The Crazy Kitchen: July 2018

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Monday 23 July 2018

Cherry Chocolate No Churn Ice Cream

It's been a crazy busy few weeks, with starting two new jobs, as well as getting stuck into my new gym membership. The weather has been great, which means we've been spending more time that usual sitting in pub gardens and socialising with friends.  We've got holidays to look forward to, and then before we know it we'll be in the thick of the pre Christmas build up!

Before all that though, I'm hoping we've still got a good few weeks of Summer sunshine left, with barbecues and al fresco dining aplenty.

Cherry Chocolate No Churn Ice Cream

Home made no churn ice cream can be the perfect ending to a barbecue, especially as it's simple to make in advance, and if served in a cone there's no additional plates or bowls to wash.

A couple of weeks ago I shared a recipe for Peanut Butter & Pretzel No Churn Ice Cream, which went down extremely well in our household, even with the self confessed peanut butter hating husband.

No churn ice cream made using condensed milk is a simple way to make ice cream, which can be tailored to suit all tastes. To the basic condensed milk and cream base you can stir through your favourite chocolates or biscuits, such as these previous recipes of mine for Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream, After Eight Mint Chocolate Ice Cream and Caramel Ice Cream, or with home grown fruit, such as this Rhubarb Ripple Ice Cream.

This Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream was also extremely to make, made with fresh seasonal cherries, dark chocolate chunks, and a little Nutella.
Cherry Chocolate No Churn Ice Cream

Cherry Chocolate No Churn Ice Cream

Cherry Chocolate No Churn Ice Cream

Once you've made your ice cream you then need to make sure you freeze it at the correct temperature - too cold and you'll need a chisel to serve it, and not cold enough it will begin to thaw.

The arrival of our Samsung American Fridge Freezer from AO came just at the right time for us; in the middle of a heatwave. The large capacity fridge and freezer with all around coolingmeans that even when it's full to the brim, all the food is evenly chilled at the correct temperature, without any warmer or colder spots.

The Brita water dispenser is ideal if you want to have cold water on tap without the need for plumbing in your appliance. The  large water container can be easily filled, and once chilled it dispenses cold water at a touch, without the need to open the fridge doors. Perfect for this hot weather! It's also a bit of a looker..

Samsung RS3000 RS52N3313SL American Fridge Freezer

I received the product in exchange for an honest review

Are energy snack balls all they are cracked up to be?

and why it’s best to make your own

The healthy snack industry is big business. For the health conscious who love a sweet treat, energy balls have become the go-to healthy snack to eat on the go. Piled high on the counters of every gym café, the energy snack ball is also the legitimate sweet treat for the exercise crowd. Gym café bars are filled with smug fitness fanatics nibbling away at their protein-loaded healthy snacks.

But, even those not into exercise are biting the energy snack ball craze. Even Deliciously Ella has her own take on supermarket shelves.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Holly Van Hare of The Daily Meal says, “Energy balls are a sad excuse for food and I’ll never eat one.” It’s not what you expect from a health-conscious food blogger. But, she does have a point when she says ‘if you want a truffle, eat a damn truffle.”
Van Hare’s objection to the humble energy snack balls is primarily that the ingredients don’t need to be mushed up into a ball to be enjoyed. “I don't need to purée and mould my cashews into tiny balls of food. I can eat them on my own with my very able human hands, thank you very much.”
It’s another good point, but so what if we are fooled into thinking the energy ball is a perfectly good sweet treat or dessert? Surely, it’s better than scoffing a bar of Dairy Milk? Then again, I guess that depends on what is in them.

Source: Daily Burn

What are energy snack balls made from?
Most energy snack balls consist of some combination of dried fruit, usually dates, nuts, and seeds. Additional ingredients include oats, puffed rice or other cereal, coconut, raw cacao, matcha, ginger, cinnamon, nut butters, chocolate chips, honey, agave syrup and vanilla extract. This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are many other additional ingredients, but these are the main contenders.

