Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Degustabox July'18

What a summer it has been so far, with a what felt like a never-ending heatwave, then thunderstorms, and a promise of more heat to come with a dreaded 38C later in August. Count me out!
On a positive note, you can enjoy eating outdoors - just head to the park or spread a big rug in the backyard.
There are quite a few picnic-geared foods and drinks in July's food selection from Degustabox.
This food box arrives every month and is full of foodie surprises. This monthly food and drink subscription box is an excellent way to discover products which have only just appeared in the shops or those which might have been around for while, but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.
Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Each time the box arrives, it's a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks.
If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet and would like to have a go, I have a whopping £7 off discount from your first box (and you can unsubscribe any time) - just use a code 8EVI8 when you place an order.
What did we receive in the July Degustabox? Let's have a look.

It happened to be a selection of old family favourites (like Heinz Salad Cream and Cadbury Milk chocolate) to new names and products.

Heinz Salad Cream is a national institution, and doesn't need any introductions. It's been a must-have ingredient in lunchboxes and picnic hampers across the UK for a century. It still has the same zingy taste, which makes it one of the country's best-loved sauces.

salad sauce

Last week I used it to make a simple potato, cucumber and prawn salad, with hard-boiled eggs and fresh dill. Salad cream combines all the flavours together, and helps make a lovely summer salad.

easy summer salad

Capsicana Latin Flavour is selected as Product of the month in July.
Capsicana have extended their inspiring Latin American range by adding some seasoning mixes.
We received a Brazilian Smoked Paprika & Spices Seasoning Mix (£1) and a Mexican Guacamole Mix (£0.65).

If you are a vegetarian, and are not sure what to do with a Brazilian seasoning mix for beef or chicken, here is one of the possible ideas - cook a whole roasted cauliflower under a crust of spices with Greek style yogurt. It is a delicious vegetable dish, and I'll surely make it again, as it got thumbs up from everyone.

We haven't yet opened the Mexican guacamole mix, but as we all love guacamole, I am going to try it very soon.

Miso Tasty Mugi Barley Miso Soup (£3.75) is made from fermented barley and soybeans. It has a light but hearty flavour. The mushrooms add a sweet, earthy taste and are packed separately to keep miso fresh and mushrooms flavoursome.

miso soup

I buy Miso Tasty, it's always handy to have one of the sachets in the pantry for a quick meal.
If you cooked a roast chicken, you can make a super tasty soup with leftover chicken and miso paste - just check out my old post for Chicken leftovers miso soup.

Pulsin as a brand is well known for its health credentials. It's a range of gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan-friendly products. If you're looking for a boost of protein, help yourself to Pulsin Salted Caramel Raw Choc Brownie (£1.59). It's  crafted with finest natural ingredients and contains 6.5g of plant based protein.
Nutritional info: 215kcal and 11.8g of sugar per 50g bar.
It's gluten free, dairy free, soya free and vegan. Ingredients include peanuts, dates, chicory fibre, sweetener, cacao powder, brown rice bran, cacao butter, concentrated grape juice, rice starch, rice protein, natural flavouring, sea salt and green tea extract.
It is a small-size bar, and is handy to carry around for when you are travelling and feeling peckish. I'm going to take it with me when I'm having a long journey to Cornwall later in summer.

vegan snacks

London Flavours crisps (£0.95 each) are premium crisps made with 100% British potatoes. There are four flavours to choose from, and the subscribers will receive two of the flavours. We've got Cheddar & Onion and Lightly Salted packs.
These crisps are gluten free, GMO free, suitable for vegetarians, free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, no added MSG
Nutritional information: 207kcal per 40g pack.
I haven't had a chance to try it, as my teen has polished both packs.

premium crisps

Another snack in the latest selection is Peckish Cheese Trays (£1.59). These are thin, light and crispy snacks made of rice and full of flavour. They are baked, not fried, gluten free and under 100kcal per portion.
They are great for parties.

Rowntrees 30% less sugar Fruit Pastilles (£1.29) are another British classic, which have been modernised.
They contain no artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours or preservatives, and are made with 30% less sugar.
Nutritional info: 117kcal and 14g per serving of 12 sweets (for an adult).
Now you can enjoy your favourite sweets with the flavours you love but with less sugar.

Now moving onto the drinks selection, and aren't we spoilt for choice this month?!
Guess which drink we tried first? Yes, it was Cadbury Highlights Milk Chocolate (£2.99).

