Quark is a naturally fat free spoon-able soft cheese. The Lake District Dairy Company, who have launched their new range of Quark in the last week, sent me a hamper of goodies so I could try using it in one savoury and one sweet recipe.
Quark is actually a completely new ingredient to me – I’ve never tried it in any of its forms. My colleague at work, who is Polish, explained that she uses it a lot and it comes in different types – the one she uses is the consistency of cottage cheese, but you can also get it in a wedge and like soft cheese. This Quark from the Lake District Dairy company was rather like mascarpone in texture.
The hamper contained all the ingredients, and I mean all… fresh meat, vegetables, dairy products, store cupboard ingredients (well except the eggs were completely scrambled – who sends eggs by courier?!), I needed to make a Lamb Moussaka and a New York Baked Cheesecake. The recipes have been developed by The Fabulous Baker Brothers who say that Quark is a truly versatile fridge staple. Thankfully the instructions seemed easy to follow!
Quark was used to make the cheese sauce for the Lamb Moussaka. I used butter, flour, milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper and a tub of Quark to create the creamy sauce to layer up with the lamb mince and aubergine. It worked really well – the soft Quark easily melts into the sauce, and when baked gave the dish a lovely depth that complemented the mince and vegetables. The Lake District Dairy Company say that using Quark in this recipe instead of crème fraiche means you have 53% less fat, 158 fewer calories and 26% more protein per portion. That’s quite significant, and as it was really delicious I would definitely make it again this way.
In our house we generally prefer a chilled, set cheesecake. The one I normally make is a white chocolate full-fat affair with mascarpone, soft cheese, double cream and chocolate. If we are out for dinner I would definitely choose a chilled cheesecake over a baked one, and have never attempted to make my own baked cheesecake at home. But this version of New York Cheesecake was very easy to make – the topping is basically four pots (1000g) of Quark, butter, sugar, eggs, the zest of a lemon and some vanilla extract. Using Quark instead of cream cheese means there are a whopping 438 fewer calories, 76% less fat and 2.4 times more protein PER SLICE!!!! Wow. That is incredibly significant – an entire meal’s worth of calories saved by replacing one ingredient with another. No brainer.
And the cheesecake was good! The use of lemon zest and vanilla gave it a really lovely flavour, quite refreshing and not too sweet. I tried it out on family at the weekend, who do say baked cheesecake is their favourite, and they were very impressed with the Quark and how little difference it made to the flavour over using traditional ingredients. They didn’t even mind that I obviously didn’t cook the base long enough before adding the topping (sorry Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry – it had a soggy, and in fact leaky, bottom) – it might not have sliced perfectly, but it tasted good.
I will add links to the recipes once The Lake District Dairy Company have launched their new Quark website.
The idea of me receiving this hamper of goodies and trying out those recipes was of course for me to say whether or not I’d choose to cook with Quark again. And the answer is simply yes, I would. I’ve got quite a selection of recipes here from The Fabulous Baker Brothers that I’ve been sent, and I am hoping there will be more to come once the Quark website is up and running (it does seem odd to launch a product with only a holding page online).
It is great to have discovered a new-to-me ingredient that can be used as an alternative to cream cheese, crème fraiche, mascarpone, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, fromage frais, double cream and even soured cream – it is better for you than all of those, scoring “all green” on its on-pack Guildeline Daily Amounts information, and holds like the full-fat versions of those other products. I was also impressed with the flavour it provided; it does seem like the perfect product to keep in your fridge for all your cooking! Marvellous.
Thank you very much to the Lake District Dairy Company for sending me a hamper so that I could give Quark a proper test at home.
Happify are translating the latest cutting-edge research into fun and interactive, science-based activities and games to teach us the skills of happiness. Optimism, self-confidence, gratitude, hope, compassion, purpose, empathy – these are all qualities that anyone can own – and Happify believe that we can train ourselves to develop these and become happier as a result.
I have been invited by the Happify team to be one of their “pioneers” – to test out the platform.
The aim of Happify is to provide users with an innovative new online/mobile product that uses interactive activities and games to help users form daily happiness habits and build social connections with like-minded happiness seekers.