Are energy balls a good snack choice?
On the whole, yes. Energy snack balls are generally a better alternative than muesli bars, chocolate bars and other refined snacks. However, ingredients in snack balls vary widely, so it’s always important to check the ingredients list before you buy. Try to avoid those snacks containing refined sugar and processed ingredients. Here are the best protein and energy snacks according to Forbes.

While wholefood, raw, natural and energy are all words with a healthy connotation, don’t make the assumption that just because they are mentioned on the packaging, there aren’t hidden nasties inside. Always read the label.

Also, be mindful that many snack balls have a high concentration of dried fruit in them. Dried fruit is highly nutritious, but it contains a high level of the natural sugar, fructose. Eating a lot of fructose isn’t good for you and can have a negative impact on your health. While fruit sugar is better than refined, it’s still not ideal, and something you need to watch out for.

Snack balls have a healthy reputation, but because of their relatively small size it’s easy to think it’s OK to eat more than one. Many nutritionists warn those reaching for the energy snack balls to consider serving size and not go overboard, largely because of the fructose content.

Making your own healthy energy snacks
The internet is awash with recipes for healthy no-bake, energy bites. It may be more convenient to buy them from your gym, local health food store or supermarket, but it’s an expensive habit and much cheaper to make your own. Making them yourself also means you have complete control over what goes in them.

Make a batch and package them up to keep in the fridge. They make a great gift for your health conscious friend, sibling, boyfriend, girlfriend, mum or dad. It’s also a great activity to do with your kids. Take a look at this range of customisable food bags from The Bag Broker, perfect for keeping your healthy treats fresh.

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of savoury recipes you can try. The savoury energy snack ball doesn’t seem to have taken off like the sweet versions, but these are super healthy. Without a piece of dried fruit in sight, they won’t spike your blood sugar either.

The energy snack ball has its place, but ingredients vary widely and some brands are teetering dangerously close to selling themselves as something they aren’t. Is the energy snack ball as deliciously satisfying as scoffing a chocolate bar? Probably not. Just saying. Don’t tell my personal trainer.

In all seriousness, I have to partly disagree with Holly Van Hare. Making energy snack balls at home is decidedly satisfying and there’s something very special about mindful food preparation.

Are energy balls all they are cracked up to be? In most cases, yes they are.

Here are a couple of my own recipes, and whilst they're not 'balls' the ingredients are the same, they are just rolled differently!

Cashew, Date & Ginger Bars

Cocoa Orange Date & Almond Bars

Five Storage Tips for your 2018 Grain Harvest

When it comes to maximising the lifespan of your grains, proper storage is paramount. Even in the relatively mild climate of the UK, entire grain stores can be spoiled by fluctuating temperatures, poor moisture management and failure to identify insect infestations soon enough.

Start the season off properly by preparing your grain storage well in advance, ensuring that you can maintain the quality of your grain and maximise its commercial potential over the following year.

Five Storage Tips for your 2018 Grain Harvest

1. Thoroughly clean your storage units
Cleaning your storage units between each season is essential to keep your crop pest-free. Be sure to repair any damaged areas that may be an ingress for critters of any size – from beetles to pigeons – and fill crevices, cavities and recesses that could provide a hiding spot between seasons. You will also need to clean grain handling equipment and machinery.

If you know you’ve had an infestation in the past, make sure this is completely tackled before refilling your store but keep in mind that use of pesticides will need to be carefully timed so as to avoid residue affecting the crop. If you aren’t sure whether the infestation issue problem persists, installing insect traps around the unit will reveal lingering bugs and mites.

2. Clean your grain
It only makes sense that clean, uniform grain will store better. Once harvested, run it through a grain cleaner to eliminate particulate and unnecessary fibres that can act as insect feed and cause poor aeration during storage. If not removed, these fine materials will be drawn into a dense column at the centre of the storage unit, ultimately causing a concentration of moisture.

Using a grain spreader will also ensure an even distribution of grain in the container, improving aeration and reducing spoilage.

