Posts tagged food
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.
I don’t need an excuse to cook up a Mexican feast. Fajitas, enchiladas and tacos often appear on our menus – they are quick, tasty and fairly healthy evening meal choices. But if you do need an excuse to give Mexican food a try at home, then Cinco de Mayo is this weekend…
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for 5th May) a Mexican holiday celebrating their country’s victory over France during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Actually it is quite a small celebration in Mexico itself, but in the USA it has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. There are parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals which bring communities together.
To help me celebrate Cinco de Mayo in my own home this year, Discovery Foods sent me a bag full of their Mexican inspired products to try out. The other evening LincsGeek and I sat down to our feast – chicken fajitas using The Perfect Fajita Kit and the three colourful squeezy bottles.
I could dive into that lot again right now!
Cooking fajitas is so very easy and is really quick, especially when you have a fajita kit to hand. The kit contained eight tortilla wraps, a packet of fajita seasoning, and some tomato salsa. There are only two of us in our house and even though these kits are designed for four (two wraps each), LincsGeek and I seem to manage the whole lot between us with no problem – we don’t serve anything else with it unless we’re really really hungry, in which case we’d have some potato (or sweet potato) wedges too.
My chicken fajita recipe is very simple. I start by frying an onion and some garlic in a little oil before adding two diced (into quite small pieces) chicken breast fillets. Once the chicken has started to cook I add the seasoning sachet – I use the whole lot, Mexican food is full of flavour and I want all of that in my finished wraps. Once the chicken is cooked I add a decent amount of chopped peppers and mushrooms to the mix too – we like lots of veg in this sort of food (a colourful meal is a healthy meal!). The smell of Mexican spices fills the kitchen and make us very hungry!
I served up the fajita filling with warm wraps, rocket leaves, grated mature cheddar, the salsa that came in the kit, and the sauces provided in my hamper. Normally I would use fresh salsa and soured cream so I was very interested to see what the bottled variants would taste like.
We both create our wraps quite differently. I start with the salsa and soured cream, and then add rocket leaves and some cheese before spooning on the hot filling. LincsGeek puts the filling on first and then the salsa, soured cream and cheese – he has his rocket on the side. I generally overfill my tortillas to get as much filling in each of two or three wraps one as possible, whereas LIncsGeek puts less in and has more wraps in total. Either way fajitas are always a favourite meal choice of ours, so good.
The squeezy bottles were completely new to me. I mentioned above that I normally buy fresh tomato salsa and soured cream to have with our Mexican food, so I was very interested to see how these longer life versions compare. We were very impressed actually. The Garlic and Herb Soured Cream was very tasty, although the squirt was a bit violent at times and on one wrap I got much more than I’d anticipated. It was a good alternative to fresh soured cream and had a lovely flavour. The Green Jalapeno Relish was also nice, it had a lovely flavour and was something that I don’t normally get at all for our Mexican feasts. The bottle said “medium” heat but LincsGeek felt actually it was mild so don’t be put off by the Jalapeno content, it’s well worth a try. It could definitely do with more of a kick but it’s got a great flavour. I think it’s fair to say that in both cases I still prefer fresh, but these work well and are a good idea to have in the cupboard for an impromptu feast!
If you’ve not planned your menu for Sunday then really you have no option but to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and have a Mexican feast of your own. If you have planned your menu for Sunday then have Mexican food on Monday! I can recommend these Discovery products to help with your cooking.
Everyone loves to play. Adults included. Whether it’s having a go on the swings at the park (please tell me you like the swings!), enjoying a bit of Scrabble or Pictionary in the evening, or tap tap tapping away at The Simpsons Tapped Out on your iPad, playing is a fantastic way to relax, to have fun. If you don’t then frankly there is something wrong with you!
Walkers have brought out a new crisp to encourage us to play… with our food! Hoops and Crosses are a crunchy source of wholegrain and fibre in the shape of Xs and Os. They sent me a bag, lunch box and a whole load of stuff to encourage me to play… fantastic! LincsGeek has said I definitely need to use the red lunch box for work, I think I might need to print out a picture of a suitable retro image to put on the front – what do you think to He-Man?
