Check yourself this Movember

14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

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The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).

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Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.

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Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.

I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.

For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.

For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.

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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Sausage, sweet potato and spinach lasagne

This recipe is one for those days when only something a bit more carb heavy and comforting will do, but at the same time you don’t want healthy eating to go completely out of the window. It was actually born because me really really craving lasagne but only having sausages in and not really being entirely enthusiastic about the whole rigmarole of making bolognese and bechamel sauce on a Thursday night. Still out of laziness comes a lot less food waste and overhearing D telling his friend about a really night lasagne I had made for him, so the recipe seems to have been successful in our house.

To make enough lasagne for 4 people you will need:

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

400g pork and leek sausages removed from their skins

3 large handfuls sweet potato chunks (I used frozen sweet potato)

3 large handfuls fresh spinach

1 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

150ml creme fraiche (I used low fat but all types work)

20g parmesan (plus extra for the top)

Salt and pepper

Approx 230g passata infused with herbs

125g buffalo mozzarella

4-5 lasagne sheets

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Fry on a gentle heat until soft. Add the skinned sausages and sweet potato chunks and season with the salt, pepper, marjoram and chilli. Cook over a medium heat, breaking up the sausage to smooth out, until the sweet potato has started to soften and the sausage is cooked.Add the spinach, creme fraiche and parmesan and stir until the spinach has wilted and the parmesan has melted into everything.

In a medium casserole dish make a smooth layer of this mixture. Top with your lasagne sheets (no need to pre cook). Pour over your passata. Break your mozzarella over the passata and grate over more parmesan and pepper.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese on the top is golden.

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I think this will become part of our regular repertoire.

Sausage, broccoli and courgette risotto

D and I are both pretty busy working full time, writing and doing amdram (he’s just landed a part doing the History Boys!). In fact you could technically say we were a busy family if you count the rabbits demolishing cardboard boxes and hiding behind the sofa. Anyway I’ve started trying to think of some relatively quick and healthy recipes that’ll keep us going all evening.

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Anyway, I felt like a start home maker (for once) making this as I used home made chicken stock in this, which did actually make all the difference (but is absolutely not essential and alas I now have no more).

To make enough risotto for 4 people you will need:

6 sausages

250g-300g risotto rice (not going to lie, I just used up a bag of rice and didn’t measure)

1 small onion – sliced

1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed

Chicken stock (about 1L)

1 glass white wine

1/2 broccoli head – cut into small pieces

1 courgette

Rosemary

Pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper

Butter

Fry the onion and garlic in butter until soft over a gentle heat. Remove the sausages from their skins and fry them with the onion and squish this into small pieces before the sausage is cooked.

Fry the rice in this for 1 minute and then add half the chicken stock, rosemary and wine and turn down to a low heat. Stir this occasionally and add more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid (and it evaporates). Once the rice seems partially cooked add the broccoli and either spiralize in the courgette (or use a potato peeler to make small pieces of it). Once the rice and vegetables are cooked season with salt and pepper. To serve top with the percorino cheese.

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Serve to your busy (and hungry) family members. Although perhaps not to your bunnies/cat/goldfish.

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Italian sausage risotto stuffed peppers

As much as I loved Christmas, I’m glad to be back in my kitchen tinkering with recipes. Risotto stuffed peppers proved to be a triumph, combining the warm comforting feeling of having risotto in your stomach while feeling all virtuous about the vegetables you’ve consumed in this. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I like occasionally removing skins from sausages and using it like mince in dishes and the herbs in the Italian style sausages add a wonderful depth of flavour. The other benefit in this recipe is that if you use gluten free sausages this would be perfect for those who suffer with coeliac disease (and other gluten free diets).

Anyway, the risotto on this is so delicious D and I were both scraping it out once the peppers were in the oven.

Anyway to make these you will need.

4-5 peppers (depending on how packed with rice you want the peppers to be)

1 pack of Italian style sausages or similar (6 sausages)

1 small onion (sliced)

200g risotto rice

1 clove of garlic (crushed)

Chicken stock

Splash of passata

100g frozen spinach

1 sprig of rosemary

Salt and pepper

Percorino cheese

Cooking spray (I used flora cooking spray)

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Half your peppers and scoop out the sleeves and arrange them onto a roasting tray. Keep the stalks on the pepper halves in order to keep more of the filling in.

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Fry the onion and garlic over a gentle heat until soft. To skin the sausages use the flat of a knife to squish out the meat so it is more like mince. Add this to the onion and garlic and fry until the meat is no longer pink. Add the rice and then about 300ml chicken stock, the spinach, rosemary and passata. Season with a little salt and pepper.

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Cook over a gentle heat, topping the rice mixture up with water when it dries out too much. Remove from the heat once the rice is cooked. The risotto should have slightly more liquid in it that most risotto as it will dry out a little when it is in the oven. Reseason with salt and pepper to taste.

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Divide this mixture between the peppers. Top the rice mixture with a little grated pecorino and bake the peppers for 15-20 minutes.

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I suppose you could serve these with salad or as part of a bigger spread of food; but honestly we had these on their own and they were a delicious week night meal. Perfect if you have a little more time. I think D liked them as a post gym meal too.

