Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Oh Snapz!

Children always seem to want to snack, don't they?  I suppose it's because they are such busy little bees, but my boys always seem to be re-fuelling.  So I am always interested to find out about new snacking options for them; ones that are good for them, or at least not bad for them, and which have a touch more kid-appeal than the usual 'healthy' options seem to.  I received a parcel from Healthy Supplies this morning, containing a selection of the interesting and nutritious goodies stocked on their website.  First on our taste-testing schedule were some Snapz fruit and vegetable crisps... 

Baked, rather than fried, they are still crisp and really rather delicious.  We first tried the beetroot crisps and the carrot & paprika crisps.  It's fairly obvious which is which, huh?  The children were torn as to which they preferred but ultimately Chris liked the beetroot crisps best (as did I); sweet and crunchy as they were, while James preferred the carrot & paprika version.  I found these tasted very strongly of carrot, which would be a big plus for most people (and especially my carrot-addicted children), but I've never been a huge fan of cooked carrots , vastly preferring them raw, so I couldn't eat more than a few.  However, the two types were hugely complimentary when mixed together which was an interesting option, and the paprika added a pleasant piquancy to the earthy-tasting carrots.  We often eat root vegetable crisps as a pre-dinner nibble, but these weren't salty or greasy like some we've tried and tasted so clearly of the vegetables rather than the seasonings alone, that it was a completely new experience

Next,  I suppose, we moved on to 'pudding', and tried some of the apple fruit crisps.  One the left in the picture are the regular Crunchy Apple variety, the Apple & Cinnamon crisps on the right are strongly flavoured with cinnamon.  Rather too much cinnamon for my taste, but the children adored them and were pretty close to licking the dusty scraps out of the bowl after they'd polished the actual apple-slice-crisps off.  The cinnamon-flavoured apple crisps were noticeably thicker, and chewier, than the au naturel version, which were delicious and, somehow tasted even more of apples than do actual untouched apples.  Go figure!  The children rated the selection as follows.
  • #1 Beetroot
  • #2 Apple & Cinnamon
  • #3 Carrot & Paprika
  • #4 Apple
  • #1 Carrot & Paprika
  • #2 Apple & Cinnamon
  • #3 Apple
  • #4 Beetroot

As for me?  I preferred the beetroot and the carrot & paprika crisps when they were mixed together as a savoury option.  I wouldn't choose to eat the apple & cinnamon crisps again, but I might nibble on the odd pack of the plain apple crisps in the future.  I can see these finding a home in lunchboxes for school trips and the like in the future.

Cath xx


Saturday, 5 March 2011

Saturday Salads

How to get children to enjoy salads? To get them, regularly, actually asking clamouring for them to be served for lunch? The answer, I find, is relatively simple... crunchy bits!

The first lunchtime salad I regularly serve is this simple hard cheese salad.  Known as 'lunchbox salad' by me, this is the little salad that my Mum used to pop in for me if ever I needed a packed lunch for school. Shredded Little Gem lettuce (rather than the original Iceberg), diced celery and grated carrot are combined with a bit of grated cheese (strong cheddar for Chris, 'Special Reserve' Red Leicester for JD, who is clearly becoming a food snob!) and a scattering of salted peanuts.  Obviously, times have moved on and heads would surely spin, were I to attempt to send this peanut-studded salad into school with my kids so we eat it with nuts at home, with croûtons for school trips and the like.

Croûtons are another easy way to add crunch to a salad, but don't forget some of the things that you can easily buy and stash in the cupboard for quick salad-bar assemblies.  Bacos, or similar bacon crumbles are great with this easy blue cheese salad dressing, again served simply over some shredded leaves (usually Gem or Romaine).  You can also get some rather addicting little fried onion shreds which are divine in a salad of this sort.  They're called 'Onion Crispies', but 'crispy' is such an idiotic word that we'll quickly gloss over that fact...

Blue Cheese Dressing

25g blue cheese, crumbled (I usually use Danish Blue, but anything goes!)
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp crème fraîche

Gently heat the crème fraîche and the vinegar with the crumbled cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted.  Taste it and add a dash of pepper if you like.  You probably won't want any salt, but you may want a dot more vinegar or crème fraîche.  This is also rather lovely as a dip, especially with leftover chicken strip from fajitas (naughty, naughty!).
Cath xx

Friday, 4 March 2011

Making the Mustard

Just before Christmas I made a massive batch of wholegrain mustard to form part of my Christmas gifts for family and friends.  Today I needed to make another batch, as the last jar that we have in stock now has only a mere scrape left in the bottom.  Making your own mustard really is so easy and extremely rewarding. I give you, below, the basic blueprint for my mustards - I have made wine mustards, beer mustards, cider mustards and now a sherry mustard using this basic recipe; all have been successful and delicious.  Try to look out for a wholefood shop or market stall that will sell the mustard seeds 'loose', those little supermarket jars can work out very expensive indeed!

Homemade Wholegrain Mustard

Use a vinegar that corresponds to the other liquid you want to use; i.e. sherry vinegar and sherry for a sherry mustard.  If you want to make a beer mustard, use a cider vinegar and switch the quantities (i.e. 200ml good beer and 100ml vinegar).  I suggest using a malt extract instead of the sugar or honey in this case.

100g brown mustard seeds
100g yellow mustard seeds
200ml vinegar (and see above)
1 tbsp English mustard powder
100ml beer/cider/wine/sherry
1 tbsp soft brown sugar or honey
1 dsp (2 tsp) salt

Either whizz the mustard seeds in a processor/blender, or bash them up in a pestle and mortar.  You don't need to reduce the seeds to a powder, just crack them a bit.  Put the seeds into a bowl, stir in the mustard powder, sugar and salt and pour over the liquid ingredients. Leave to soak for a couple of hours or until the mixture has thickened slightly.  Pot in small sterilised jars and keep in the cupboard for a couple of weeks to let the flavours fully develop.  See how easy?

Cath xx


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