Love Your Kitchen and Inspire Your Cooking

It’s common knowledge that cooking from scratch tends to yield healthier results than preparing processed foods and ready meals. You are in control of the ingredients going into your food, whereas processed meals tend to be packed with unhealthy amounts of sugar and salt. So, if you’re serious about eating healthier food, then it’s good to cook!

Unfortunately, cooking can sometimes seem like a chore, especially in kitchens that are small, grubby and have poor equipment. Many have trouble finding the inspiration to cook great food when their kitchen is drab or there’s a pile of pans waiting to be washed.

Dirty Kitchen

So, if you’re determined to get in the kitchen to make some great healthy home-cooked meals, but you don’t feel your kitchen is up to the task, follow our tips for a revamp that will make you want to spend time in your kitchen!

Sparkling Clean

Get on top of that washing up. Nothing will put you off cooking more than a load of dirty plates and pans, so wash up and continue to do so after every meal.

New Pans

Also, have an audit of your utensils and pans. Many of us keep cutlery drawers that are absolutely bursting at the seams with items that have never seen the light of day. Do you really need that avocado slicer? Clear some space by donating your unwanted utensils to charity. You may also want to consider upgrading your existing utensils or pots and pans; nothing will make you want to cook more than some brand new kitchen accessories like a fancy new knife block from Lakeland!

Time for a Lick of Paint?

Décor in the kitchen is subjected to the stresses of heat, splashes of grease and steam. It’s not surprising that the paint job or wallpaper in the kitchen may not hold up as well as the décor in the rest of the house, so kitchens can often end up looking tired and grubby pretty quickly.

Modern Kitchen

A new paint job may be all it takes to give your kitchen a new lease of life if it’s looking worn and uninspiring. Breathing some life into the kitchen will make it a fresh and exciting place to be; consequently you’ll get more pleasure out of cooking. Have a look at this article for some great kitchen décor inspiration.

Invest in New Appliances

Noisy old fridge on its last legs? Cooker not up to scratch? Worn out and aging appliances that aren’t working as well as they should will contribute to keeping you out of the kitchen. Appliances are a big investment, but they’re important and compromising on the quality and functionality of your major appliances limits what you can do in the kitchen!

New Fridges

Fortunately, companies like Sparkworld who furnish kitchens in Plymouth with appliances often have better deals than the big high street electronics retailers.

Love Your Kitchen!

The kitchen is arguably the most important room in the house, so it’s important to keep it well maintained and ship-shape. A clean and tidy kitchen with good quality equipment will encourage you to get in there and produce some excellent home-cooked meals, so don’t be afraid to show your kitchen a little love.

 

 

Live Well

Eating well isn’t the only way to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle; there are many ways to improve your wellbeing through adopting change into your daily routine and encouraging more positive life choices.

Here’s a quick guide to living well and improving your body, both inside and out.

Eat Well

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Eating a balanced diet can often seem like a challenge, and may seem like a difficult change to implement into your busy lifestyle. However, you’d be surprised what effect small and simple diet changes can make towards your overall health, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Try to eat an array of colourful fruit and vegetables, and try to always complement a meal with 1 of your 5 a day. Superfoods are a fantastic way to make sure you get your daily allowance of natural foods, whilst encouraging you to get a little creative in the kitchen. Whether you’re a confident chef or you shy away from all-things-culinary – check out these easy and healthy recipe ideas that are suitable for even the laziest of diets! In no time you’ll start to feel more active, healthy and light on your feet.

Treat Your Skin Well

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We have all been guilty of reaching for the cheaper cosmetic alternative to save a few pennies, but when it comes to beauty products, you really do get what you pay for! Your skin is delicate, and can become damaged by the smallest of neglecting actions; that’s why you need to choose brands that you can trust and include no hidden chemicals or ingredients. Organic skincare has become extremely popular as of late, and brands such as Myreen Young provide skin with a completely natural and health-focused alternative to that of the current cosmetic market favourites. Check out Organic Living for information on the benefits of organic beauty and healthy living. If you fancy making your own natural beauty treats – why not try some of these DIY face mask recipes!

