Posted in Baking Day, Food & Health, Recipes

Chocolate Tartlets {sugar is not your enemy}

Chocolate Tartlets.

Chocolate tartlet bitesize close-up
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again it doesn’t matter what you eat it’s the amount you eat that matters if you want to reach and maintain a healthy weight.  I’ve witnessed people on ‘diets’ wolfing down tubs of cottage cheese and seen the triumphant tweets as another milestone few pounds are shifted on a diet that awards points to food.
Chocolate tartlet

Diets are not sustainable.  Variety is the spice of life so have variety. Do not restrict your diet, do not cut out anything but do cut back, just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to eat all of it now – you can have some more tomorrow. Be sensible.
Chocolate tartlets

Change your portion size at dinner – palm size of protein (palm does not include your fingers!), fist size of carbs (yours not Mohammad Ali’s), and have vast amounts of vegetables.
Tartlet tins

If you need to lose some weight then stop eating after 6pm and do some extra exercise until you shift the pounds, then maintain your healthy weight by moderately exercising and watching your portion sizes.
Chocolate tartlets upside down

Stop eating the kids leftovers. If you go out tonight and have a three course meal then dinner tomorrow should be vegetable soup or something light. It’s about balance and moderation. Be sensible.
Chocolate tartlets bitesize on platter

The latest food war being waged is against sugar, this in a world that has shifted from dissing butter, fat, eggs and salt.

Sugar makes things sweet and I like sweet things. Sweet things are for treats and desserts, they are for occasional indulgence. Sugar is not your enemy. Be sensible.
Chocolate tartlets bitesize side-on

Desserts in restaurants are huge so share them – you don’t really want to feel bloated do you, you just want to feel satisfied.

These chocolate tartlets contain butter, sugar, eggs & chocolate.  All real, good foods but too much of it will make you fat.  You don’t want to be fat so just have a little piece.
Chocolate tartlets bitesize from side

I would make these for a special occasion where there are lots of people around to share and cut each tartlet into bite-size morsels.
Chocolate tartlet bitesize close-up

When I’m cooking I think I’m like most people and regularly hurried and without the luxury of time to wait for things to set or rise etc. In this recipe I use a small quantity of shortcrust pastry to make a light biscuity base for the tartlets. Shortcrust pastry should really get to have a little rest in the fridge before it’s rolled but here I don’t and you know what it works out just fine.

Chocolate tartlets:

You will need {for the pastry base}:
6 tartlet tins with push up bases, pie weights
100g plain flour
50g butter (cold)
10g caster sugar
1 egg yolk {keep the white for the chocolate mix}
1 tbsp cold water
Method {for the pastry base}:
Pre-heat the fan oven to 180C.
Use a food processor to mix the flour and cold butter together until breadcrumb texture then add in the caster sugar, egg yolk and water and mix until comes together into a dough ball.
Lightly flour a work-surface and rolling pin.
Roll out the pastry and invert your tartlet tins to cut out pastry to their size.
Line each tartlet tin with a pastry base, don’t worry if it doesn’t reach all the way up the sides.
Use pie weights – I put them in a cupcake case – and then bake the pastry bases in the hot oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and reduce heat to 170C .

While the cases bake make the filling for the chocolate tartlets:
You will need {for the chocolate filling}:
125g chocolate (70%+)
75g butter
100g light brown sugar
3 tsp water
2 egg yolks
3 egg whites {use the 1 left-over from the pastry}
Pinch salt
Method {for the chocolate filling}:
Pre-heat the fan oven to 170C.
Break the chocolate and roughly chop the butter into a bowl and melt together in the microwave.
Place the light brown sugar in a saucepan, add the water and bring to the boil stirring to create a syrup over a high heat.
Use an electric whisk to add the syrup in to the melted chocolate and butter, keep whisking until smooth.
Whisk in the 2 egg yolks then place the bowl in the fridge to cool while you whisk the egg whites.  Whisk the 3 egg whites with a pinch of salt until beginning to thicken and hold soft peaks.
Remove the chocolate mixture from the fridge and use a spatula to gently fold and stir in the egg whites until all is well combined but without beating.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the semi-cooked pastry cases and return to the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow the tartlets to cool in the tin.
I suggest slicing each tartlet into 6 bite-size pieces.
Enjoy.
‘Til next time, Sheila.
P.S. Voting for the Irish Blog Awards 2015 opens on 7th September for 2 weeks and I’d love it if you’d vote for ‘Gimme The Recipe’ to reach the finals of the Food & Drink category.