Who can say No to a mug of hot steamy hot chocolate topped up with whipped cream and marshmallows? If you can, then I applaud your willpower.
Cadbury Highlights Milk Chocolate has the smooth chocolatey taste of Cadbury, but with only 38kcal per cup. I suppose adding cream and marshmallows defies the purpose, but life is brighter with little treats.

Ribena Sparkling (£2.70 each) is a grown up twist on a classic, this time with bubbles included.
Available in two delicious flavours - Blackcurrant, and Pineapple & Passionfruit. This refreshing drink comes at less than 15kcal per bottle.

Rosie's Pig Flat Tyre (£2) is a modern cider. Made with Herefordshire apples, this sweet cider is lightly sparkling. The fruity taste is paired with a tart note from rhubarb juice.

Percol Iced Coffee (£1.50) is perfect for the hot summer. Made with the best coffee 100% Arabica beans, it is Fairtrade and Organic. Drink cold, straight from the fridge, with ice cubes or without.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Spicy roasted cauliflower

spicy vegetarian side dish

For me a humble cauliflower is one of the vegetables which deserves a special place. It is delicious, full of bite and versatile. I'm not very keen on the cauliflower rice though, I've tried it once, and was left unimpressed.
But anything else cooked with this vegetable is a winner in my books, be it a cauliflower cheese drowning in rich sauce (give it to me any time), or cauli creamed soup, pakoras or fritters.

Roasted cauliflower has a concentrated flavour, and a touch of sweetness.

Spicy roasted cauliflower
3tbsp Capsicana Latin Flavour Brazilian Paprika & Spices seasoning mix
2tbsp coconut oil
2tbsp Greek yogurt
1tsp honey
1tbsp lemon juice
1 medium cauliflower

 Capsicana Latin Flavour Brazilian Paprika & Spices seasoning mix was one of the products from the latest Degustabox. This spice mix, made with chilli, paprika, smoked paprika, black pepper and herbs (parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, bay) as well as salt, dried garlic and onion and red peppers, is ideal for BBQed meat, like beef and chicken.
It contains no artificial colourings or flavourings, it's suitable for vegetarians, non-GM and gluten free.
One small pack of 28g serves 4. I used about a half of the packet.

Since my husband decided earlier this year that he wouldn't eat meat any longer, I have to be more creative with vegetable dishes.
I thought this spice mix would work nicely with a cauliflower.

First make a thick paste from the seasoning mix, coconut oil, Greek yogurt, honey and lemon juice.
I used a turmeric-flavoured coconut oil, but a standard coconut oil will be another option.
For a vegan version use a dairy-free yogurt.

The paste doesn't look very appetising, in fact, it looks like mud, but don't be alarmed, it is very flavourful.

Spread it all over a cauliflower head, and place in a roasting dish. Put the dish in the oven preheated to 180C.

Roast for 20 minutes, then cover loosely with foil, and roast for another hour and 10-15 minutes at 180C. Check if it's all cooked through and soft with a wooden toothpick.

The paste will make a nice spicy crust over the cauliflower. If you like your food hot and spicy, just slice the cauli with the crust on. If you are a wimp like me, remove the crust. The flavours will all be there, in the cauliflower, but without a big heat.
If you like it really hot, cook the cauliflower sliced into big steaks, smothered with the paste, and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

You might want to add a big dollop of Greek style yogurt on the side.

easy vegetarian meals

The roasted cauliflower is very tasty, soft and melting in the mouth. The Brazilian spice mix works perfectly well with this vegetable.

I served it as a side dish to roast salmon.

vegetable side dish

For a vegetarian dinner, it will be great with vegetarian sausages or curry. For meat-eaters, this spicy cauliflower would be a delicious side dish to go with chicken or chilli meatballs.

dinner ideas

vegetarian side dish

Do you like cauliflower? What dishes do you cook with it?

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Photo diary: week 30, project 365

The last week of school was pretty hectic. We waved our schools good bye on Wednesday. The summer holidays have officially started, with the temperatures rising over 32C. Thursday was totally unbearable, it was so hot, I felt like walking through a warm soup.

Sunday was much anticipated by Eddie, who had his birthday party at The Shake Shop. His birthday was later in the week, but we didn't dare hosting a party once the holidays began, and people would be going away. Even that, we had a couple of last minute cancellations.
Despite that, Eddie had a wonderful time. His friends and he had a full run of the shop after the cafe was closed to the public. They had milkshakes, they danced, they played Beanboozled fortune wheel game and had a go at the vintage penny arcade.

