Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

We love pizza in this house. Frozen pizza, takeaway pizza, proper Italian pizza, pizza when drinking, hangover pizza, this list goes on. However, I think its pretty common knowledge that pizza isn’t the healthiest option and anything that increases the nutritional benefits of our Friday night favourite has a big fat thumbs up from us.

On top of the nutritional benefits homemade pizza is an absolute steal compared with buying pizza from a takeaway or restaurant and taste better than supermarket pizza so it is better for household economising. It is also a fun thing to make with children as it would allow them to pick their own toppings so there are lots of benefits to making your own.

Pizza dough is so easy to make, even for notice bakers. The only advice I can give is to really follow the instructions about water temperature and yeast and also to allow plenty of time for the dough to rise.

We made steak and rocket pizzas, but obviously mix it up as you wish.

To make 4 pizzas you will need:

500g strong wholemeal flour

2 teaspoons of salt

25g butter, cut into small cubes

13g (1 sachet of dried yeast)

250ml tepid water

For the topping

Passata with garlic and herbs added

1/2 ball buffalo mozzarella per pizza

Parmesan cheese

1 sirloin steak per 2 pizzas or 1 frying steak per pizza

Rocket

 

In a jug, mix together the lukewarm water and yeast. To a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and butter. Add the water and use your hands to mix this together into a rough dough. Once the flour and water is mixed, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. At this point you can half the quantity of dough if needed and freeze for a later date. Return to the bowl and least it rise for an hour, or until the dough doubles in size and springs back when poked.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Split into 2 and roll out the dough so that it is about 1/2 cm thick. Top the dough with the passata and cheese and cook for around 15-20 minutes or until the base is cooked. While it is cooking grill or fry your steak. (Leave this to rest before cutting). When the pizza is cooked stop with the steak, Parmesan and rocket.

This pizza tastes delicious but is slightly more difficult to eat in slices so you may want to consider using a knife and fork.

Dane actually told me that this pizza was one of the best ones I have made for him, which is high praise indeed.

 

Self Care is important

Self Care is important

“Self care” always seems a very millennial term to me. My mum often ends phone calls telling me to “look after yourself” and I think for me this isn’t about living extravagantly or being greedy with food or possessions. It’s more being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself even when things feel bleak and not going to extremes to make yourself feel better.

Caring for oneself might not be flashy, it might not give you the best social media following or Instagrammable moments 24/7 but it can keep you going when things get tough or when you’re feeling burnt out.

Here are some things that always help me when life starts getting on top of me (for whatever reason):

1. Have a bath. If you’re like me and your wonderful family and friends buy you a lot of bath stuff for Christmas or birthdays keep a stash to feel like a treat. There’s nothing like using something lovely smelling to lift your mood.

2. Soul food. There’s nothing like cooking the sort of thing you used to be fed when you were growing up to make you feel a bit better. If you’re really struggling with life even a bowl of kids cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals and soup is cheap and filling (souper).

3. Take one thing off your list. In my job I write lists to help me to remember what I have to do and I encourage the people of my team to keep lists. I advise you, if you’re feeling truly overwhelmed with everything you expect to get done be realistic. Are you really going to have time for everything? You don’t have to be superwoman. Take something of your list to ease the pressure if it’s not an urgent task.

4. Sort out your socks. This is a silly one but tidying and cleaning helps you feel in control (this from a messy person!) and I realized just this weekend but actually wearing matching socks helps with the overall feeling of taking some pride in your appearance.

5. Spend time with loved ones. When life gets hard it is so easy to withdraw but I promise you company will help. Even if you’re sitting drinking tea at your friends house or playing games with your siblings. Don’t doubt the magic of spending time with people where you can just be yourself.

6. Get outside. See some nature. Get some fresh air. Blow those cobwebs away. Simple.

7. If you have a pet there is literally nothing nicer than them coming up to you and nuzzling you. I know not everyone is an animal person but if you are you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Be kind to yourself ladies and gentlemen.

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Healthy Eating on a Budget

This post is a long time coming and I am surprised I have not written it sooner, especially given its a bit part of my weekly food shopping mantra. Healthy eating has an often unfair reputation as being expensive. It can be but then again I think its pretty expensive if you regularly eat takeaways or buy ready meals. Although from the outset cooking from scratch can feel expensive, once you have your store cupboard ingredients you’re pretty much good to go.