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The Co-operative Christmas Event

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So last Friday (27th November) I was late for a blog event like I have never been late before. Driving from Leeds to Manchester was a nightmare, with whole stretches of the M62 gridlocked. I spent most of my journey bashing my head against my steering wheel cursing myself for not taking an afternoon off to drive over. But you know, I actually had a pretty great evening. The Co-op PR team, SEO and other head office staff adapted the even really well (apparently the traffic affected a lot of attendees) so that everything as timed for later in the evening.

I was greeted in the Foyer of the Head Office (which FYI looks like a giant beehive), by friendly Co-op employees bearing Prosecco, which was delicious. Sadly I was drving so I had a thimble full of the (award winning) stuff. I was delighted to find a bottle of it in my goody bag.

Anyway, I was absolutely starving when I arrived so I set about stuffing myself with pate and then my first Christmas dinner of the season. I could happily have eaten more of the turkey in particular. I adored the stuffing. I also really liked the salmon (which for a seasoned salmon hater says a lot, possibly I am growing as a person?)

 

Anyway, this was followed by some pretty nice festive party food. (I wish I had a second stomach sometimes). Anyway there was dim sum, sausages with popping crackling – apparently somebody’s Grandmother had a recipe for this and it was developed for this Christmas and some sausage roll swirl type things. I think sadly the food had been cooked much earlier in the evening but I think it tasted decent considering and it certainly looked pretty.

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What I thought was to finish was dessert (and dessert wine) and a panel with more seasoned bloggers answering questions based on their experience. I actually find the panel really interesting and informative, as was talking to other bloggers. I think its always worthwhile discussing experiences within the blogging community, there’s always something you haven’t considered and I always find you meet such lovely and interesting characters. It also made me feel better knowing that within this network of interesting and articulate people (mostly writing parenting bloggers) that people do get tired and sometimes a hiatus is needed so you feel refreshed and ready to write new content.

If you are a regular reader you know I have a sweet tooth and it was certainly true last Friday. What I really liked most though was the dessert wine. It wasn’t as cloying or syrupy as I expect dessert wine to be. It was light and citrussy and I would imagine it would work wonderfully with mince pies or Christmas pudding.

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To finish there was wonderful cheeseboards and some demonstrations. I entirely regret not being able to eat very much cheese at all, but in my defence I was full for most of the following day.

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Sadly all good things must come to an end and I was soon back home with D and we opened the loveliest goody bag. We have way less to stock up for at Christmas now. Thank you!

I would like to give a massive thank you once again for the generosity of everyone at the Co-operative. Most especially I think I will be stocking up on Christmas wine with you! It really was a shame I couldn’t try much at all. In addition I would like to say thank you to my fellow bloggers.Its been a while since I attended anything on my own and you all made me feel so welcome, gave me tips and made me appreciate the community spirit there is online.

Easy sausage meatballs with tomato and rosemary sauce

So while it seems like the rest of social media is denouncing pasta in favour of kale, sweet potato and lots and lots of protein shakes. While I’m all for healthy eating and living well; I do think there is definitely a place for pasta as part of a healthy diet. Pasta is lovely, in moderation if makes your stomach happy and keeps you full stopping you reaching for something sweeter in the middle of the evening.

In addition, as well as praising pasta in this post I should mention; sausage meatballs have been something of a revelation in this house. Sausages (especially good quality sausages) need no extra seasoning meaning that you can skin the sausages and reshape them in one easy step. In addition it provides a bit of variety when compared with more traditional meatball recipes. It’s probably also a good recipe for my mother (if she’s reading this) who is allergic to pork in its original state but can manage sausages and bacon and from time to time might prefer a new sausage recipe.

DSC_0640To make this you will need

6 – 8 good quality sausages

2 red onions

1 clove garlic

200g passata

Salt and pepper

1 small glass red wine

Worcester sauce (or Hederson’s relish) – optional

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

100g frozen peas

Olive oil

Splash of soy sauce (to bring out the umami flavour)

Pasta shells (I use approx 3/4 mug per person except with those fancy ones where the shells are massive)

50g goats cheese

Remove the sausages from their skins by squeezing the meat out with the flat of a knife. Shape the meat into small meatball shapes (about 2cm in size). Put these into the fridge to cool for approximately 30 minutes (or longer if you wish).

DSC_0627DSC_0628While the meatballs are chilling prepare your onions by peeling them and cutting them into segments and peel and crush the garlic. Heat these in the olive oil over a moderate heat until soft. Just as the onions soften add the brown sugar and allow the onion to caramelise.

DSC_0629DSC_0630Add the meatballs and heat, stirring gently until the meatballs are starting to brown. To this add the passata, salt and pepper, wine, rosemary, soy sauce, peas and Worcester sauce (if using). Start cooking the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. While the pasta is cooking gently simmer the meatballs.

DSC_0631DSC_0632DSC_0634DSC_0635Once the pasta is cooked take some of the starchy water and add to the pasta sauce to loosen it. Reseason with the salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the cooked pasta and cut up the cheese and melt into the sauce on a lot heat.

DSC_0636DSC_0638Et voila, meatballs!