On Monday I was frantically wrapping up gifts for teachers. I bought red-striped Cornishware as gifts (and the little teapot and the milk jug are a treat for me).

red stripes

On Tuesday Sash was staying overnight at his residential place, and my husband and I took Eddie out to Pizza Express as a birthday outing. We're like a Royal family, spreading the celebrations.
We were sitting in the walled courtyard, and I tried a new cocktail, with prosecco, elderflower syrup and mint.
I should have ordered a pizza, just like my guys, but I opted for a Salad Nicoise, and it was a mistake. It was clearly made with cheap tinned tuna, and no green beans in sight.

My assorted tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing pretty well, they must like the heat, though I do have to water them daily.

Thursday was unbearably hot. I only left the house to water the potted plants outside the kitchen, and saw this poor bee which clearly suffered from the heat too. I wrote about it the other day, that I first thought it might be dead, as it wasn't moving at all.
I had to revive it a bit with fresh water, and off it went.

Eddie is a big fan of Bear Snacks, especially the Yo Yos, and has a big stash of cards which come with the fruit snacks. It was his idea to lie down and cover himself with cards.

Isn't it typical - you wait for the rain to come for weeks and weeks, and then it arrives on the night of the Blood Moon. We kept poking out in the garden to try to spot it, but fat chance, the sky was completely covered with the dark menacing rainclouds, so we missed our chance to observe this unique natural phenomenon. Did you happen to see it?
This evening's sky is not as dramatic, but still the Moon is in hiding.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Anything-goes cookies for the first day of summer holidays

easy cookies

Today is officially the first day of summer holidays. We said Good bye to teachers yesterday. For Sasha it was not just the last day of the academic year, it was the end of the era.
Springfield school was a big part of our lives for many years, and it was our family too. I am forever grateful to many teachers and TAs who are most kind and committed people.

Eddie also said Good bye to his teacher who's off to travel and work in Australia.

With the temperatures up to 32C this afternoon, I am glad I didn't have to do a school run, or go out into the heat. I only poked out for a few minutes to check out my potted plants.
One of the bees seemed to be suffering from the heatstroke. It was sitting, head-down on the lavender, and not moving. I touched it lightly, and it moved, so not dead then. I went back into the house and got some water in a flat seashell (it's one of those supermarket seashells from some seafood starter), and left the shell by the lavender. I also sprinkled a bit on the lavender with the bee.
Soon it was gone, hopefully revived.

garden wild life

Why anything-goes cookies? I wasn't sure what to call them, as a few odds and ends went into the cookie dough. As a base I used a formula for choc chip cookies which I bake regularly.
I had a small amount of cornflakes, those that are left at the bottom, and look more like crumbs and dust. And then there's granola, which I bought for my husband, and he decided he didn't fancy it any longer. I've been using a little bit at a time, blitzing it in the food processor and adding to cookie dough, It's a cinnamon apple granola with nuts, but any granola would work in this recipe.

You will need:

90g caster sugar
100g margarine (I used Flora)
50g oats
20g cornflakes
25g granola
150g+ flour
1 medium egg
50g milk chocolate

You can use any kind of chocolate in this recipe, milk or dark. I add whichever chocolate bar is available in the kitchen, from Menier cooking chocolate, milk or dark, to Sainsbury's Basics milk chocolate, so you can make it as budget as you like.

Cream the margarine with sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, oats, blitzed cornflakes and granola and the beaten egg, plus the chopped chocolate, mix well, forming the dough. Knead lightly on a slightly floured surface, pinch dough balls the size of big walnuts, roll them, then flatten and place them on the trays lined with parchment paper or foil and bake for max 12 minutes minutes until golden at 180C. Don't overcook, they are still very soft when you take them out.

easy cookies

Be creative. If you don't have any granola or cornflakes, maybe you have muesli, any kind will do, with nuts or berries. Sometimes I add blitzed nuts like peanuts or almonds, or a drop of vanilla essence. Oats add a chewy note, as well as texture. Again, vary the amount and ratio of oats to flour.

what to do with leftover granola or muesli

These cookies are very easy to make, and take almost no time. If you have unexpected guests, or just feeling like having a warm cookie with a cup of tea, then you can't go wrong with these cookies.

