The tale of the wardrobe rediscovering and the healthy granola!

It’s no secret that Ben & I enjoy our food. Enjoy our food so much that we have gone up through the clothes sizes through our years of having a shop! Well we are trying to continue enjoying our food, just in a manner that allows us to dig back out some of those forgotten back of the wardrobe numbers and bring them back into daily wearing territory! One massive factor for us, to help with shedding a few pounds is cutting out (or severely cutting down) the sugar. So people will say ‘you sell cakes for a living and now you are talking of cutting out sugar?!’ Well, yes. Because if you have a piece of cake, you know it’s got sugar in it and you KNOW it’s a treat. If you have a bowl of cereal, a can of soup, a cooking sauce of a loaf of bread; the sugar in there is hidden! You don’t realise you are having it and you definitely don’t consider these things a treat. This is the sugar we are going after! I’m convinced that by cutting out or down the sugar in these day to day foods, you can still eat the same meals, to the same or even greater enjoyment! When I have bought a tin of soup and seen sugar in the ingredients and then made a homemade soup, I have an overwhelming sense of amazement that the manufacturers ever feel the need to put sugar in that! So home-making everything is definitely the way forward. We do this a lot anyway so it’s no big deal, but it’s made me try a homemade version of something new; granola!

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We don’t have granola a lot, maybe once a week with some yoghurt on a day we are running short of time in the morning. I’ve been lucky enough to never have had to make my own before as we sell some fab ones in the shop that have only natural sugars; cobs bakery, rude health and rolla granola to name a few. But I wanted to take it a step further to control how much natural sugar went in.

I looked up this recipe online by cookie & Kate as a guideline and for some tips and then adapted it according to what we like and had in the cupboards-https://cookieandkate.com/2015/healthy-granola-recipe/

Of course, I had some little helpers with me! I didn’t weigh anything (rarely do) so this is not an actual recipe write up, just a guide really!

First we added oats to a big mixing bowl, about 2¬†mugs full. Then I added about a mug of plain puffed rice. You wouldn’t normally expect to see puffed rice in granola, but I had some in the cupboard and thought it would be good so the boys had something to snack on whilst we went along! I then added flaked almonds and cashews (until it looked nutty enough) and a sprinkling of chia seeds. The last dry ingredient was a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon.

Whilst my trusty assistant mixed all that together I prepared the liquid ingredients. In a pan I put a tablespoon of coconut oil, a glug of honey and a glug of agave nectar. This wasn’t enough wet ingredients to coat all the dry mixture but I didn’t want to add more sugar so I put a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter in the pan too, with a teaspoon of vanilla. When this mix was all liquid, I tipped it into the dry ingredients, and mixed together. It was all lightly coated so I was happy it had enough ‘wet’ in it.

Next we tipped it into a lined tin and lightly spread out and baked in the oven. I was cooking jacket potatoes for lunch (and didn’t want to ‘waste’ the oven being on for just a couple of potatoes) so it went in at potato temperature of about 200oC but it wouldn’t have hurt if it was a little cooler. After about 10 minutes I took it out of the oven. It was nicely brown on top so I stirred it so that it was well mixed and patted it down again. It went back in the oven for another 10 minutes. By this time the top was browned again so I took it out and left to cool completely in the tin (whilst we ate our lunch).

When it was completely cool, we tipped it out of the tin into the mixing bowl. Some of it stayed in clumps so I was pleased with this. I then stirred in some dried fruit. Not too much cause I didn’t want to add lots of sugar this way, just a couple of handfuls of dates and sultanas. I then put it in a big plastic container to keep. This made a huge pot full! And the house smelled AMAZING when it was cooking.

Overall it was very little effort for the huge amount it yielded, and was delicious. I will definitely be making it again, and can use different mixes of nuts, seeds and fruit next time to vary things.

We both got in smaller sized clothes this week so the healthier swaps will keep on coming; watch this space!

 

 

 

 

Shunning the meal deal and ‘Ben’s Garlic & Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with Easy Egg Fried Rice’

I really want ‘my family and other hungry animals’ to contain recipes in addition to tales and challenges from the farm. The only problem is, I never remember to take any pictures, or record down what went into a meal; amongst the hustle and bustle, and trying to get the children involved (as anyone that read the last post will know!), it’s the furthest thing from my mind. But I have resolved to pay more attention to recording the food that’s made in our kitchen; so please hold me to it! As it’s a blog, every recipe has to come with a story and a background, doesn’t it?! So here goes with ‘Ben’s Garlic & Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with Easy Egg Fried Rice’…

As many families do, we have always included ‘stir fry’ into our weekly meal plan. This was just a generic thing, and the conversation usually went as follows.

