My Sugar-Free Challenge

I wouldn’t say I have much of a sweet tooth. If someone offered me a cake or a bowl of olives, I’d rather have the olives. But I’ve seen recently a trend for people saying they want to give up sugar and there are even ‘experts’ such as Sarah Wilson, who can help people give up the white stuff.

But is sugar really that bad and if it is, is it really so hard to give up, you need ‘experts’ to teach you how? I didn’t think it is, so when Benenden asked me if I’d like to join in their sugar-free challenge to help promote their sugar-free hub, I was more than happy to oblige because a) I didn’t think I ate much sugar; and b) I love a challenge.

So, below is a kind of diary of what I ate and – if applicable – what I usually would have had on a normal ‘not bothered about looking out for sugar to avoid’ day.

Sugar-Free Breakfast 

Hot water with lemon

Well, breakfast was never going to be hard to be sugar-free as, although there was a time when I was a five-teaspoons-of-sugar-in-tea kind of girl, I haven’t drunk tea for years and I’ve never drunk coffee (bleurgh) and my hot drink upon waking is always hot water and lemon.  Before anyone pipes up with ‘but fruit is full of sugar – you’ve failed already, loser’, as far as I’m aware, going sugar-free doesn’t mean giving up something perfectly healthy like fruit. So there.

smoothie-collage

Just as I haven’t drunk sugar-laden tea for years, I also grew out of eating sugary breakfast cereals topped with more sugar when I was about ten years old. Nowadays, my breakfast is a smoothie and today’s one was frozen mixed fruit, dried golden berries, acai powder and water. It did occur to me that sugar might be added to the packeted fruit and powder but, hooray, no added sugar. No added anything, in fact. If you haven’t tried golden berries before, please do – they make a great tangy addition to smoothies, or you could add them to flapjacks, energy bars, etc.

Sugar-Free Lunch 

Vegan tomato soup and ciabatta

Lunch was going to be slightly more tricky than breakfast as I’d made mushroom jerky the other day that I’d been having in wraps for lunch. No problems with the mushrooms, obviously, but I’d marinated them in Reggae Reggae Sauce which I thought was bound to contain sugar and, upon inspection of the label, saw I was right. No Reggae Reggae for me that day, dammit.

Never mind, I thought – I can have some of the tomato soup I made the other day, that’ll be sugar-free. But – woah, hang on, what about the stock? They put all sort of things in stock – they put milk in some vegetarian stocks, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find sugar in them too. It was fine though – no sugar in the stock. Oh, but then I thought, surely there must be sugar in the tinned tomatoes I used? But still, no sugar there either. My tomato soup was a sugar-free zone. Phew.

How about the ciabatta and Vitalite I wanted with it though? None there either – ha, this sugar-free thing is a breeze.

Sugar-Free Drinks

Hot chocolate made with raw cacao and almond milk

Okay, so obviously my homemade lemonade that I still had in the fridge wasn’t sugar-free – it’s made with just three ingredients, which are lemons, sugar and water – but apart from my beloved hot chocolate, I usually only drink water throughout the day, so cold drinks weren’t a problem. But, what about the aforementioned beloved hot chocolate? I didn’t even have to read the label to know that that would have sugar in it, so what was I to do? Go cold – or should that be hot chocolate – turkey? Na. I’d make my own with raw cacao powder instead. Sorted.

Although I couldn’t see sugar listed on the ingredients for the soya milk I usually use, I decided to make my hot chocolate extra pure by making it with homemade almond milk. Yep, maximum hippy level reached.

Homemade almond milk

Sugar-Free Dinner

Sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, egg-free, courgette and carrot burgers

Luckily, Wednesday is Riverford veg box delivery day, so I had a box full of veg with which to make a healthy, sugar-free dinner. Faced with courgettes and carrots, I made courgette and carrot burgers and served them with purple sprouted broccoli and new potatoes. Because I made them with chickpea (gram) flour, I got a bonus ‘free’ in, as they’re gluten-free as well as sugar-free. Actually, they’re full of ‘frees’, as to give them their full title, they’re wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free (this may explain why The Meat Eater said they didn’t taste of much).

As a condiment freak, I don’t usually have ‘dry’ burgers, but tomato ketchup contains sugar, so that was out. The Mayola mayonnaise in the fridge didn’t contain any sugar but at the time I didn’t think courgette and carrot burgers would go with mayo – not when they’re spiced with curry powder, anyway. On reflection though, it probably would have gone well. Ho hum.