Of course the game is called Noughts and Crosses (there was a proper version in the pack too). I wonder why they changed that to “Hoops” and Crosses?
Anyway, to the crisps. I really like them! Of the three flavours – roast beef, salt and vinegar, prawn cocktail – my favourite was roast beef. They reminded me a bit of Monster Munch, but LincsGeek didn’t agree with that, he said they are less crunchy than those (and there’s no pickled onion flavour!). They are easy to eat, not too noisy, and very tasty. And with 85 calories per pack they aren’t too bad for including my bright red lunch box either.
So whether you agree with playing with your food or not, give these a try and I bet you won’t be able to resist a quick game, even if it’s only with yourself!
This week’s Weight Watchers challenge is to do a “Day in the Life” post telling you what I did and what I ate.
Thursdays are generally my busiest day of the week. I work in the day and it’s rehearsal night for the brass band I play in, so it’s a quick turnaround at home. It’s therefore important that I am organised if I want to be healthy and eat properly – other days of the week I can get away with not planning because there is time; I still like to plan but it’s not so vital.
Here you go…
My alarm went off. It’s normally the same time every day, unless I need to get something done before work. Today I snoozed it. Several times. Oops.
I suddenly realised how many times I snoozed my alarm, quite a few more than normal, oops. So I got up quickly and had my morning shower.
I rushed downstairs much later than normal, filled and boiled the kettle and went outside to sort the bunnies out – they had broccoli and hay for breakfast, yum! I made some tea and ate a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes with some semi skimmed milk (5 Pro Points). While I ate my breakfast I worked out the Pro Points values for my packed lunch and evening meal and entered them into the tracker app on my phone so I knew what was left for snacks (I have a biscuit bar thing to review that I wanted to eat!). This is the most organised I’ve ever been with tracking, I normally track after eating or while preparing dinner – but I quite like the idea of knowing ahead of time what the damage is, I think I will try and do this more often.
We left for work ten minutes late – I blame LincsGeek – he says it’s not his fault. The roads seem especially busy this week, probably because of the wintery weather. The four miles took 25 minutes today so not too bad. I parked at the far end of the car park and walked to the office, good to get some fresh air first thing. I do like to cycle to work but haven’t done so for a few months – a combination of the weather, tiredness and not feeling particularly safe on one stretch of the journey along a busy road into the city. Even when we cycle regularly we don’t do so on a Thursday as we don’t have time to mess about with showers etc when we get home before we have to go out again.
Arrived in the office, offered a cuppa straight away which was nice, stuck the computer on, had a bit of a chat with colleagues about LincsGeek’s graduation ceremony yesterday (very proud!), and started work.
The kettle goes on again. A decaf tea for me – I generally only have a couple of caffeinated teas a day to try and keep my caffeine levels down. I am a massive tea drinker, it is my “go to” drink, which probably comes from being brought up by Salvation Army Officers (oh there’s nothing like an Army cup of tea…). I take my tea white with no sugar if you ever need to know!
I was getting hungry so I had a glass of water in the hope that would calm my stomach for a while. Whoever says eating breakfast keeps you going til lunch lies! The water worked for a little while but didn’t do the trick for long so I resorted to some chewing gum to make me last til 11am. I always have sugar free fruity flavoured chewing gum in my desk drawer – it’s actually one dieting tip I can pass on if you have the same problem as me. Chewing the gum tricks me into thinking I’ve had a nice packet of sweets or something, but it’s practically no calories. If you work in an office where there is temptation all day then get some. It even smells like sweets.
Hooray for snack time!!! Bringing in my own snacks in with me is important because I work in an open plan office where there is always sweets and cakes to tempt me, and now there is a café just outside the office door in our building which serves lovely things – food everywhere. Some days I will happily give in and have a slice of cake (especially if it’s homemade), but today I was able to resist. I suspect that had a lot to do with writing this diary and not wanting to show myself up!! I had a decaf cuppa and a Special K Biscuit Moments Chocolate bar. This is something I have been sent to review for Splodz Blogz, I love getting food parcels in the post (keep them coming please!) but it can be terrible for my diet. I used the calculator on the online tracker to work out the value at 3 Pro Points. I was hoping that a 98 calorie snack would be worth one or two but based on the protein, fat, carb and fire values it is three. It was very tasty – I’ll post my review in the next week or so.