Five Storage Tips for your 2018 Grain Harvest

3. Manage your moisture and temperature levels
If moisture and temperature are not controlled, your entire supply will be at risk of growing mould and fungus and their associated mycotoxins. The moisture content for grain should be no higher than 14.5% (with 13% ideal for long-term storage) and where heat processes are used for drying, the grain should be given sufficient time to cool before sealing. Keeping the temperature below 15°C will minimise grain beetles and mites; 12°C or below will prevent grain weevils from hatching. Keeping your stores at 5°C or lower will kill any surviving bugs, but bear in mind that barley for malting cannot be cooled below 10°C.

Using a storage container with an aeration system will ensure you can control grain temperature throughout the seasons, and you may find it beneficial to install a temperature monitoring system to track your batch over its use.  

4. Avoid cross-contamination
Insects, mites and other pests are rarely introduced from new crops. Instead, they are usually already in the storage container, living on the residues from last year and being carried between stores on contaminated equipment.

Even small amounts of contaminated grain can infect a new bin with an insect infestation or damp problem, so it’s important to screen batches that are being moved to a new container and check that machinery (and storage bins) are completely clean before loading or unloading. If you can tell what type of grain it was previously used for, then it isn’t clean.

Five Storage Tips for your 2018 Grain Harvest

5. Monitor your stores frequently
Checking insect traps, temperature readings and store levels should be carried out weekly, so that any problems can be addressed quickly and grain reserves can be saved. Moisture should be checked monthly, although feel free to do so more often during seasonal shifts. Don’t forget the value of the grain you have, and how much income would be lost from failing to catch an issue quickly enough.

The first indication of a moisture issue would be any amount of condensation on the top of your grain, or samples from the top or bottom of the unit giving off a distinct smell. Your aeration system should be able to eliminate light moisture, but if these fail to dry the grains sufficiently you may need to empty your unit until you reach the section causing the issue. 

Wednesday 18 July 2018

3 Awesome Sweet Potato Recipes

When you’re trying to come up with dinner ideas that keep everyone from fussy three-year-olds to hungry 12-year-olds happy, there aren’t many things that meet the mark – especially when you want things to be healthy and quick, too.

That’s where sweet potatoes are a real lifesaver. Not only do they cook more quickly than regular potatoes, they’re also packed full of vitamins A and B. Add to this that they’re a great source of fibre and low GI and it’s easy to see why they earned their superfood title!
Whether you want to add them to a meal as a side or use them as one of the main ingredients, here are three great ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your family’s midweek dinners.
Creamy Roasted Vegetables
You’re going to read this and think it couldn’t possibly be filling enough for dinner, but you’d be amazed! This recipe feeds four, so scale up or down depending on how many hungry mouths you’re feeding.
You’ll need two large sweet potatoes, two courgettes, a handful or two of cherry tomatoes, an aubergine, an onion, and a tub of crème fraîche. For the seasoning, make sure you have a vegetable stock cube, some oregano and either rosemary or thyme.
For the prep: you’ll need to chop all the veggies into smallish cubes – about 2 cm (chop the cherry tomatoes in half). To save time, do this the night before, put them in a tub and fill with water, then keep them in the fridge overnight so they’re ready to pop into the oven.
Once you’re finished chopping, spread the veg out evenly over some oven trays – you’ll probably need two or three. Make sure it’s in a single layer so that everything gets a chance to cook.
Douse generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Next, crumble the stock cube over the vegetables, then add a tablespoon of oregano and rosemary to each tray.To make sure all the vegetables are evenly covered with the oil and seasoning, get your hands in there and mix everything up – trust us, it’s quicker and more effective than using a spoon!
Bake at 180°C for around 35-40 minutes, then test the sweet potato is soft. Spoon the crème fraîche on to the baking tray; it will mix with the vegetable juices to create a creamy sauce.
Serve with crusty garlic bread.
Sweet Potato Fries
For a healthier alternative to regular chips, mix things up with some sweet-potato fries. The key is to cut the chips roughly the same size to make sure they cook evenly – thin 'boat' shapes rather than traditional square chips tend to work better.
Once they’re sliced, put into a mixing bowl and cover with a generous amount of olive oil. If you’re feeling fancy, you could also substitute this for garlic- or chilli-infused oil to give extra flavour. Add some salt and pepper and two teaspoons of paprika.
Spread evenly on a baking tray and cook at 200°C for about 20 minutes.
If you’re short on time, a great alternative is the McCain Shake Shake Sweet Potato Fries. They come with a sea-salt and three-pepper sachet that you shake around in the bag before baking.
sweet potato fries

