Wednesday 24 February 2016

Homemade granola - a tasty and simple breakfast

I'm going to level with you - I'm the kind of girl who would rather have a bowl of Ben & Jerry's than a handful of grapes. I have always had a sweet tooth and growing up, my family would always have a pudding after dinner so I got used to having that sugar kick every day. Now, it's not easy to kick the sugary unhealthy habit so I've been looking for ways to still satisfy my sweet tooth without the overwhelming feelings of guilt afterwards.

I'm a relative rookie when it comes to complex nutrition and health but what I have learned is that although I may have thought it was a healthy choice opting for a bowl of shop bought granola in the morning rather than a pain au chocolat, there was actually added sugar in my granola that I didn't even consider would be there. I mean, why would I? It's granola - just some toasted oats and sultanas, right? Hmmm...apparently not. So anyway, I decided to have a look at making my own so I know exactly what was going into it. Turns out it's just as simple as walking/driving to the shops and buying a bag pre-made.

It's a very versatile recipe so you really can tailor it to your own taste; don't like pumpkin seeds? Add some sunflower seeds instead. Don't like almonds? Add some hazelnuts instead. Easy peasy.

What you'll need:

  • 3 cups raw oats 
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries/apricots
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil/hazelnut oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp salt
How to make it:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (fan) 
  2. In a bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, hazelnuts, cinnamon, almonds, nutmeg and salt - give all those ingredients a good stir
  3. Add the oil and maple syrup/honey and stir the ingredients again to combine well 
  4. Tip the contents of the bowl onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and make sure you have an even layer
  5. Pop the tray in the oven for 22 minutes
  6. Take the tray out and let the granola cool completely
  7. Add the raisins and the cranberries/apricots and stir once more to combine well
It is best to store the granola in an air-tight container and it will keep nice and crispy for about a week.

I love to have this as my breakfast after a good, sweaty plyometrics workout! It is best served with natural fat free yoghurt, fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup on the top.

Enjoy folks! Let me know what you think - and tell me about any variations on this recipe you may have! - you can tweet me or follow me on Google+

R x

Tuesday 16 February 2016

One pot "leave it alone" Spanish meatball stew

Difficulty: Easy-peasy
Serves: 2
Prep Time: 15 – 20mins
Cooking Time: 1hr – 1hr 15mins (just leave it alone in the oven to cook)

I love anything that comes in a gorgeous rich tomato sauce and this is one of my go-to dishes for an easy weeknight meal. This really is so quick and easy to prepare and some of the best bits about it for me are that you can tailor make the dish to your specific tastes (more chorizo anyone?), serve it with anything from pasta to potatoes and after the 15 minutes of preparation, you get to relax for an hour with a glass of red whilst this lovely meatball stew does its thing in the oven.

What you’ll need:
  • 1 x heavy bottomed hob-safe and oven-safe casserole dish (use at least a 20cm diameter dish) 
  • 6 Pork meatballs - you can either buy the meatballs pre-made or make them yourself out of a pack of 250g mince (to be honest any meat works well for this dish so if you want a bit of a leaner meat, opt for turkey mince)
    • If you're making your own meatballs, all you need to do is tip the mince into a bowl, add some salt, pepper and any other seasonings you fancy – I think that paprika and a bit of sage work really well with this dish - and shape the mince into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball 
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour), diced
  • 1 stick of celery, sliced
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • 1 x 215g tin butter beans (drain the beans before you add them to the stew)
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Vegetable stock from 1 stock cube - use the leftover chopped tomatoes can to mix the stock in to save on the washing up!
  • About 1/5 of a 225g chorizo ring, roughly diced (remove chorizo casing before adding to stew!)
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp sage (dried or fresh)
  • 2 tsp basil (dried or fresh)
  • Salt and pepper to season
How to cook it:
1.       Spray a hob-safe and oven safe casserole with Fry-Light or an equivalent low-cal spray and add the chopped onion, garlic and chilli. Cook on a medium heat for about 5 mins until the onion starts to become translucent.

2.       Next add the meatballs and the chorizo – these will take perhaps another couple of minutes just to brown a little bit.

3.       Then add your vegetables; so that’s the courgette, pepper and celery, and also add the tin of butter beans. Give all that a stir.

4.       Tip the chopped tomatoes in and then pop the vegetable stock cube into the empty tin. Add boiling water to the top and stir to dissolve the stock cube (this neat little tip saves on the washing up and also gets all the lovely tomato juice off the side of the can – CAREFUL; THE CAN WILL BE RED HOT! So handle with a tea towel to tip the stock in. Give all that another stir to combine everything.

5.       Finally, add the tomato puree, paprika, sage, basil, salt and pepper – give it one final good stir and put the lid of the casserole on.

6.       Place in the oven for 30 minutes, then take the casserole lid off and leave for another 30 minutes. This dish stays really hot in the oven for about 15-20 minutes after it has cooked so don’t worry about having to take it out and serve it as soon as an hour passes. It does the dish good to relax a little and allow the flavours to combine post-cooking time.

I like to serve this with a nice glass of red Australian Shiraz (I recently made this dish and enjoyed a glass of Bleasdale Bremerview Shiraz 2012 with it – perfectly complimented the flavours of the paprika and tomatoes!)

There you have it! Please have a go at this recipe; it really couldn’t be easier. You can also add or take away the amount of chilli/garlic etc you use to make it suit your taste better.

Enjoy folks, and please comment to let me know what you think and subscribe to my blog

R x

Sunday 14 February 2016

As Warm As Toast - A preface

So this is the first post on my new blog. I can't say I know a lot about blogging our indeed how to reach many people but I'm hoping that with time I will. So with this learn as I go attitude, I decided to write my first post as a bit of an introduction.

Ultimately As Warm As Toast will be a food blog with little stories about where the recipes I choose have come from and there will also be a feature on what wine I would recommend for my "weekend recipes" and little stories about the walks that Adam (husband), Jess (pooch) and I go on most weekends in case you want to get out there and try one of our walks yourself. Of course, sustenance is required during and after each walk so there will obviously be a recipe post ready for a relaxed Saturday/Sunday afternoon which will be the dinner I cook on returning from one of our rambles.

My recipes will mostly have a traditional and classic feel, inspired by my country upbringing and family recipes. So all I can say is watch this space, my first recipe post is on its way. For now though, I have a 6 Nations England vs Italy rugby game to watch...

And if you're interested you can find out a bit more about me and my interests from my Google+ page Ruth Joesbury or my twitter page @ruthjoesbury