I normally eat my lunch whilst working at my desk at midday ish, and I’d taken in a packed lunch made lovingly by LincsGeek last night for that purpose (that would have been worth 6 Pro Points), but a reminder popped up on my screen: I am meeting a friend for lunch and some blogging chat at 1pm. Doh! So I had a couple of glasses of water and watched the clock… the packed lunch is in the fridge ready for tomorrow.
All that organisation over breakfast went to pot. Why am I so forgetful and unorganised at the moment – even when I am trying to plan properly?! I deleted my packed lunch from my tracker and decided on a baked potato with baked beans from the pub (10 Pro Points – wow potatoes have loads, I’m shocked!) which was served with a bit of salad. I enjoyed it very much, and it was good to talk twitter and blogging too. I had diet coke to drink which is free. I realised I just tucked right in so there’s no pic for my Day in the Life post – I was hungry!
Back at my desk feeling pretty satisfied hunger wise so simply water and some minty chewing gum. I like to have something to drink on my desk at all times – tea or water or squash or a diet drink. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem drinking enough water, I know very quickly if I’ve not drunk enough as it makes me feel very groggy. I know it means I end up going to the loo loads but at least I’m properly hydrated!
Ooo a nice cup of tea…!
A colleague opened some biscuits. I could hear the rustling packet and could see them out of the corner of my eye. She offered me one. I said no. They spoke to me – I’m still satisfied from lunch but could just imagine how good that biscuit would taste. Oh dear. I moved the apple that I brought with me right in front of my keyboard so it’s closer and joked with a colleague that if the apple is between me and the biscuits then I’m safe.
I always struggle a bit in the afternoon, even when I’ve had a decent sized lunch. That biscuit temptation really got to me so I grabbed the apple and started eating. At least it has a zero Pro Points value so I could do so without any guilt. I know I didn’t need anything really but there’s something about being sat at a desk all day, it makes me want food – especially when everyone else is munching. I could easily graze all day on a combination of healthy stuff and rubbish – this is probably why I have to diet now!
There’s no place like home. I put the washing machine on – I’m still trying to get all the holiday stuff washed, had a bit of a tidy up, fed the bunnies, sorted out a blog post for this evening, took a set of blog photos of something that arrived the other day (more food!), and got myself changed. Oh and I tweeted a bit and had a quick go on The Simpsons on my iPad. Evenings always seems to go fast, but I know I have to use it wisely – if I just sit down at that point then that’s me done for the evening.
Dinner has to be easy on a Thursday so I can either cook it quickly or leave it cooking while getting other stuff done. We had Lincolnshire sausages (3 Pro Points each – I had two) cooked in the oven with red onion, mushrooms and peppers (0 Pro Points for the vegetables), and a mashed sweet potato (another 4 Pro Points). It was very yummy, an easy meal with loads of flavour that I cook every couple of weeks or so. Here:
After dinner, which we ate in the lounge as the washing machine was making a racket in the kitchen, I was very VERY tempted by the open box of Thorntons assorted fudge on the table next to me. We are slowly working our way through all the lovely sweet gifts we were given for Christmas. I nearly had a piece, worth 2 Pro Points each I think, but thought better of it. I was so close but LincsGeek quite rightly pointed out I’d have to confess on here if I did, so I left the box alone. Go me!
There’s no temptation during band practice – no break for tea and biscuits, no sweets in my eye line. And there aren’t even any mints in the car at the moment so I didn’t have a sneaky sweet treat on the way there or back. So an evening surviving on what I’ve already consumed, which is most likely how it should be every day!
We’re home, I’ve grabbed a glass of water, and am off to bed. Good night.
That all works out at 28 Pro Points eaten – two over my daily allowance. So not bad as I have plenty of weekly points left. I go over my daily points and use up some of my weekly points most days – usually for an evening treat rather than my normal meals. Being a Thursday I haven’t had time to sit and watch television with a cup of tea and bar of chocolate or few bits of fudge. And I know for certain that if I hadn’t chosen today for my Day in the Life post I would have had a third sausage at dinner and added another three points to my total. But I didn’t need it and so I’m glad that writing this diary has encouraged me to make the better choice. I love my food, and find it difficult to stick with what I need rather than what I want on a daily basis. Stick your helpful suggestions in the comments box!