Exercise Well

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Exercise can do wonders for your body, and provides plenty of benefits to your skin and overall health. It not only improves your joint movement, blood flow and general muscle suppleness, it can reduce your risk of health conditions and diseases and improve your mind’s well-being and general mood. We are recommended to exercise on a daily basis; whether a 30 minute walk or a session at the gym, we are only encouraged to build up our body’s ability levels at a gradual pace. Over-doing a workout or pushing your body to limits it is not yet capable of can often cause damage and may result in injury. Check out Health24 for the benefits that exercising can offer you and your health. Don’t forget to drink the recommended daily 2 litres of water, especially when exercising, as your skin and body will need to be kept hydrated!

Little steps can give you an enormous feeling of well-being and health, so be sure to adopt small changes within your diet or daily routine to look after your body, yourself and live well.

 

 

The Dairy-Free & Egg-Free Challenge!

You grew up drinking milk, eating eggs and cheese – but could these products in your diet actually be causing health problems like weight gain, lack of energy, high cholesterol, and lactose intolerance? If these symptoms sound familiar, going dairy and egg-free could be the best solution to feeling and looking better! Try this 6-day challenge!

Day 1 – NO MILK!

The first step of the plan is quite easy – replace milk with a non-diary alternative! According to a recent article on ‘BBC’ you can try almond, hemp, soy or rice milks – which are virtually free of saturated fat and cholesterol. They are available for around £2 pounds in major grocery shops. Also, don’t forget to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D and calcium; eat a daily serving of green vegetables like kale or broccoli. Additionally, spend 15 minutes in the sun every day!

Day 2 – NO YOGURT!

In the second day of your challenge, replace yogurt with non-dairy yogurt made from soy, rice coconut or other non-dairy milks. According to a recent study by ‘Medical Daily’ you should look for options containing Probiotics. (Probiotics are organisms such as friendly bacteria or yeast that are proven to improve health). After a few days on this plan, way will notice clearer brighter skin, and improved energy!

Day 3 – NO ICE CREAM!

This may be really tough! However, the good Doctor Oz says, that there are lots of non-dairy frozen desserts available which we can consume to satisfy our cravings! One good example is – ‘Almond Dream’ dessert!

Day 4 – NO CHEESE!

For some individuals, scalloped potatoes just aren’t the same without a topping of cheese!  Admittedly, creating a good dairy-free cheese is not an easy task.  Some soy cheeses (particularly the most popular ones) do in fact contain dairy.  Nonetheless, there are a few good quality brands on the market, and even one that is soy-free and receives high ratings, ‘Daiya’. If cheese flavour is really all you are looking for, try some nutritional yeast.  It tastes much better than it sounds, and offers a Parmesan-like flavour to most meals!

Day 5 – NO BUTTER!

Butter is one dairy product that is quite possibly the most frequently used in many classic cooking and baking recipes, so finding a substitute that works well is important! Here is a list of some dairy-free butter alternatives:

  • Soy margarine
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil

Day 6 – PIES! (NO EGGS!)

Kool Cakes’ offer egg-free cakes suitable for a whole range of celebrations and events, so you can still enjoy great taste without the need for eggs in your cake! According to Dr. Thomas Behrenbeck, chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, and a diet high in cholesterol can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels!

In summary, health benefits of milk and other dairy products are widely touted, but it is certainly possible to obtain all of the body’s essential vitamins and minerals without drinking cow’s milk or including any dairy (and eggs) in the diet. Dairy avoidance, whether required because of food allergies or as part of a chosen vegan diet, provides its own dietary benefits as well!

The Great Value of Shopping Around

Food and FamilyFood shopping is becoming increasingly expensive and it is making it more difficult to go to one store and buy everything at once, like the good old days. Some people do not have time in their busy schedules to go to five/six different shops, to shop for groceries but it is certainly worth it. Shopping around can save you hundreds of pounds every year, and it does not have to be a painful process.

