Monday, March 31, 2014

Non-Processed Food Month Finishes

Today is the last day of the Non-Processed Food Challenge and to be honest we're not sorry to see it finish. Making all your own food is hard work most of the time. It's all fun when you're in a baking kind of mood but when something runs out and it needs making again over and over it can get a bit tedious.

Before we started this challenge we already made a decent amount of our food ourselves. We made muesli for our breakfasts, wraps for our lunch and usually made our evening meal from scratch (using the odd convenience food to help us along). The reason for trying to use no processed foods was to see how we'd cope doing without sauces, processed snacks and drinks.

We learned how to make lots of things we hadn't previously. Peanut butter was one thing we tried. It was great because it's easy to make and tastes great but the peanuts to make it cost twice as much as a jar of peanut butter. Nutella is the same, who knew hazelnuts were so pricey! Hummous is one of the best things we made. It's cheaper and tastier homemade. Muesli is great too because you can put in what you like and change the sweetness to your own taste.

The biggest change was switching the kids' snacks. Erin loves crisps but this month we haven't bought any at all. Instead we've made cheese straws and she's snacked on those instead. It's nicer to give her foods where we know all the ingredients in it because we made it ourselves. But displeasing when after a few days they've all gone so we have to make more!

Leigh used to eat crisps too or Cornettos for snacks. She asked for homemade cookies and ate those instead. Keeping up a constant supply of cookies is almost impossible especially when they want to share them with friends because they're so good.

A few things we made weren't worth the effort. Making homemade pasta sauce where you have to skin all the tomatoes was one of them. Buying a jar of sauce is going to be great. (Still going to give your recipe a try first though, Manda :)) We also tried making baked beans. Even after soaking the beans overnight and furiously boiling them for hours they weren't soft. We eventually ate them at about 8.30pm, still slightly bullet-like just so they hadn't beaten us. (They had :()

 One of the best things has been our weekly food shopping. Having a trolley full of ingredients instead of processed foods makes you feel good. Food (mostly) costs less when you make things yourself and there's a lot less packaging to throw out too. I'd say the worst thing is the pressure of making something for tea that might go wrong (beans -.-) and leave you having to quickly make something else more edible. At least with a can of beans you know they'll be consistently great. 

We're going to continue making things ourselves and experimenting with new foods to try homemade versions of. We'll still make all the foods we always have with a few new additions from this last month. If we ever eat baked beans again it'll be from a can though.

We're still deciding on our next challenge, watch this space :D

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 10 - Lox and Cream Cheese Bagel

It is said that the ringed shape of the bagel represents the circle of life and lox represents the saltiness of tears...nice cheerful sandwich for this week then!

I've always felt a bit suspicious of smoked salmon and haven't had it for years. I feel worried I won't like the texture of it. JD was brave about the banana last week though so I'll have to give it a go :(

Ingredients: Bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon

My recipe says you can add capers or red onion if you like.

Halve and toast the bagels.

Let cool slightly then add the cream cheese and salmon. We also opted for red onion.

Top with the other half of the bagel and eat.

I enjoyed it...kind of. The whole sandwich had a nice taste and I couldn't distinguish the salmon's texture when eating it whole. The red onion added a nice crunch. JD said it was nice but weird which sums it up really. I can think of plenty of fillings I'd prefer in a bagel but mostly I like them best just toasted with butter. Maybe I'm just not posh enough to appreciate smoked salmon :)

Ratings: JD - 2/5 Emma - 2/5

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Saturday (on a Sunday!) Sandwich 9: The Elvis

You know it's going to be good if Elvis ate it, he loved his bizarre high-calorie foods :D

Ingredients: Bread, bacon, peanut butter, butter, banana and honey

JD needed a bit of persuasion to try this sandwich because he's not a fan of banana. So we compromised by making one sandwich with banana and one without so we could try both ways.

Spread peanut butter on your bread, fry the bacon and chop up a banana.

Layer the chopped banana on top of the peanut butter and then add the bacon. This is where Elvis probably took things a bit too far. You fry the finished sandwich in butter until it's all crispy and golden.

 When it's done you can optionally add a drizzle of honey to it. We used treacle.

The first bite of the sandwich was really weird but not unpleasantly so. Peanut butter and bacon go surprisingly well together with some added sweetness from the banana and treacle. JD preferred it without banana but I thought the banana made for a really different food taste that wasn't quite there with no banana. It's not a sandwich I'd eat often but it's nice to try it :)

Ratings: JD - 3/5 Emma - 3/5

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 8: Kati Roll and Non-processed food update

The sandwich this week is a Kati Roll. It's an Indian street food that originates back to the 1930s. It seems to be essentially any leftover curry in a flat bread. Sounds good to me. And by some miracle (because we find it really hard to save leftover food and not just scoff it) we have some leftover curry to use up :)

Ingredients: parathas, leftover curry

We used a mixture of leftover dum aloo that JD made and some chicken tikka massala. If in the picture our parathas look suspiciously like the wraps we usually make and not parathas at all it's entirely a coincidence.

Put the leftover curry in the 'paratha'.

Now fold it up and eat. Easy.