So far I have played a game to find certain objects in a scene, made (and eaten) home-made meatballs, posted a photo of my bunnies (pets help make us happy), and thought about how my leisure activities match up with my values. The little tasks, exercises, are quick, but appear to encourage me to consider things and their impact on my mood.
Can we really train ourselves to become happier? Science says yes. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of CA-Riverside, is among several researchers who’ve determined the role genetics plays in one’s well-being. Although each of us has a certain genetic set point in the way we do for weight, genetics only determines 50% of our happiness levels. We determine most of the remainder by choosing our behaviors, actions, and thoughts.
When we have new experiences or look at something in a different way, neurons carve out new pathways in our brain to process that fresh information. By practicing certain techniques, we can create stronger neural connections in the regions of our brain associated with attention, motivation and empathy. And we’re just beginning to identify what behavioral and mental techniques work best to increase our well-being.
Recent research into the kind of “interventions” (i.e. “exercises”) designed to promote positive emotional qualities, such as kindness and mindfulness, suggests that such qualities may be the product of skills we can learn through training—in the same way that practice improves our musical or athletic abilities.
This is an experiment. I already know that my attitude in advance of any given scenario in life does indeed affect my mood (and sometimes also the outcome) – so I am very interested to see whether joining Happify has any lasting effect in developing new good-for-my-mind habits. I agreed to take part in Happify to find out what it is all about. I’m interested to know if this stuff works. I’ll let you know.
Are any of you taking part in Happify too? If so give me a follow over on the Happify Pioneer site and let me know what you think. If not – would you consider taking part in little tasks and exercises to help improve your mental well-being? Do you believe that happiness is something you can train yourself to achieve? Is it something that you can take control of? What do you do to help pick yourself up – any tips and tricks?
I am a Bzz Agent and this is a Bzz Review…
Oh dear. Chocolate again? Mmmmm chocolate! Chocolate is good!! This time I am reviewing Aero Bubbles, which have returned to our stores. I didn’t realise they had left, to be honest, and last time they were out I didn’t try them, so these were new to me.
These are little bite-sized spheres of mint aero bubbles half coated in chocolate. And without wanting to waste any time rambling on, they are divine. I am a fan of mint Aero anyway so the flavour was always going to make me happy; I love bubbly chocolate because the air seems to make it taste better (obviously a very scientific observation), but these little balls of minty chocolate are even better than the bar version, without a doubt.
They are totally addictive and since I received my Bzz kit I have been out and bought several more bags for LincsGeek and I to share. The bubbly texture means each ball of chocolate is light, and the peppermint flavour is refreshing and, well, just about perfect I’d say.
One lovely warm Friday a few weeks ago when I was home from work I discovered the best use for these spheres of minty loveliness… milkshake!
I stuck one small packet of the bubbles into my liquidiser and added a couple of scoops of proper Cornish ice cream and a dash of milk, and whizzed it all up til smooth enough to drink through a straw. It totally worked – one of the best home made milkshakes I’ve ever made.
I’m rather hoping for other tried-and-tested options for making at-home milkshakes (bearing in mine my liquidiser is a very cheap model and won’t chop up sweets in the same way as those really powerful things they use in milkshake shops)… go on then…
Do you like it when confectioners mess about with your favourite sweets? I’m normally very sceptical and am often disappointed when companies play about with recipes, add flavours, change things about. So when I spotted this new take on Refreshers in the shop a couple of weeks ago I bought some (yes, another accidental purchase!), but expected to be let down.
To me refreshers are a childhood favourite chewy sweet – you must remember those long thin bars with the sherbet running through them, or the smaller bite sized sweets you spent a massive 2p on in the penny sweet shop? They’re still around today, of course, considered a retro confectionery - am I old?
These are different, though. These are soft and squishy. Not chewy and sticky. And sherbet doesn’t burst out all over you when you unwrap them.
But I have to admit – there was no disappointment. I love them! They are soft, easy to eat (I am actually old, aren’t I?!), don’t pull your teeth out of your gums (yep, no getting away from it now, definitely old), and taste EXACTLY like a refreshers chewy sweet. They even have that sherbet tang. Proof? I made LincsGeek try them without knowing what they were and he said “they’re like those Refreshers sweets, but soft”.