 

  • Make a list – make a list of what you need and stick to it! Do not get carried away or sucked in by the offers. Offers are cleverly designed to make you spend and buy more of something that you would not usually need. On the other hand, if you know that you will use it, then it may benefit you to go with the offer. If you are particularly bad at lists check out Grocery IQ, a fantastic app that even allows you to scan barcodes for price comparison.

 

  • Choose a butcher – the meat is of better quality and there usually will be meal days for a certain price. This will give you the variety of meat you are looking, and if you do not think you will use it all before it goes off, freeze it. Alternatively, online butchers are becoming increasingly popular and have a fantastic price range. Check out Newboulds Butchers who will deliver your meat to your door. Always enquire at your local first and then compare prices with the online options.

 

  • Specialist shops – if you are a fan of world cuisines, go to the smaller shops that sell specific produce from their home country. Shop Spicy have a fantastic range of spices and Indian food that they import directly, therefore you are getting a true taste of the culture. Most towns or local markets will have shops or stalls, selling food from the world and it will be considerably cheaper than the larger supermarkets. Polish, Indian, and Middle-Eastern cuisines are extremely popular here in the UK, therefore you are sure to either find shops online or close by.

 

  • Market Stalls – your town market is fantastic for picking up cheap groceries. The fruit and vegetable stalls will be the most beneficial as they are reasonably priced, cheaper than the supermarkets and will more than likely have come from a short distance away. If you do not have a local market, take the time to visit one near to see if it is worth your time and effort to make the trip once every week. Check out the National Market Traders Federation, a simple website that will find a market near you.

Most of your grocery shopping can be done online now and this is a fantastic option. It will allow you to shop at different places without having to move off your comfortable sofa. My Supermarket will get you the best deal from the larger supermarkets by price comparing as you choose your order.  It’s seven shops in one, doing the hard work for you. When you shop around, you will have little groceries to get in the larger supermarkets by this point, and have already saved lots on your weekly shop.

Top Tips For Feeding A Family

Trying to decide what to feed your family on can sometimes be really frustrating. It’s easy to just grab the nearest thing from the freezer and pop it in the oven, but that’s not always going to be the healthy and cheapest option. Most parents want to feed their children a balanced and nutritious diet, but not go over the top on the spending, so to achieve this you are going to have to give it a bit of thought.

Lots of ideas can be found by searching the internet and some sites will enable you to download a family meal planner to help you out. I’d say one of the first considerations to make is the type of food your family like best, as it’s no good spending hours producing wonderful dishes that they turn their noses up at. It’s also a good idea to consider food which is in season which will be cheaper to buy than something that is imported from across the other side of the world. Pasta, rice or potatoes are cheap and filling options and can form the basis of many family meals, and if your children won’t eat vegetables then why not disguise them by adding them to a pasta dish blended into a sauce. They won’t even realise they are eating them.

I find a great way of keeping costs down when food shopping is to sit down at the beginning of each week and make a list of meal ideas. You can then write a shopping list for the whole week’s meals, just buying a few fresh ingredients when necessary. You’ll probably have lots of store cupboard ingredients anyway to keep the cost down. You may think that it’s going to take to much time to do, but over the course of the week then it’s going to be far more convenient than asking “what do you want for your tea?” each day.

Finding the Right Wine

I’m quite happy to admit that my knowledge of wines is extremely limited. I’m not a regular wine drinker and whilst I’ve certainly enjoyed a quite a few types of wine whilst with meals in restaurants, I’ve never really understood what makes certain wines complement certain types of food.

This hasn’t really been much of an issue for me up until now. I have a forthcoming family wedding where I have been asked to provide the catering. It will be quite a low key affair, with only 25 guests invited to the wedding breakfast, I know that I am capable of catering for that number of people; and I know I can put together a good menu that would equal that of any professional caterer. Where I come unstuck is with the choice of Wines.