Can I get a drumroll please? It’s time to announce the winner of my recent giveaway to win a fabulous Gousto food delivery.
I have to say reading through all your replies made me very hungry… I think a curry or beef wellington cropped up the most, along with seafood.
But without further delay, it gives me great pleasure to say that the winner of the competition, thanks to a random number generator, is…
Well done Sarah! There will be an email over to you very shortly telling you how to claim your prize. I hope you enjoy your Gousto delivery – do come back and let me know which recipes you chose and how you got on with them.
Thanks very much to everyone who entered. I hope you’re all subscribed to Splodz Blogz either by email or in your reader so you get to see as they are published?! If not… what are you waiting for?!!!
I’ve been following the Weight Watchers Pro Points plan for a week now. I have been doing my best to keep within my daily points allowance, keeping those weekly points for extra things like treats and eating out. It worked just about ok – even with a couple of meals out (when I really didn’t watch what I ate!) I didn’t go over the combined total of my daily and weekly Pro Points, in fact I had three left over.
In addition to that I earned 23 Activity Pro Points during the week – it was nice to have time to get out and about for some decent length walks up hills and along the beach.
And I lost 3lb.
I’m pretty happy with that. Actually I’m very happy. I know that the first week of a diet is the easiest – you are motivated, it’s a new challenge, changes in eating habits have more of an effect – but I’ll take 3lb. And that’s including scoffing (in a very ladylike manner) chicken burger and chips at a pub by the sea, and a generous helping of chicken korma, pilau rice, garlic naan and vegetable bhaji. Oh I love eating!
Having said that, and apart from those two meals out, the reason for my success is probably down to having the time and energy to cook properly. I tried three new-to-me recipes from the Weight Watchers cook book I was given when I agreed to be a Blog Ambassador, and thoroughly enjoyed them. I also had time to properly prepare nice lunches full of salad and fruit, and sit and eat them in the comfort of my own living room. My week was relaxed, I was happy, and healthy eating and exercise fitted in nicely to that.
This week will be different. I’m back at work, where I sit a desk in an office where there is always a plethora of sweets and cake to be tempted by. The building I’m in has gained a lovely coffee shop serving Starbucks coffee and locally made cupcakes over the Christmas break. And let’s face it, when I am at work sitting at my desk it’s so very easy to give into temptation and snack, snack, snack. I managed to avoid everything on offer yesterday except a small piece of Thornton’s Special Toffee which I made last ages. Today I haven’t been so good – it’s impossible when there is lemon curd Swiss roll on offer, even the pineapple chunks, apple, grapes and bolognaise leftovers for lunch couldn’t stop me. It was delicious.
This week’s Blogger Ambassador challenge is to start a once-a-week menu planning habit. Last week I mentioned that I had started to do that again, so I am one step ahead this time, and last night I sat down to plan out what we would be eating this week. Being back at work and actually with a very busy week ahead, I’ve not got time to labour over new recipes, butt I have planned week night meals that are pretty ok and should keep me on track. Having said that as I write this there are oven chips cooking for LincsGeek to have with his fish – one or two won’t hurt will they?! Ok I’ve totally planned to have a small number with my meal. Oh and of course going back to work means my time for achieving Activity Pro Points by walking miles and miles is very limited. I could cycle to work. Maybe another time.
I go on holiday on Sunday for a week so I am hereby announcing that I will be suspending my diet so I don’t have to think about (or track) my food intake whilst away. I am skiing so there will be plenty of exercise done, but even so it’s too miserable to be dieting when on holiday. I will stop tracking on Sunday and start again the following weekend, meaning there will two weeks before my next weigh in and therefore my next Weight Watchers post. I don’t intend to go nuts or anything, but I shan’t be replacing chips with salad every day. I assume other people suspend their diets when on holiday? Diets are for pre and post holidays right?!
Until then, though, I will be continuing to track my food and attempt to keep within the numbers of Pro Points. I need to find ways of getting into good habits at work; I have already discovered it’s going to take more than having lots of fruit ready to eat.