The problem is I’ve not seen them again since I bought this first packet. I need more!
I wonder if they’re doing Fruit Salad and Black Jack Squashies too?
I discovered the other evening that I have forgotten, completely lost the ability, to walk in high heels. I wore some old faithful black courts out for a meal with friends, and by the time I’d walked from my car to the pub where we all met my feet were killing me. I was very sad. Okay so I’ve not worn heels this high for months and months, but these were comfortable shoes I’d worn all day in the past, they’re not even that high anyway, so I didn’t expect to hurt after just a few hundred metres.
I see two shoes options open to me. One is wear high court shoes lots more to get my ability back again. The other is give up and buy some nice flat shoes to wear out. I’m not completely sure which to go with yet… but it was a great excuse to browse the flat shoes category on the Spartoo website! What do you think to these options?
These Bronx silver flats have lovely sparkly stars and dots which would make them the perfect finishing touch to lots of different outfits. And silver goes with pretty much anything.
This ballerina slipper from Ash is unusual – I love the cut out design, with the studs that continue to be a trend. Certainly more interesting than a plain flat shoe.
These red Pataugas shoes with strap are oh so cute – especially with the decorated toe. A Mary Jane will be a comfortable shoe for all day but this model would also brighten up your feet for an evening out eating at your favourite pizza parlour.
If you feel the need to stick with black then these Shelly shoes have got to be the perfect choice for wearing instead of heels. Black patent, cute strap, perforated design, little red heart – what more could you want?! This is a really girly shoe that even I could wear this summer.
So what would you do? Give your gorgeous heels away and settle for flats on a night out? Or wander around the house in your favourite shoes until you can make it from the car to the restaurant and back without grimacing?!
I keep doing this. I walk into the corner shop next door to my office planning on buying a sandwich or salad for lunch. I do well to avoid the crisps, sweets and cakes. I get to the checkout and there is a box of something new… and there’s an offer on… and I’m intrigued. So I give in. And in an attempt to justify my giving into temptation I put together a short blog post to try and make those extra calories worth it. It cancels them out, right?!
This time it was the new Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations. I’ve seen lots of stuff about these new bars of chocolate on twitter and in various other blogs I read. Of the two choices it was the Jelly Popping Candy Shells one that has really caught my attention – but they were two for £1 so naturally I also bought the Cookie Nut Crunch just because it would have been rude not to.
They are very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a bit quirki, right down to the not-so-square-squares. The unusual shapes and different textures on the top made me smile – they look even better on the larger family sized bars but I didn’t need that much chocolate!
The Cookie Nut Crunch has biscuit pieces, crunchy caramel and caramelised nuts.
This was rather like eating any other chocolate-and-biscuit bar actually, I was a bit disappointed. The nuts were nice, but they were overpowered by the bits of caramel and the large chunks of biscuit. I liked that the bar was all uneven – biscuit in some segments, nuts in others, but it didn’t make me sit up and take notice.
It’s partner, on the other hand, stopped me from what I was doing so I could really concentrate on the chocolate…
…which doesn’t usually happen for me with chocolate to be fair. Jelly Popping Candy Shells is Dairy Milk chocolate filled with jellies, popping candy and candy shells. My first bite included all three – I absolutely loved the combination of the milk chocolate melting, the chewy jelly sweets, the crunchy candy (little Smarties) and the way the popping candy stuck around for a few seconds after the rest had gone. Lovely, really lovely.
But it turns out that I was lucky with the first square. Sadly, after that, I was left disappointed. The random nature of these bars meant that the only bit of jelly in the entire bar was in that first piece, and in fact one of my squares had no crunchy candy in it either, so I was left with chocolate coated popping candy. Such a shame! A great idea that really made me smile, but could do with a whole load more jelly! I say get rid of the little Smarties and go with chocolate, jelly and popping candy as the combination. That would be awesome!
I’m not sure if I’ll bother getting these chocolate bars again, I might consider it but they haven’t gone to the top of my need-a-chocolate-fix list I’m afraid. I guess I’m asking Cadbury to make their quirky uneven bars with more filling and more evenly spread through the bar.