Researching my topic provided varying results. I found and article that seemed pitched directly at me on the askmen.com website. Its title is 5 wines you should know and it provided me with some handy information as a starting point. I found a great info-graphic at winefolly.com which really is worth taking a look at it’s also accompanied by a list of 5 guidelines for pairing the right wine with your food.

Ultimately my experience and knowledge of the wines listed is just too limited and getting it right on the day of paramount importance. I’ve decided that I need to bring in specialist help. I spoke to a company that not only has the great knowledge of wines but also specialises in wine delivery.

I was able to discuss the menu with them in detail and they were able to suggest the right wines that would complement the food perfectly. Choosing to hand this over to a specialist supplier was the right decision on this occasion. I can now concentrate on my speciality; the food. The research that I undertook has proven useful and I’ll be trying out a few of these wines to compliment my cooking when there’s not quite so much at stake.

Compare The Market

 

Although the allure of a supermarket can be easily related to its convenience, when it comes to shopping for fresh, seasonal produce, your local chain supermarket shouldn’t always be the port of call.

There has been somewhat of a revival when it comes to market shopping and local markets up and down the country have sprung up due to more people opting to see what they have on offer.

People don’t always realize that buying from a supermarket can be a lot more expensive than buying food from your local market, especially when shopping for food in season. A study found that shopping at a supermarket can be up to 35% more expensive than shopping at your local market

Supermarket shopping can also be contributing a lot more to your carbon footprints than shopping at a local farmers market or greengrocers as many supermarket goods are imported to drive down costs and maximize profits.  Consumer behaviors has significantly changed in recent years. This is largely due to financial stresses the economy with many people opting for supermarket own brands over branded products and supermarkets expanding their own brand range.  Though this is a positive move, the one place  supermarkets continue to fail in is through their fresh produce.

Market shopping can also help you improve your cooking skills by building a relationship with the market stall owners and asking their advice on cooking particular foods in season which you wouldn’t usually be drawn to in a supermarket.

Eating seasonal foods have also been shown to improve health and many seasonal products contain a higher level of nutrients than force grown foods.

So, why not save money, improve your cooking skills, support your local farmers and explore what your markets have to offer instead of dashing to the supermarket when you’re low on fresh produce? To find out where your local markets are why not visit www.localmarkets.org 

 

Nuts: the new superfood

 

Nuts have a bad reputation as an indulgent, calorific snack.  Often strewn across pub bars and covered in an adulterated amount of salt this can be the case; however choosing the right sort of nuts for you can be the first steps to healthy snacking, reduced appetite and other health benefits associated with this age old health food which now has super-food status.

Many nuts are cholesterol free, vitamin packed and energy filled making them the perfect snack food.  With the Government’s focus on healthy eating made clear this year by them backing a new campaign Change 4 Life and a higher focus on sugars and fats in popular foods, finding healthier versions of snack foods and breaking existing myths about foods have never been more important.

Here’s a quick run down on the attributes of the best nuts for different purposes.

Pistachios 

This exotic nut, often food in Indian cuisine- especially in deserts, has a mild aromatic flavor.  the nut is high in mono saturated fats, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.  Potassium is particularly important to regulate bodily fluids while the protein thymine helps regulate appetite. This is great if you’re trying to diet for weight loss.

The average serving size is 18 grams which equates to about 30 nuts. Do not exceed more than 3 servings a week.  Pistachios make a great addition to homemade bread and muffins, sprinkled into natural yogurt or stirred into a homemade vegetable curry.

Cashews

Cashews are often seen as the worst offender when it comes to nuts, but eaten raw and not oil or honey roasted and in moderation, these nuts can help red blood cell production and absorption of essential minerals.

The average serving size is 18 nuts and unless you’re aiming to gain weight. You shouldn’t exceed more than 2 servings a week.

Raw cashews taste great stir fried with bean sprouts and given an East Asian flavor- however avoid creamy takeaway kormas and pasandas which use cashews and almonds as it’s base but are often laden with saturated fats and high in cholesterol due to their cream content.

