the 212,000-plus membership visit the WI website to find groups near you.
So what about the jam?
I thought I would share my low sugar Strawberry Jam recipe with you:
250g strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 Tablespoon agar flakes
Place a small plate and some metal teaspoons in the freezer
In a small cup, combine agar flakes with lemon juice.
In a large pan combine all ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Bring heat up to a low boil and cook, stirring often, until jam has thickened, about another 20-30 minutes.
Stir in a figure-eight pattern about every minute.
The berries will get glossier looking and feel a bit thicker – you will see the change. Once you feel it’s ready, put a little on one of your frozen spoons and place that spoon back in the freezer for two minutes. Go back and tilt the frozen spoon of jam and if the jam on the spoon is thickened and not running thinly, your jam is done. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Put your jam into small freezable pots. Refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.
Perfect Preserves Workshop
If you want to join me in a preserves workshop (perhaps ready for a preserves competition?!) then please get in touch.
I would love to hear about your experiences of the Women’s Institute, and/or jam making, please comment below