I am aware most people who like cooking are pretty good at these, but this post is for those wanting to change their lifestyle but feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Your freezer is your friend. I’ve been surprised by the frozen vegetables you can buy now (I keep thinking of growing up in the 90s when it was peas, carrots and corn). Frozen fish and fruit is also really useful to have in as it means you only have to defrost what you need and it tends to be cheaper to buy.
  2. You don’t have to completely steer clear of food trends but be aware  that it does make your food shop more expensive. Be realistic. Can you justify spending the money on something you might not like, especially if you are prone to buying something, trying it once and then ignoring it while it takes up valuable cupboard space.
  3. Look at your protein alternatives and embrace vegetarian and vegan food. Quorn is our new household favourite. (Can I just say here the people who make Quorn should take a bow, it has improved so much). Not only is it generally lower in fat, it works out as less expensive too. Think about having beans and pulses and adding nuts or eggs to stir fries.
  4. Get your dried fruit from the baking aisle. Seriously, its cheaper buying the bigger packs from here than getting it from the fruit aisle.
  5. Buy your fruit and veg by weight where you can. Again, this stops you spending more than you need on vegetable that you might not finish and not only does it reduce food waste but you spend less.
  6. Plan your meals. Whether this is a vague plan of what you’ll eat or more detailed. Being aware of what you will eat on what night prevents you from buying more than necessary.
  7. Buy yourself some snacks. There will be some days where its just too long between meals. If you buy yourself stuff that you like it’ll prevent you overeating as you’ll feel satisfied. Plus buying more at once can work out cheaper unless you eat an entire multipack of crisps in one sitting (and that my friend is a lot of salt).
  8. Try new recipes. How are you going to enjoy your new healthy lifestyle if you don’t embrace the magic of variety?

Have you got any tips to enjoy healthy eating on a budget?

New Years Day – Small Changes

New Years Day – Small Changes

At New Year I think we can all confidently say that we are inundated with two opposing forces in both mainstream and social media. These being the concept of “New Year New You” or the alternate view of “making resolutions is pointless as you never stick to them anyway”.

While for most of us a complete lifestyle overhaul is unobtainable and daunting there are so many small steps you can do to make yourself feel better. It often seems to me that the whole wellness thing that really exploded between 2016 was difficult for us to stick to, expensive to obtain ingredients and often impractical for fitting into a family routine. Just ask me about the time I tried a kale smoothie and thought I was eating grass; or the time I tried the paleo diet and it was the best thing ever until the day I started crying because I was hormonal and desperately wanted some oven chips.

However, I am as guilty as anyone for letting myself think that means I can lose sight of healthier living altogether. I noticed my face becoming increasingly moon like in November and took myself in hand for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas. Here were my smallest changes, but I actually enjoyed the little challenges posed and I got a bit of a spring in my step.

So here are a few suggestions to help you along with a healthier year:

  1. If possible take advantage of your local parkrun. This is a fantastic event run solely by volunteers. Basically its a weekly Saturday morning 5k run. There’s runners of all abilities and its so well run and everyone is really encouraging, even when you’re just starting out. To be honest I am a terrible runner. My gait is like that of Kermit the frog, but the fresh air and actually doing the 5k gives me such a sense of achievement whenever I attend and you can see how you’re improving from your time each week. Its completely free and you can sign up here.
  2. Just try and do more active things at the weekend. Swim, go to a trampoline park, ride your bikes. D and I did a walk around Ripley today and it blew away the cobwebs away and we saw some beautiful countryside.
  3. Stop with the fizzy drinks, especially diet drinks. Full sugar fizzy drinks have so much sugar and you probably don’t really notice you’re drinking empty calories. Diet drinks seem like a sensible alternative but they’re still pretty acidic and the sweeteners can actually contribute towards you putting on weight. I have basically cut put my fizzy drink vice in favour or tea, coffee and water and I think this contributed to weight loss more than anything else and since I stopped having fizzy drinks I noticed I enjoy sweet treats way more.
  4. Identify when you eat the worst. I am a great boredom eater at the weekend and tended to snack after we did our food shop. I also always used to get to lunchtime at work and convince myself I had worked hard enough to justify caramel shortbread from the canteen. Breaking the caramel shortbread habit was straightforward enough as it because something of an ongoing gag between myself and my friends at work but the boredom eating was a challenge. We ended up food shopping at a different time of day to avoid this habit (we also saved money buying fewer sweeties).
  5.  On prepackaged food look at the traffic lights. When you’re out and want a snack this is a great way to grab a snack without it disrupting a basic healthy lifestyle.
  6. Don’t be hard on yourself all the time. Life is to be enjoyed and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends is part of this. Give yourself time to relax and stress less about what you’re eating and just enjoy being with people you care about and have a good time.