Posted in Food & Health

Clonakilty Gluten Free Cuisine

A handful of times a year I get to walk through the doors of Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty and each time my reaction is the same – WOW!  You know the type of gasps that you would emit if your were ever  front-row at Paris Fashion Week , well it’s like that, only it’s not a fashion emporium it’s a food emporium.  I consider Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty to be a bit of a mecca for the food lover, akin to a visit to the food hall at Harrod’s in London.  The deli and display counters are immense and it’s a pleasure to shop there when I get the opportunity.
The latest exciting venture at Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty is the development of their ‘Clonakilty Gluten Free Cuisine’ range, designed to meet the demands of the coeliac customer whose condition requires adhering to a gluten-free diet for life.
Scallys gluten free baking
Scally's gluten free cupcakes
The range which consists of almost 30 gluten-free products certified for coeliacs will be available at Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty and Scally’s SuperValu Blackrock in Cork city.
As with their shops the food is top quality and I’ve been sampling some of it over the last 10 days; delicious soups, moist cakes, scrumptious savoury dishes and superb sauces – we’ve been raving about the pepper sauce in my house & the wonderfully chunky chowder.  Being a fan of Scally’s SuperValu I was delighted to review a selection of ‘Clonakilty Gluten Free Cuisine’ that they provided to me, the images were also provided.
For a speciality food range that requires stringent manufacturing conditions and thus large investment, Scally’s have managed to keep their price point competitive with a brown soda bread (450g) being 2 euro for example.
Scallys gluten free pepper sauce
Scally's gluten free carrot and coriander soup
Scally's gluten free petit pain
Wishing Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty the very best with their exciting new range ‘Clonakilty Gluten Free Cuisine’.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Food & Health

Power Breakfasts with Linwoods and Glenisk

In the throes of winter it’s porridge for breakfast for me but I’m not one who can eat it unadulterated.  I like at least a good smattering of sugar or, and a healthier alternative, a warm puréed apple perched in the middle and drizzled over with honey and accompanied with a little creamy Irish milk.  Making a slow transition into Springtime weather on some of the chillier mornings porridge is still a great option and as Linwoods sent me a wide range of their products to try out lately I’ve been using the ‘Milled Flaxseed Sunflower Pumpkin & Sesame Seeds & Goji Berries’ to fortify my porridge even further and ward off mid-morning munchie attacks.
(tip – I blitz a cored cooking apple in it’s skin for a couple of minutes in the microwave – scored right around the middle with a knife – it collapses beautifully to a delicious purée)
Power Breakfast Porridge Linwoods
It’s always lovely to have some homemade brown-bread on call (not that I always do – I wish I were a disciplined baker…) and smothered with real Irish butter another favourite breakfast of mine accompanied with a boiled egg.  Nice to savour with butter and jam too.
Power baking with Linwoods
I used my trusty Folláin’s brown-bread recipe and substituted in 25g of  Linwoods ‘Chia Seeds’ for white flour and in another loaf 25g of the Linwoods ‘Milled Flaxseed, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts & Co-Enzyme Q10 and they both baked perfectly.
Power Bread Sliced Linwoods

I’ll know that summer is finally here when my breakfast of choice becomes a bowl of fresh fruit topped with a few tablespoons of yoghurt – in this case Glenisk Organic Greek Style Yoghurt – Natural – and I’ll be sprinkling on a lovely almost biscuity topping of Linwoods ‘Milled Flaxseed Sunflower Pumpkin & Sesame Seeds & Goji Berries.’  It’s almost like having a fruity cheese-cake for breakfast.
Power Fruit with Glenisk and Linwoods

As mentioned  above Linwoods supplied me with a wide range of their products to try out.   Glenisk have also kindly supplied me with numerous vouchers to use to purchase and try their range.
Power bowl fruit with Glenisk and Linwoods
Rest assured that while these products were free  I only endorse products that I enjoy and would buy myself.
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Food & Health

Welcome to Hogville!

That’s how I felt when I double checked the recommended serving sizes for rice and pasta. Like a hog.  2 tbsp, surely that couldn’t be right?  But my query on twitter was followed up and I was directed to http://www.safefood.eu/en/Consumer/Healthy-Living/Eating-Well/Portion-sizes-how-much-is-enough/.
I’m not a nutritionist but I do think that I have a sensible approach to food.  If I’ve done the dog on it one day, like the Lily O’Brien’s truffle and the caramel squares I swiped off one of the children yesterday then I’ll try to make up for it the next day (30 sweaty minutes on the treadmill this morning).  I’ll try to be good.  But when it comes to dinner time I’ve yet to produce the weighing scales or measuring spoons when I dish out the portions.
So this morning I’ve measured out 2 tablespoons of rice which as you can see for yourself is tiny and as it fluffs up when it cooks even less is going to fit on 2 tbsp then.
2 tbsp rice
So what am I going to do with this advice?
Well the first thing to do was to investigate it further.  So I took a trip to the safefood site which linked to the weigh2live website with lots of useful information.
I was heartened to see that the portion size for starchy food is the size of a tennis ball.  Yes I’m guilty of dishing out a lot more than that but compared to 2 tablespoons it’s a bit more generous.
An interesting guideline for the amount of meat we should eat is to go with the palm of your hand, which to me makes sense as we’re all different sizes and our size should influence the amount that we need to eat.  The thing to remember about the protein advice though is that we are recommended two servings a day so even though a portion size for chicken would be half a small breast  of chicken that would be assuming that you’ve had another protein portion throughout the day perhaps cheese and ham at lunch or 2 eggs at breakfast.
It’s not all bad then.  In fact Cliodhna Foley-Nolan’s advice to use a smaller plate and divide it into three for protein, starch and vegetables is nice, simple and practical.
For further information pay a visit to www.safefood.eu
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Food & Health