Baked Sweet Potato with Mackerel and Natural Yoghurt
If it’s too hot to face putting the oven on, this is a great alternative. Cooked in the microwave, sweet potatoes only take between four and eight minutes (depending on their size).
Prick the skins well before popping them in on full power. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, flake some cooked smoked mackerel into a bowl. Chop up some spring onions (chives also work nicely) and add them to the fish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Mix with natural yoghurt until all the fish is well covered. Once the potatoes are cooked (test that they’re soft with a knife), cut in half and add some butter.
Spoon on the fish mixture and serve with salad and cherry tomatoes on the side.

a collaborative post with McCain

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Peanut Butter & Salted Pretzel No Churn Ice Cream

It's 4th July this week, which marks Independence Day in the United States. Despite having two American born children, and living there for 2.5 years, I haven't yet experienced July 4th celebrations actually in the United States. The day is equivalent to one of our bank holidays (with lots more celebrations), and most people get a day off work, spend time with their friends and family, and eat, drink and party!

I've climbed aboard the 4th of July bandwagon this year and created an all American inspired ice cream. It was during my time spent in America that I first began to love pretzels, whereas before they were just the salty sticks that were last to be eaten from the Christmas snack selection. I now have a few recipes on this blog that involve using salted pretzels in the way that I feel they should be eaten; in desserts! I have recipes such as Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts with a Pretzel Crust, Chocolate Pretzel Easter Nests, Salted Pecan & Pretzel Brittle and Sweet & Salty Marshmallow Squares.  The sweet & salty combination isn't for everyone, but I personally think it is amazing, and genius of the person that originally came up with the idea.

peanut butter and pretzel ice cream

The sweetness coming from the condensed milk caramel, the hint of saltiness from the pretzels, and the nuttiness from the extra crunchy Skippy peanut butter combine together perfectly to create this ever so easy no churn ice cream. The husband, who claims to be a peanut butter hater, absolutely loved this, as did the rest of the family, who managed to plough their way through this batch in under 24 hours! Of course I may have helped them a little, and I may also have eaten some for breakfast. Allegedly. I made a second batch at the weekend and used chocolate covered pretzels this time, and my daughter claimed that it was the best ice cream she's ever eaten!

peanut butter and pretzel ice cream

Skippy Peanut Butter is the original American style peanut butter made from the finest American peanuts, and it's now widely available to buy in the UK from most major supermarkets (Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Ocado, Tesco and Costco). The nutty pieces in the crunchy version worked really well blended into the ice cream, along with the creaminess of the smooth version that I swirled through right before freezing.

peanut butter and pretzel ice cream

To make the cones worthy of being at 4th of July celebrations I dipped them in white chocolate and then into red, white and blue sprinkles, and now they could take pride of place at any American or British summer event.

peanut butter and pretzel ice cream

Americans Go Nuts for Skippy Peanut Butter, and now you can too in my nutty 4th July giveaway, in association with Skippy, where one lucky winner can win themselves a cool Skippy branded skateboard, complete with helmet and safety pads, along with 2 jars of Skippy peanut butter and spatula (to make sure you get every last bit out of the jars!), worth £120.

Peanut Butter & Salted Pretzel No Churn Ice Cream       [and a GIVEAWAY]

To enter, complete the Rafflecopter form below.

peanut butter and pretzel ice cream

in collaboration with Skippy

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