Almonds

Almonds have been recognized as a health food for many hundreds of years.  Used a lot in Persian cuisine and Indian food, these high calorie nuts have been pressed for oil for cosmetic as well a gourmet use and is associated with brain building an intelligence in many cultures.

Almond milk is a big health food trend at the moment with some versions containing less calories than skimmed milk and these nuts have been proven to reduce the impulse to snack.

Almonds are a great food for 11-25 year olds the average serving is about 25 grams for an adult. Blanched almonds are tasty added to porridge to provide a different texture or added to a granola mix for some extra nuttiness.

Avoid:

Walnuts – although eaten in moderation they can be tasty and good for you only five of these nuts equate to one serving due to their very high fat content.  They can lead to wait gain if eaten too much and should only be eaten to replace other high fat foods in your diet.

Brazil nuts- although a complete protein (like those found in animal meat) these nuts are also quite fatty so should be eaten in moderation

With all nuts, avoid if they’ve been roasted with oil, high sugar contents like honey roasted nuts or covered in salts.  This will reverse any health benefits the nuts naturally have!

 

 

 

fish

Health Benefits of Eating Fish and Seafood:

In today’s world, more and more people are actively concerned about their health, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring that they are pursuing the healthiest lifestyle they can.

An important aspect of living a healthy life is to have a healthy diet. Your diet and what you eat everyday can have a massive impact, not only on your weight but your overall health and wellbeing.

This is why the popularity of cooking and eating seafood at home, and on a weekly and in some cases daily basis has risen over recent years. More people are aware of the research which has taken place over the past few decades which has shown that the amazing nutrients and minerals, which seafood is full of can make improvements in brain development and reproduction, along with many other amazing body enhancing properties. This has highlighted for many, especially those with children, the importance of regularly having fish and seafood in their diets.

The health benefits of including fish in your diet are amazing, and highlight why it is important to introduce children to eating fish from a young age to ensure that they will eat it as part of their diet in the future. Some studies, into the health benefits of eating fish and seafood have shown that including fish as part of your regular healthy balanced diet, can even help with the symptoms of arthritis, and other studies have shown that the older members of our society who eat fish and seafood at least once a week could have a reduced chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The benefits of eating fish and seafood are undeniable, fish is high in minerals such as zinc and iodine which are essential for keeping the body running smoothly. All of these health benefits, and it tastes great, what is not to love about eating fish and seafood!

reasons-to-cook-at-home

It Doesn’t Have To Cost A Fortune To Eat Healthily

When it comes to eating healthily and eating meals which taste fantastic as well, many people have the common misconception that it’s going to cost them more! For some reason, many people have the idea in their heads that it’s cheaper to eat processed pre-packaged meals than cook up their own healthy grub, however, in many instances, this isn’t the case at all! In fact, we often recommend cooking healthy meals yourself as a method of how to save money for families alongside getting some decent food inside you! It’s amazing how great home cooked food tastes and, thanks to the wealth of food based TV shows, more and more people are realising that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to eat healthy, home cooked meals and that it can also be an awful lot of fun cooking and baking!

Next time you’re tempted to order a takeaway, stop yourself! Instead of ordering a pizza or a kebab, nip to the local shops and buy the ingredients to make yourself a home-made soup or even a spaghetti bolognese. Trust us; you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to cook some of your favourite meals from scratch and how great they actually taste! You don’t need to be the next Heston Blumenthal in order to cook up a brilliant tasting meal and there’s literally thousands of recipes which you can find online at places like the BBC Good Food website to ensure you never run out of ideas of what to cook!

In fact; why not set yourself a challenge. Put together a meal planner for you and your family and see if you can cook all your meals for the next 7 days from scratch…yep, we mean breakfast, lunch and tea! It’s a challenge to switch from purchasing ready cooked food to doing everything yourself, however after completing the challenge, you’ll realise how it’s not only cheaper to make your own meals but that in many cases, it tastes better too!

What are you waiting for? Put together your meal planner for the next week, get yourself to the supermarket to buy all the ingredients you’re going to need and get your chefs hat on!