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Appleberry Fizz

 

I love fruity cocktails, and if they’re sparkling, then so much the better! Needless to say this one’s right up my street! I love the taste of sparkling apple juice with this cocktail, but any sparkling juice will do.

Serves: 4

Prep: 5 mins

INGREDIENTS:

75g blackberries

4tbsp. sugar syrup

2tbsp. Lemon juice

Seeds of 2 pomegranates

100ml vodka

Sparkling apple juice

Mint leaves or citrus zest to decorate

METHOD:

  1. Crush blackberries and seeds of one pomegranate.
  2. Strain and pour into cocktail shaker.
  3. Add sugar syrup.
  4. Add lemon juice.
  5. Add vodka
  6. Shake well.
  7. Strain and pour over ice and remaining pomegranate seeds in 4 glasses
  8. Top up with Sparkling juice.
  9. Garnish and serve.
  10. Marvel at how delicious it is!

 

 

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Better Living #3: Get Your Five-A-Day… Without Even Trying!

 

 

The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.

 

I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously,  who am I trying to kid?

SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?

 

There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:

  • 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
  • 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
  • 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
  • 2 plums or kiwi fruit
  • 1⁄2 a grapefruit
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
  • 3 dried apricots
  • 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
  • 1 small bowl of salad

 

With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.

 

But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!

 

To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?

 

I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!

  1. USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS

 

I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.

Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!

2. GET SPIRALIZING!

Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being blanched and added to salads or eaten in place of pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.

3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!

 

When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.

I don’t really  think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!

4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS

 

I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.

5. ICE ICE BABY

 

Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.

6. GO BANANAS!

 

Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!

7. DREAM TOPPING

 

Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.

8. JUICY!

 

I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.

9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS

 

Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.

10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD

There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or  blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!

11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!

It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!

12. CHIPS AND DIPS

Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.

13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!

These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?

14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD

Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!

15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???

When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.

The Coolest Ice Cubes Ever!

 

I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!

 

So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket – made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!

1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!

Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.

2. THE HERB GARDEN

 

Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails,  and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!

3. CITRUS FRESH

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.

4. BERRY NICE 

If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.

5. TROPICAL PARADISE

 

Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.

6. SALAD DAYS

Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)

7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.

8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…

 

… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.

9. GLITTERING COLOURS

Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.

10. DITCH THE H20

Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.

And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!

Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.

 

 

Scrummy Redcurrants

 

I have just tried redcurrants for the very first time. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration as I’m sure I’ve had a tart, cake or some other dessert topped with a couple of redcurrants but this is the first time, I’ve properly tried them. I’ve wanted to try them ever since I was five years old and I saw them in my mum’s The Cookery Year cook book, as they looked delicious and ever since then I’d wondered what they taste like.

 

Well, now I know. Redcurrants are surprisingly tart but still quite yummy and I managed to demolish the whole punnet in one sitting. Mr. D tried some too as he’d never eaten them before. Did he like them? Well, it’s quite hard to tell with him but he did say that he found the redcurrants to be quite sharp and didn’t scoff them the same way I did, so maybe it wasn’t such a big hit with him. Oh, well – all the more for me!

 

Redcurrants are related to the gooseberry – which might explain the tartness – and are native to western Europe, although there are similar species in Asia and North America. They’re available from July until September which means that I’ve only just managed to try them while they’re still in season.  Despite their sharp taste, redcurrants are still slightly sweet enough to be eaten raw, although you’d obvious have to sprinkle them with sugar if you’d prefer them to be sweeter. They are quite rich in vitamin C and go well with other fruits and berries.

 

They are a surprisingly versatile fruit and can be served in a multitude of ways.  They can be sprinkled with sugar and served with cream or frosted to decorate desserts and puddings. Redcurrants are also usually used as part of the mixed berries that go into making a delicious Summer Pudding. Because of their high levels of pectin, they make great jams and jellies that taste great with toast or accompanying lamb or game. That’s right – they go quite well with savoury dishes too!

So here are two quick and easy  recipes using delicious  redcurrants. Make these lovely delicacies before redcurrants disappear for another year!

SPICY RED ONION AND REDCURRANT RELISH

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red onions
  • 2 small red peppers,
  • 1 bsp olive oil
  • 2  red chilli,
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2″ piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 300ml red wine vinegar
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • 300g redcurrants, stripped from stalks

Method

  1. Peel onions and cut into thin slices.
  2. Cut red pepper into chunks then mix with the red onion and oil.
  3. Fry for 5-10 mins over a high heat until lightly charred and softened.
  4. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Deseed chillis and chop.
  6. Grate ginger and crush garlic before mixing with the chilli.
  7. Lightly fry chilli mixture before adding half the vinegar.
  8. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 mins.
  9. Add the onion mixture plus the remaining vinegar, all the sugar, spice and 1 tsp salt.
  10. Bring to the boil then bubble away for about 5 mins until thickened.
  11. Add redcurrants and simmer for about 5 mins more, or until they have burst, but still have some shape and the liquid is syrupy.
  12. Remove and pour into a large heatproof jar. Cover and seal while hot. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Taste great with sausages, cold meats and goat’s cheese.

ZESTY BERRY COMPOTE

 

Serves 10

Ingredients

100ml berry juice- any kind

100ml water

2 tblspn. Crème de cassis

50g sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1kg fresh/ frozen summer fruits (blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants)

10 stems fresh redcurrants

Method

1. Empty the jars of conserve into a large pan. Add the cassis and 200ml water. Heat until warm, then add the frozen fruits and heat for a few minutes until the berries are no longer frozen. Cool and chill.

2. Serve in glasses decorated with fresh redcurrants.

3. Also delicious served with cream, ice-cream or custard.

 

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