Sugar-Free Snacks

I’m not going to lie. I missed my after-dinner mint and I spent the whole of the evening wanting a bit of chocolate or a biscuit or something sweet, so maybe sugar isn’t as easy to give up as I originally thought and it is addictive as ‘they’ say?

As challenges go, this one was easy but, then again, I only did it for a day. Some people give up sugar for life and I’m not sure that would be so easy.

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Recipe: Butter Bean Pie

Butter Bean Pie

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been making a lot of one-pot meals, for example curries and pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I love curries and pasta but a) they don’t photograph well (at least not when I take a photo of them, anyway) so I end up not putting them on the blog and; b) sometimes I just want something a bit more traditional. And what could be more traditional than a pie?

I haven’t been completely honest here because, although it’s true I fancied something that wasn’t curry or pasta, my main motivation for making something different to curry or pasta was wanting to use up the tin of butter beans I’d found in the cupboard.

Rose Elliot has written a whole cookery book based on beans – The Bean Book – so I had a look in there and saw her bean and leek pie. Knowing The Meat Eater likes a) butter beans and; b) leeks, I knew he’d give it the thumbs up (or at the very least, an appreciative grunt).

I used Flora in this pie but it could be easily veganised by using a dairy-free spread such as Pure or Vitalite.

Vegetarian Butter Bean Pie

Recipe: Butter Bean Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Adapted from the recipe in Rose Elliot's 'The Bean Book'
Author:
Cuisine: Vegetarian but easily veganised
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 50g butter
  • 225g carrots, diced
  • 450g leeks, sliced
  • 125g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 225g tinned tomatoes
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 225g ready rolled puff pastry
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the carrots, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes
  3. Add the leeks and mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes
  4. Sprinkle in the flour and mix in well
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock and dried thyme and cook gently, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until thickened
  6. Add the beans and season with the salt and pepper
  7. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish and leave to cool slightly
  8. Cover the top of the pie with the puff pastry and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes until golden brown

 




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Cookbook: Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel

Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel
Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel

On flicking through Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel, my first thought was ‘I want to make EVERYTHING’. There are so many gorgeous-sounding (and looking – they’re all accompanied by a photo) recipes, such as creamy spinach curry with tofu paneer, sweet potato and greens burger, and shaved asparagus and roasted tomato terrine, I didn’t know where to start.

Samosa burrito
Onions, potatoes, carrots and peas frying in mustard seeds, curry powder, ground coriander, salt and pepper, (the potatoes, carrots and peas had already been boiled)

Unfortunately, the first dish I tried – samosa burritos with peas – turned out a tad bland. Don’t get me wrong; it was pleasant enough and perfectly edible, it just lacked something. I know it lacked the cumin which was originally stated in the recipe but I’d left that out on purpose as, since The Meat Eater has recently started calling cumin ‘farts’, I’ve refused to use it in any meals I’m cooking which he’ll be eating. Fair enough, I reckon, eh?

Samosa burrito
Place some of the mixture on top of a tortilla wrap

Another absent ingredient were the fenugreek seeds as my local Tesco didn’t have any. I read on a website that fennel seeds can be used instead but The Meat Eater doesn’t like fennel, or anything aniseedy for that matter, so that was out.

Samosa burrito
Wrap the tortillas

By now I’m sure you’re thinking – and not unreasonably, I might add – ‘no wonder it was bland, you’ve left out all the spices’ but I did tip in about three tablespoons of curry powder to give it a lift but it still lacked any oomph (for want of a better word).

Samosa burrito
Fry on both sides

Still, there are two burritos left over in the freezer and I’ve been thinking about them and have decided that instead of serving them with basmati rice as I did this time, I’ll pour a load of curry sauce over them and perhaps serve on a bed of spinach. That’ll sort them out.

Samosa burrito
I don’t advise serving them with plain rice. I reckon they’ll be better with curry sauce poured on top

I’m making another recipe from Greens 24/7 tonight – a spinach and mushroom galette. This will involve me making pastry. Wish me luck!

Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel is published by Apple Press and is available at Amazon.

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Recipe: Soup Maker Spinach and Carrot Soup

Because my kitchen currently looks like this:

I keep telling myself it'll be worth it in the end
I keep telling myself it’ll be worth it in the end

I haven’t done any cooking in there for a week or so. Despite the novelty and convenience of having Papa John’s pizza on a Monday night, pre-packaged pasta and couscous salad on Tuesday night and leftover Papa John’s last night, today I craved something not out of a box or a packet, then remembered I had a soup maker somewhere (if you think the kitchen looks bad, you should see the state of the dining room where the floor is covered with the contents of the former kitchen) and looked in the fridge where I found some spinach and carrots.