Veggie Sticks

‘How do you get a three year old to eat something other than dry pasta, with no sauce?’  This was a question I was asked this week and it reminded me that my 4 year old nephew was being similarly selective during the summer time.  What about my own kids, what were they like I wondered?  I honestly couldn’t remember a dry pasta phase but I do remember  a lot of fussiness about lumps and bits.
Fun with food
When you think about it, if you’ve entered this world with a mouth full only of gums and have had at least a year of not having to bite or chew anything then would you bother if you could get away with it?
I still find the thought of eating an apple a bit of a chore, biting through the skin and then chomp, chomp for ages, give me fruit salad anyday when all the hard work has been done for me.
The dry pasta has to be a bit of a texture thing, it’s soft and bland and there’s no lumps or bits.
The only advice I can give is to keep offering different types of foods with different textures and try to make it fun.  If you can get the child involved in the making of the food all the better.  Those little hands would love smushing up bits of fish and potato to make fish cakes.
At the end of the day it’s just another one of those phases.  How do you get your child to stay in bed at night?  How do you get them to stop biting, weeing on the carpet or colouring on the walls?  Parenting is a constantly evolving adventure and each child is a unique individual.  There are no right or wrong ways there’s just your way.  Enjoy.

Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Food & Health

Salt – What’s up with the white stuff?

Somewhere at the back of our minds there’s an awareness that too much salt is bad for us but how much is too much and how can you measure it?
Salt
Sea Salt Flakes

I honestly didn’t think salt intake was an issue for me until last September when I took part in a discussion on the subject (at the French Food & Wine Festival in On The Pig’s Back, Douglas.)  I assumed that because I wasn’t a heavy sprinkler at the dinner table I was fine.  When reading the labels on packets of cereal etc. it was always the sugar content that I focussed on when deciding whether or not to buy it for the kids and historically I disregarded the information on salt.

When you look at the salt figures on the packet they always look small by comparison to the other contents and therefore they are dismissed.  Sometimes they are deceptively small.  I always thought that I was very clever knowing that Sodium was in fact Salt but what I didn’t know was that you need to multiply the Sodium figure by 2.5 to work out the salt content.  Now that to me as a consumer is misleading and simply wrong.   Besides, who’s running around the supermarket with their calculator in tow?

I had the opportunity to attend ‘Salt: Hard to Shake’, a Safefood conference on the study conducted into ‘Dietary salt intake and related risk factors in the Irish population’ in November 2010.

The key fact that I took away from this conference is that 80% of our salt intake is from processed foods.

The evidence from the findings of the study is also emphatic.  Reduce salt = reduce blood pressure.

As I ate my innocent looking slice of wholegrain toast this morning, out of dawdlement I looked at the information on the pack.  Each slice contains 0.4g of salt.  I physiologically only need 4g of salt per day so that one slice of toast gave me 10% of that, and that’s not to mention the butter.  The population goal is 6g of salt per day (roughly a teaspoon) but there is a strong possibility that like the average consumer I am unwittingly ingesting 9g per day.

What makes the task of cutting back on salt hard is how that information is relayed on the pack.  First there’s the calculation issue, if it’s expressed as sodium then multiply it by 2.5.  Then what decision do you make based on that figure? e.g. the 0.4g salt per slice of bread.  How do you interpret what 0.4g means?
Again, I find the information on the packs unhelpful and misleading.  It might look useful to express the salt content as a percentage of your GDA – Guideline Daily Allowance.  But is that GDA for an adult or a child?  Is it calculated based on a portion size, which may vary in the case of cereal from 30g to 45g.  Are you really going to go home and weigh out your portion?

The only practical way that I can interpret the information on the pack is to firstly arm myself with the knowledge of what is high, medium and low content.  You can then use this figure to check the content per 100g and make your decision.
According to the UK Food Standards Agency:

High is 1.5g and above per 100g,

Medium is between 0.3g and 1.5g per 100g

Low is 0.3g and below.
Returning to the information on the side of my bread packaging it tells me that there is 1.1g of salt per 100g, so that would be considered on the high side of medium.
According to Safefood :
“A typical lunch of soup, a sandwich and a chocolate muffin can contain more than an adults’ recommended salt intake per day.”

For further information on the ‘Salt: Hard to Shake’ study see Safefood website.
http://www.safefood.eu/en/News2/20101/Consumers-need-to-become-more-aware-of-salt-levels-in-foods/

A very useful guide called ‘The little book of salt’ is available at on the UK Food Standards Agency website.
http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/publication/littlebookofsalt0909.pdf

Til next time, Sheila.