Vicky: shall we have a stir fry one night this week?

Ben: yeah ok

Proceed to supermarket shelf (yes, even we use them sometimes) and buy into their brightly stickered ‘meal deal’ by putting one bag of limp shredded vegetable mixture (with an unimaginative name along the lines of ‘brightly-coloured stir fry or crunchy stir fry’), one pack of noodles and one giant, squidgy sachet of Sauce. Obviously, for the chicken; no thanks Waitrose, we got that covered on our end!

Of course, this was fine, it was a meal. But one day we had enough and started asking ourselves the important questions in life. ‘Doesn’t this sauce taste REALLY sweet and sickly to you? Yes, and a bit synthetic. I wonder how many ingredients there are in it? (Proceed to be shocked by the ingredients list)’ and also questions like ‘what’s actually in this vegetable bag? It looks a bit dry where it’s been sliced up for ages, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t we prefer it if we put the veg we actually wanted in it?’ And also the very important observation ‘it’s not actually very cheap at all, it would save us so much money to make our own’. So that was it, bye bye meal deal and hello home made meal!

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Ben is a great cook, he loves making new and exciting things. In contrast to me, Little Miss ‘safe-option-that-I-have-made-a-million-times-and-know-everyone-likes’, Ben tries new things all the time, I don’t think he’s ever made the exact same thing twice without some new ingredient, new twist, new style of cooking. He loves asian food, and experiments all the time, which made us question why we hadn’t started making our own stir fry sauces long ago. This makes for exciting meals, but just try documenting what he’s done and you will find its near impossible! So tonight I made a point of quizzing him as he went along about what he was doing, how much he was putting in and taking a few pictures too. For today’s sauce, Ben went for a ginger, garlic and teriyaki base, with free range chicken breast (from none other than Radmore Farm). The veg we put in today was sliced red pepper, thinly sliced carrot, mange tout and sugar snap peas, broccoli, and edamame Beans, but that’s largely because that’s what we had in the fridge. This will work well with all manor of veg, we often use bean sprouts, courgette, and baby corn too. The accompaniment today was quick egg friend rice; if Ben makes this as a main course he packs loads of veg in (Diced carrot, butternut, peppers, onion) and sometimes prawns too. But as it was a side dish today it was a plain and simple version.

So here we go, Ben’s Garlic & Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with Easy Egg Fried Rice, we think it’s cheaper, healthier, more exciting and definitely tastier than the ‘meal deal’! Plus it can be easily adapted to what ingredients you have available.

Ben’s Garlic & Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with Easy Egg Fried Rice

This served 4 of us (2 were children, and the other 2 were hungry)

Ingredients:

3-4 tablespoons Teriyaki sauce

Fresh Ginger (about 2 inch piece)

3 large Cloves Garlic

1 large whole or 2 small fillets of skinless free range chicken breast

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

1 large Onion, diced

salt and pepper

Veg (we used: 1 sliced red pepper, 1 medium thinly slices carrot, 1 handful of each mange tout and sugar snaps, 10-12 stems tender broccoli, small handful edamame beans)

For the egg fried rice-

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2-4 eggs depending on preference

Cooked rice (we used brown rice, enough for for a side portion for 4, around 250g)

A little soy sauce

How to make it tasty:

Ben made the sauce ahead of time so he could marinade the chicken in it for a few hours first, but if you are short of time you could skip this part. Ben put the teriyaki, peeled garlic cloves and peeled and roughly chopped Ginger into the blender and pulsed until smooth. He then added enough water to make a pouring consistency.

Ben kept the chicken breast as one piece, seasoned it and pricked it all over with a fork, before smoothing in the blended sauce, and refrigerating for 4-5 hours.

When it was dinner time, Ben heated the rapeseed oil in a wok, over a high heat, and browned the onion. Whilst the onion was browning, he took the chicken out of the sauce, and Diced into chunks. The Diced chicken was added to the browned onion, and cooked through, and then the remaining sauce added to the pan. A little water was added at this stage, perhaps 2 tablespoons. The veg was then tossed in, stirred thoroughly to incorporate with the sauce, removing from the heat before it lost its crunch.

For the egg fried rice, you will need some rice that’s been cooked ahead of time, or a pack of shop bought ready cooked rice could be used also. Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Ben then whisked up the eggs, he used 4 but this was very eggy, which is ok for us as we have eggs in ABUNDANCE, but would have been ok with 2 or 3. He tipped the egg into the pan, and stirred continuously to scramble until it was fully cooked. When it started to stick he used a little soy sauce to help prevent sticking and enhance the flavour. Then he added to the pan the cooked rice, and a little water and finished with a drop more soy sauce to taste.

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Thanks Ben!