I didn’t take much notice of how much spinach was in the bag or how much water I used, so all weights and measures are approximate.

Soup maker spinach and carrot soup

Spinach and carrot soup (serves 2-3)

200g spinach
2 carrots, chopped into chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tsp stock powder
700ml water
30g Cheddar
1 onion, chopped
3 dried whole chillies
salt and pepper

Chuck everything into the soup maker and put on the setting that blends as it goes along.




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Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Spread

Carrot, sundried tomato and feta spread
Roast red pepper and feta spread
Delicious served on oatcakes

You know I said how much I loved Bodychef’s feta and pepper spread? Well, I loved it so much I decided to make my own. Mine had a thinner texture than Bodychef’s but you can add as much or as little oil as you like, depending on your own personal taste.

Roasted red pepper and feta dip

I said on Facebook I could eat this with a spoon and, after getting the munchies after drinking a bottle of wine, that’s exactly what I did – using celery as a spoon. Ah well, at least it’s healthier than getting the munchies and pigging out on crisps and chocolate.

Because I’d eaten all my spread, I had none left for lunch the next day, so I made another one – this time using a carrot instead of a red pepper.

Carrot, sundried tomato and feta spread
Carrot, sundried tomato and feta spread

Roasted red pepper and feta spread

1 red pepper
100g feta cheese
20g sundried tomatoes
Olive oil
salt and pepper
chilli flakes (optional)

  1. Core and deseed the red pepper and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200C.
  2. Add the red pepper and the rest of the ingredients, except for the olive oil to a food processor and blitz.
  3. Drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you require (I used the oil that was in the jar of sundried tomatoes).

Variations

Use a carrot instead of a red pepper (no need to bake it first). Add jalapenos and/or chilli flakes. Experiment!

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Juice Master’s Lemon Ginger Zinger

juice-master-lemon-ginger-zinger

Apparently this juice is a favourite of Martina Navratilova. I don’t think it’s going to turn me into a tennis champion but, hey, it tastes nice – in fact, it tastes so nice, this is the second one I’ve had today.

Juice Master’s Lemon/Ginger Zinger
(taken from Jason Vale’s 7lbs in 7 days Super Juice Diet)

2 carrots
2 apples
1 inch slice lemon
1/4 inch fresh ginger

Juice the lot and pour over ice.

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Juice Master’s Super Chute Juice

Just reading the ingredients for this juice makes you feel healthier before you’ve even tasted it. Because it has so many vegetables in it, I was worried it would taste a bit ‘green’ (despite it being red in colour) but I needn’t have worried, it was just as fruity as a normal glass of juice.

juice-master-super-chute-juice

Okay, so here’s the bit where I tell you what I left out: 1/2 an inch of broccoli stem (because I didn’t want to buy a whole head of broccoli just to use a bit of stem and didn’t know if I’d be able to use the rest of it up in the next few days) and a small handful of alfalfa sprouts (because I have no sprouts at the moment).

Apart from that though, these are the ingredients as listed in Jason Vale’s 7lbs in 7 Days Super Juice Diet book.

2 Golden Delicious apples
a small chunk of carrot
1/2 stick celery
1 large handful of mixed greens – watercress, kale, parsley, spinach and whatever other green leafy veg are available (I used spinach and parsley)
1 inch slice cucumber
1/4 inch slice unpeeled raw beetroot
1/4 inch slice courgette
1 small piece of lemon
1/4 inch slice ginger

Juice all the ingredients and pour over ice.

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What’s in the box?

My favourite day of the week arrives and I’m at work with a hangover after celebrating Gary’s 40th last night with wine, lager, vodka and champagne and I’m wondering if my vegetables will get stolen as my recycling bin hasn’t been emptied and one of the spare recycling bins still has two pairs of trousers in it that the clothes thieves didn’t take when they took the other clothes that were in the bin and the other bin is full of snow but when I get home the organic vegetable delivery people have emptied the bin that was full of snow and now the bin is hiding my vegetables.

Organic vegetable box delivery 5 February 2009
Organic vegetable box delivery 5 February 2009

And today I’ve got purple sprouting broccoli (took me a while to work out what it was before I saw the purple bits), robinta potatoes, leeks, carrots (yawn), cauliflower and parsnips (spicy parsnip soup for lunch next week then, hooray).

I love my vegetable box.

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