Have a happy new year.

A change of scene

A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Sunday Dinner at The Refectory

Sunday Dinner at The Refectory

A wise person once told me that Sundays are for relaxing and eating lovely food. While I am very much inclined to agree, that is what we SHOULD make time for its safe to say life can often get in the way of this at times. For me its having a busy job, running this blog on the side of that, looking after 2 bunnies, being in a play, doing up the house etc. etc. Life can be busy and its easy to forget that mealtimes should be leisurely and help you unwind from the week. So, in addition to inviting me for lunch I’d like to thank the staff at the Refectory in the Royal York Hotel for reminding me how chilled out a Sunday lunchtime can be.

The Royal York Hotel (I think) has recently changed hands and has such elegant interiors combining traditional elements of the architecture with a modern feel throughout. (I’m no design student but my friend Mrs E and I both liked what we saw). The refectory itself was pretty trendy and modern – sort of a conservatory with a Scandinavian vibe. Pretty perfect for weekends in York as it is close to the city centre but with a genuine feel of modern Yorkshire that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

We were made to feel so welcome by the restaurant staff and they all seemed pretty knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food they were serving. The food is locally sourced which I am very much in favour of, especially given the amazing quality of the local produce in this region.

Also I was pretty impressed that Mrs E tried the piccalilli made on the premises (she is not usually one for condiments!) so this must have been pretty special. To start with Mrs E had the pressed ham hock – with the aforementioned piccalilli and mustard monkey bread. The ham hock and piccalilli went perfectly together and was beautifully presented. I had calamari, a rare treat for me as D is not a fan of squid. The squid was cooked to perfection and was incredibly tender.

For the main course I had roast of the day which was beef and Yorkshire pudding. I was impressed that I was asked how I would like my beef as I know preferences vary on this. I had mine rare and it was beautifully cooked (also I particularly enjoyed a roast dinner I had not had to cook myself). Mrs E enjoyed her confit duck leg (the chef’s special) which seemed to fall off the bone.

We decided to push the coat out and have a dessert each (something pretty rare for either of us these days). I had a Yorkshire cheese board – 3 kinds of cheese which I believe makes it a gentleman’s cheeseboard. I love cheese boards for having my own personal one was pretty cool. Mrs E had strawberry sorbet which looked fresh and inviting and I think a great palate cleanser after the duck.

We sat and relaxed in the light airy restaurant and finished our wine (we had Sauvignon Blanc) and then walked around York to digest our lunch.

All in all a pretty great Sunday lunchtime don’t you think?

We both really enjoyed our food and we were genuinely touched by the attention of the staff. Thank you for inviting us! The Refectory is a great venue with some wonderful food – I think this was reflected in that we could see family groups of different sizes, friends on days out like us and a few couples. I would really recommend this place to anyone visiting York and will definitely be coming back.

For more information about The Refectory including booking details click here. Click here for information on the Royal York hotel including booking details, how to get there and hotel facilities.

I was invited to review the Sunday Lunch at the Royal York Hotel but all opinions and enthusiasm is my own.

Sausage and feta meatballs

Sausage and feta meatballs

I feel like at the moment a lot of recipes I post are quick ones for people who are busy or don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen. What can I say, I’m really busy at the moment (both in my day job but also getting some pretty great opportunities on this blog) and yet I still want to eat balanced meals with D.

Anyway, I sent D and I both to work with these meatballs and cous cous salads for lunch and they were perfect. I think its safe to say we were both full until tea time (its all about those slow release carbs.

Anyway, this is a perfect lunch or teatime idea as it takes about 5 minutes to cobble together the meatball mix and shape and about 15-20 minutes in the oven. Good for when you’re desperate for some sofa time!

For 12 meatballs you will need:

4 pork and oregano sausages or similar

2 sliced spring onions

1/4 egg (optional, if you you have it left from some other cooking)

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

80g crumbled feta

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Remove the sausages from the skin and add to a large bowl. Crumble over some feta and add the onion, egg, and seasonings. Use your hands to smush together the ingredients. Shape the meat filling into the meatballs about 3cm in diameter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sausages have browned.

If you’re cooking this to have in a salad allow to cool. If its to go into a sauce add it at this point. Serve with the sides of your choice. For us it was dukkah spiced cous cous. Just remember, fast food doesn’t always have to mean you compromise on flavour or nutritional value.

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