A different Sunday dinner

Today I was feeling a little adventurous, I really wanted something nice but different from the usual things (pasta mostly!) I end up cooking.

The solution, as always, came from Pinterest (if you’re not on it yet, you really ought to, though it can be quite addictive and time consuming!). I have a few recipes pinned on my food board that I really like but rarely make, or have never tried, so it’s always a nice source of inspiration.

Tonight I ended up making a very odd combination of jacket potatoes with cheese and a lentil bolognese sauce (low fat, healthy and cheap, what else could a girl want?), with a side of baked courgette chips (purely so that I didn’t have to put the oven on just for the potatoes, it feels like a bit of a waste) and a superhealthy raw carrot cake, from the same lovely lady who introduced me to the wonderful world of raw chocolate brownies.

Unfortunately, as it was quite a hands-on dinner to make and the children were keeping me on my toes (you try to stop a fight while your fingers are coated in a messy eggy breadcrumb mixture!) I didn’t get round to taking any pictures of the work in progress, but just the finished result. The cake looks much better than in the photo and I’m secretly quite pleased that my daughter wasn’t too keen on it – more for me tomorrow! And I’m also very happy that for once everything went according to plan, often when I try out new recipes or ones I’m not familiar with I end up doing something wrong and mess it up.

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Have you made any adventurous meal lately? How did it turn out? Or do you prefer to stick to a good old roast on a Sunday, be it homemade or eaten out?

Ode to vinegar

Apple cider vinegarI love cider vinegar. If you’d told me a few years ago that I would have bottles of vinegar scattered throughout my house (4 different types nonetheless) I would have told you you were barking mad. But here I am, hardcore vinegar lover, I guess I’m getting quite ‘crunchy’.

Now, not all vinegar is the same. I like to use apple cider vinegar for health and beauty and cheap white distilled vinegar for cleaning, it’s by far my favourite household cleaning product. What’s the main advantage of using vinegar? For a start, it’s a natural product made by fermenting apple juice into cider which is then fermented again into vinegar, so using it cuts down on the amount of other chemicals that you’d reach for otherwise. It’s also cheaper than many commercial cleaning products yet works just as well and it’s so versatile it feels there’s nothing it can’t be used for!  Here are some of my favourite uses.

Hair rinse
Say what? Putting vinegar on my hair? But I don’t want to smell like a fish and chips shop! – fret not, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and I promise your hair won’t smell funny. Put about one or two tablespoons of vinegar in an old bottle and fill half of it with water, then pour over your hair either after shampooing or after using your conditioner. It gives hair a lovely shine, more volume and really helps detangle it.

Multi purpose cleaner 
I have a couple of spray bottles that I use for this, one is straight vinegar and one is about a third vinegar and two thirds water, I tend to use the diluted one more and save the straight one for really tougher jobs. Vinegar kills bacteria, mould and germs, and it’s great in the kitchen – no need to worry about nasty chemicals coming in contact with food. Again, I know the smell can be off putting for some people so here’s a quick tip: soak lemon and orange peels with vinegar in a jar for a week or two, then strain into a spray bottle and add sweet orange essential oil to it (I just always have a jar soaking ready for when I finish the vinegar I’m using). The smell gets quite pleasant that way. Also, this is THE best thing to use glass, great for windows too, wipe off with newspaper and you’ll never go back! There is really no end to the uses for this.

Drink it!
Ok, I haven’t actually tried this yet, but apparently drinking small amount (a tablespoon or so) every day has numerous health benefits. It can help lower the risk of thrush, as it contains small amounts of probiotics, aid weight loss (for example, look at this study!), improve skin blemishes and tone and some studies show that it may help reduce the rate of growth of cancer cells. It’s worth a try, right? You can either take it straight, if you’re brave, or mix it it in water with some honey or fruit juice. I shall try it from tomorrow and see what happens!

Apparently it can also help with digestion, heartburn (yes, really), wind and constipation, I don’t suffer badly from any of these but it will be interesting to see if there’s a change. One word of caution though: it could interact with certain medications so do check first if you are taking anything.

Do you use vinegar? What are your favourite uses? Do you or would you any of these? Or do you, like my husband, absolutely hate anything that remotely smells like vinegar?

 

 

Raw chocolate brownies – you MUST try these!

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m not trying to completely avoid any added refined sugar – and by that I mean sugar that has been extracted or processed and that isn’t in its natural form anymore.

I’ve been sugar-free for almost 3 months now and I feel much better for it, my moods have improved, I have far more energy and the weight has been slowly but surely coming off, and trust me when I say that I’m in no way controlling my portions, I always end up finishing my daughter’s dinners and putting lashings of oil or butter on anything! We’re a fat friendly house and I most certainly don’t count calories.

Ingredients readyBut I didn’t know all this when I first started, all I knew was that I really, really liked chocolate and I wasn’t quite ready to face a chocolate-free life. And this is when I found The Rawtarian’s website and so so glad I did. She has many raw vegan recipes, including an amazing raw cheesecake recipe, raw chocolate truffles for when I’m in need of a quick fix and, above, the awesome raw chocolate brownies. I swear, every single person who’s tried them has loved them and I’ve been asked for the recipe many times, so if you’re trying to go sugar-free or just have a healthier alternative to regular brownies, you should really add these to your to-do list.

The recipe is as easy as it gets:
– one cup of pecans (I added some cashews too)
– one cup of dates
– 5 tablespoons of raw cacao (I use regular cocoa powder)
– 4 tablespoons of dessicated coconut
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– pinch of sea salt

I throw it all in the blender at once though Laura-Jane @ the Rawtarian suggests blending the pecans first, then the dates, then adding the rest of the ingredients. Blend until it’s fluffy, but don’t overblend it or the natural oils will separate, I talk from experience!

All in the blender  IMGP1873

Press down into a pan (she says with clean hands, which makes me giggle – of course you’d use clean hands! And if you didn’t you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t really care anyway) and put in the fridge for a few hours to set, unless you’re greedy and impatient like us and end up eating it almost immediately. Then cut into squares just like you would with regular brownies and stuff your face serve.

Raw chocolate brownies

I really recommend topping them with her raw chocolate icing too, it’s delicious and you wonder how they only have healthy ingredients, they taste too naughty to be so good. I only make it on special occasions, purely because my toddler is crazy about these and the icing can get quite messy in small clumsy hands.