Ratings: JD - 3/5 Emma - 4/5

It was good. I imagine it makes a great warming street food.  It was a bit messy to eat though. JD wants to try it with actual parathas because he's a food snob and our wraps aren't authentic enough. (So do I.) It was an interesting way to eat curry anyway.


Non-Processed Food Update

We're two weeks into our attempt to minimise the processed foods we eat and so far so good. We've homemade a ton of things we usually buy. Peanut butter (crunchy and smooth), Nutella, pizza, granola, cheese straws, muesli, pesto, hummous, ice cream, oreos, spaghetti sauce, chicken kievs and more I can't think of right now.

Some have been more successful than others. Pesto and hummous have been my favourites so far. Hummous is really easy and pesto is sooo much better made yourself. The spaghetti sauce we made was distinctly un-red and the Oreos were delicious but a huge pain to make.

We have a pizza night on Fridays to go with our Friday Film so we'll be experiementing with different toppings. This week we had sausage and onion pizza. It was great.

The things I'm missing most are chocolate and I'm craving a Sprite for some reason. JD was a bit displeased with the spaghetti sauce we made (as spaghetti is his favourite meal) but I think with practise it'll get better.

Two weeks to go!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 7: Chip Butty and Photo Challenge Update

Today's sandwich is the humble Chip Butty. It's always been a favourite of mine so any excuse to eat one is opportunity not to be missed.

We made our own chips but baked them instead of frying them. My Mum used to make chip pan chips when I was a kid but I couldn't condone the unhealthiness of them now. My Stepmum has one of those activfry fryers that can make chips with only a tiny bit of oil. I bet it would make great chips if the roast potatoes are anything to go by.

Ingredients: potatoes, butter, bread buns, tomato ketchup

Make up your chips any way according to your preference. Put them in a well buttered bread roll and add whichever sauce you like. Has to be tomato sauce for me. Eat while hot.

Chip butties are fantastic. The butter melts onto the chips and mixes with the sauce to make it all drippy and delicious. Soft white bread buns are the best to contrast with hot slightly crispy chips. JD enjoyed it too, even though he wasn't expecting to. He also reminded me that chip butties go against my anti-two-carbohydrates-together rule. Bugger! Hoist by my own petard :(

Ratings: JD - 4/5 Emma - 4/5

In other news, I'm still doing my picture a day photo challenge. I'm up to Day 67 so far so still a long way to go! I'm not much of a photographer but I do enjoy taking pictures of our life day to day for us to look back on.

Link to my Flickr --->

Here are some of my favourites so far:

JD making one of his favourite meals, split pea soup. 

A fantastic salad with feta cheese and olives we made.

Erin having a go on a zip-wire. I also had a go but everyone was too shocked to take a picture.

Some caramel salted matzos we made when my Mum came for tea. 

Pretty scenery on a recent walk.

JD and Erin outside The Cairn Hotel where Erin went for her Big T talent audition.

Leigh when she had her braces removed.

Hope fully I can keep the pace going unless I run out of ideas. Some days I looking around at the end of the day for something to take a picture of because it's been a quiet day, hah :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pancake Day with no processed food?

This month we're trying to go all month without processed foods. Milk and bread are allowed. Things like pre-made pizza, cereal, crisps etc are not. So pancake day was going to be a challenge since we usually eat Golden Syrup and Nutella on our pancakes.

We decided to have a go at making our own versions to top our pancakes with.

The homemade Nutella was great. It turned out really well. It wasn't as smooth as Nutella but it had the same taste. The nutty texture seems much more natural.

The Golden Syrup was a total disaster though. It started off well. You boil up some water and sugar then let it simmer for 45 minutes. After it'd finished I tried to smell what it was like off the spoon and burned my top lip on it. I got an ice pack out of the freezer to cool my lip and was confronted with a penis shape on the ice pack!

When the treacle had cooled it turned completely solid.

The recipe said you could re-boil it and add more sugar and water but when I did it had a weird aftertaste so I ditched it :(

In the end we bought some Golden Syrup and made do with having everything else unprocessed. Homemade pancakes with whipped cream, cinnamon, banana, homemade Nutella, homemade jam, sugar and lemon juice.

And very delicious they were too! I love pancake day, with or without processed food :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 6 - Caramel Pork Banh Mi

This recipe is probably the most effort we've ever gone to to make a sandwich. Was it worth it? Read on :D

Ingredients: About a million things -.-

Here's a recipe --->

First you have to make a pickle out of radish and carrot among many things and leave it ages to 'fuse it's flavours'. You make a caramel sauce from water and sugar which coats small pieces of pork. Then you simmer the pork in a fish sauce liquid for 15 minutes which stinks out the whole kitchen.

JD enjoyed the part where you hollow out the baguettes to make room for the filling (lots of recipes in this book have hollowed out bread so he's in luck) and I enjoyed shaving a cucumber to make thin strips of it. Make up the sandwich by adding the pork, pickle and cucumber.

The finished sandwich tastes really good. It's a strange mix of flavours that taste different with every bite. It's such a lot of effort for a sandwich though. I'm not sure it's worth it. The pork has a very strong salty taste after the liquid it's simmered in is reduced, almost too salty in fact and I like salt.JD said it was an interesting and different taste so interpret that how you will :)

Ratings: JD - 3/5 Emma - 2/5
// following script until attribution comment is to add pinterest button