what to do with leftover granola

Cornishware red stripes

Adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout linky hosted by Cheryl at Madhouse Family Reviews, where you can get lots of creative ideas on what to do with leftovers and all the odds that need using up in the kitchen.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Photo diary: week 29, project 365

Another week flew by - whoosh - and I'm feeling like I am never able to catch up my breath. Too many things happening, too many responsibilities and tasks... On top of that, my Mum is not feeling well, and had to cancel her trip to visit us in August. I'm keeping fingers crossed that she would be well enough to travel in autumn.
Had a depressing meeting with the psychiatrist's team, and all they do is offer medication which has way too many side effects. Of course, as a parent you take decisions for your children, but when the medication they offer is mind-altering, I feel like they want to change my son's personality.
It's like an equivalent of the old Victorian asylums - put a straight-jacket on him to keep him quiet, only it's the medication which works as a straight-jacket.

Last Sunday we played most of the day with the latest construction set called Gravitrax (see my post).

The purple phloxes are almost all gone now, so I treated myself to a pot of pink phloxes. They have such a lovely scent.

Three years ago my Mum planted this hollyhock in my garden. For two years it didn't bloom at all, this year it was struggling with snails who would happily eat any flower. When a few days ago the hollyhock opened its first bloom, I couldn't believe it was finally flowering. I didn't know what colour it was supposed to be, and Mum didn't remember either.

I needed to discuss a few things with my husband, so we had a quick coffee just after taking kids to school. As always, I only admired the cakes display, but had a latte without any food. It's just I don't fancy a cake in the morning.

The pale Moon in the early evening.

I was just starting to cook dinner, when the sky has gone overcast. I looked up with hope at the dark clouds. The garden has gone completely parched in the last few weeks of an uninterrupted heat. And then the blessed rain has arrived, first hesitant, then in a good shower.

Saturday: We're just back home; went to the swimming pool earlier today, with both boys, then off to Sainsbury's to buy a cake for Eddie's birthday party tomorrow and had a quick lunch in Sainsbury's cafe. We actually ended up getting two cakes, one Pokemon-themed for the party, and a tray of chocolate cake cubes for the church.
Tomorrow will be a hectic day, what, with the party in the afternoon, and getting the gifts for teachers ready for the next week. Since it's Sasha's last few days in his current school, I wanted to get some nice gifts for his teachers who often went an extra mile and who showed him much love and great understanding.
I feel too tired after the pool, and am practically falling asleep. I think I need a coffee to stay awake until it is a proper bedtime.

Here is my funny guy, pretending to be a mannequin.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

New foodie discoveries - Dairy edition

In the last few years dairy has been getting a bad rap. Celebs and health food gurus proclaim dairy is not good for you and wear their plant-based credentials as a badge of honour.
The research on dairy is constantly going back and forth, with theories in favour of dairy or against it. I respect anyone's decision to stop drinking and eating dairy for whatever reason (health or ethical), but I am against virtue signalling and psychological manipulation that comes from certain quarters of the so called clean eaters.
The plant-based business is exploding with choices, and kudos to everyone who makes it happen.

Yet the dairy farming has been part of agriculture for more than 7,000 years, and won't disappear any time soon. If anything, the selection of dairy products is expanding.
I'm particularly impressed with the latest additions from around the world, and wanted to show some of the best new dairy products on the market.

Danone Lassi (inspired by India) (£1.50 in Ocado) is a sweet and refreshing drink. It's not as sour as kefir. Quite high in sugar - 19.8g per pot. Made with skimmed milk, water, sugar (5%), cream, natural flavouring and live cultures, it tastes lovely, but I do wish there was less sugar.
In fact my favourite lassi is a salty variety.

dairy products

Indian dairy products

Danone Ayran (inspired by Turkey) (£1.50 in Ocado) is a savoury fermented milk drink. Perfect for hot weather, it is refreshing, with a clean taste. It is like a mix of yogurt and buttermilk, with a mild level of acidity.
It is made with milk, water, cream, salt, live cultures, and that's it. There is a subtle hint of salt, which gives it a unique flavour. Add a sprig of mint, or a slice of lemon, for a tasty aperitif on a hot summer day. You can enjoy it with any meal.
88kcal and 7.3g of sugar per 250ml pot.

fermented milk drink

And my top favourite from The Danone of the world range is Straggisto (inspired by Greece) (£1 in Ocado). It is a wonderfully creamy thick yogurt. It's a mix of milk, cream and live cultures.  130kcal per 140g pot.
Very moreish, it is great on its own, or with a drizzle of dark Greek honey.

It is perfect for breakfast, or as an afternoon treat. A little gem.

I believe there are other products in the Danone of the World range, but I haven't tried them.

Granarolo Formaggio Croccante Cotto al Forno (96p in Waitrose) or Oven Baked Cheese Snack - are crispy bites of mature hard cheese for snacking and eating in salads, and soups.
Made with 100% Italian aged cheese, this snack has a high protein content - 11g per 24g bag.
Nutritional values: 572kcal per 100g or 137kcal per bag
These snacks are gluten free, lactose free, vegetarian.

Italian cheese snacks, healthy snacks, lunchbox ideas

Italian cheese snacks

Granarolo Oven Baked Cheese Snack Pizza (96p in Waitrose) is made with 100% Italian aged cheese. It's gluten free, lactose free and vegetarian, great for snacking, in salads and soups.
These crunchy cheese snacks are so good, it's hard to stop at one or two pieces.
A small 24g bag comes at 140.6kcal. High protein content - 11g per bag.

Italian cheese snacks

I opened a small bag just to sample it, and haven't even noticed that I ate the cheese bites all on my own, oups.

lunchbox snack ideas

Another Italian brand which produces quality dairy products is Galbani. Its mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone and other cheeses are a big part of the Italian diet. I often buy Galbani products, and was pleased to see the latest addition to its range - Galbani Freschetto Classico with olive oil (found in Waitrose recently for £1.50).

Italian soft cheese

This medium fat soft cheese with olive oil is delicious. It's great on crackers or fresh crusty bread, and will be lovely added to any cheese pasta sauce. This soft cheese is actually produced in France, which was a surprise, as I thought all Galbani products were Italian.
Nutritional values: 280kcal per 100g

best soft cheese, Italian soft cheese

Nestle La Laitiѐre le Petit Pot de Crѐme Saveur Pistache (4 pots x 100g at £2.80 in Waitrose) is a baked milk dessert with eggs and pistachio flavour. Made in France.
Nutritional info: 184kcal per portion.
Very delicate, and not too sweet, lovely flavour.

French dessert

Jazz it up with roasted and crushed pistachios and serve as a dessert for a posh dinner.

French dessert

Nestle La Laitière Crème aux Ouefs Saveur Vanille - Baked milk dessert with egg and vanilla flavour (£2.80 in Waitrose)- is made from whole milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
Nutritional information: 174kcal and 17g of sugar per 100g pot.
Creamy, rich and delicate in texture, it tastes like creme brûlèe without the sugar crust.

baked egg dessert

French-style dessert

Kefir is very popular in Russia and many other Eastern European countries, and has been enjoyed around the world for over two thousand years. but until recently it was hardly known here, in the UK. In the last couple of years though it is gaining the recognition it deserves.
The Collective Great Dairy offers three flavours of kefir. Mango'n'turmeric Kefir (£2.50 in Sainsbury's) is a cultured milk drink, with 13 different strains of live cultures. It is quite similar to a mango lassi - sweet and refreshing, with a mild note of turmeric which also adds a beautiful colour.
Nutritional info: 129kcl and 15.2g of sugar per serve (250ml)
It is a source of protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B12.

fermented milk drink

One more kefir which deserves a special mention is Bio-tiful Dairy Kefir/Honey & Mint.
I have already written about this brand in the past - see my posts Cultured milk drinks from Bio-tiful dairy and New Food discoveries (July 2017).

fermented milk products

Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd uses authentic natural recipes to create an excellent range of organic cultured milk drinks.
I often buy the produce of Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd, and can say that it is excellent. The quality of ingredients and sustainable production process speak for themselves.
Bio-tiful Kefir Honey & Mint (£1.60 in Sainsbury's) is a pure delight. Mildly sweet, with a crisp note of mint, it is very tasty and refreshing. I have tried most flavours of Bio-tiful kefir and smoothies, and I think I found my new favourite.
Nutritional values: 159kcal and 14.8g of sugar per 250ml bottle. It's a good source of vitamins B2 and B12, calcium, phosphorus and zinc.
I would also love to try a mint kefir with salt, as a base for summer soups.

best fermented milk products in UK

And that's it, my top ten dairy discoveries of the summer.

Is there a dairy product you have come across recently that you love and would recommend?